Re: [xmca] neoformation

From: <ERIC.RAMBERG who-is-at>
Date: Wed Feb 13 2008 - 07:19:05 PST

Yes David:

Very thoughtful post, one I will save on my Lotus Notes for a time so I can
go over from different perspectives. After a certain classroom experience
may get me thinking about ZPDs perhaps. I have a couple thoughts fresh in
my head after the first read. You refer to "knee football" rules as a
neoformation. I however would label it a ZPD (are you perhaps using the
terms interchangably?). Internalization is a biological process for me.
The rules wouldn't have been internalized but rather appropriated. I
believe there needs to be this distinction made. Appropriations can
disappear. I do not place autonomous speech into the category of a
neoformation that is appropriated but rather biologically driven and
internalized into the cognitive processes of human development. You must
remember I place LSVs theories into the category of defectology and I
believe that should be his legacy. People that are slow in developing
display processes later in age that 'disappear' frequently in a normally
developing human when they are young. The beautiful aspect of the ZPD is
the dialectic nature of it being both an evaluation tool as well as an
instructional tool (thesis-antithesis-synthesis). It also can affect both
internalization (Valsiner's study on feeding habits of infants) as well as
appropriation (Roth's study of workers in a fish hatchery). yes, David, I
believe our disagreement is key and points once again to the contradiction
I pointed out in Marx's Theses on Feurbach. I do not expect the
researchers and scholars on this list to agree with what I stated about
Marx's theories either but that is certainly the joy of philosophy. For
each theory there is a counter theory. Unless of course you are looking at
Wittgenstein's theories when he provides both in the same sentence!


                      David Kellogg
                      <vaughndogblack@ To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <>
            > cc:
                      Sent by: Subject: Re: [xmca] neoformation
                      02/12/2008 02:38
                      Please respond
                      to "eXtended
                      Mind, Culture,


  We disagree (again!), but we're disagreeing on a really KEY point, and
sometimes that's a lot more useful than agreeing on something that's
universally agreeable.

  It seems to me that we need a distinction between neoformations that are
internalized and those that are externally destroyed and whose destruction
brings about a new stage of development.

  Neoformations that are internalized are those that they are in some sense
no longer externally mediated, that they are internally mediated by
volition or even non-mediated and automatic.

  For example, when I learned to play soccer as a very small child I called
it "no hands football". In order to keep from touching the ball, I would
sometimes play with my hands in my pockets or hold them behind my back. But
this became unnecessary when I was older, because I could simply will
myself not to touch the ball. Now, when I play soccer with the physical
education department majors, no willpower is necessary at all; I can lose
without even thinking about my hands.

  Neorformations that are externally destroyed are those which conflict
with BETTER neoformations, more ADAPTIVE neoformations, more DEVELOPMENTAL

  Since you live in St. Paul, you probably know the KSTP radio station near
Prospect Park, right across the street from Snyder's Drug Store. They have
(or anyway, in the 1960s, when I was a kid, they had) a beautiful lawn, and
we used to play (American style) football there.

  We had a rule that you could only play on your KNEES--you had to hike the
ball, pass it, catch it, "run" with it, and tackle people without getting
to your feet. At the time I don't think we really knew WHY we had this rule

  But thinking back I realize we were very different ages and it must have
been a little terrifying for a three foot kid to get jumped by seven or
eight kids who were four or five feet tall. The "on your knees" rule kept
everybody pretty equal and made it easier for different sized kids to play
the same game.

  This particular neoformation was not very adaptive; the rule got us in a
LOT of trouble, because it destroyed our trousers and eventually the KSTP
management called the police who told us we were destroying their lawn too.
I suppose some of us (wimps and pansies and professors' kids--Prospect Park
was/is near the U of M) replaced it with touch football, and others learned
to play wearing armour like the real players do, and others (me) just gave
the whole game up. So the neoformation completely disappeared.

  I think THAT'S what happens with so-called "autonomous" speech. Notice
that LSV ALWAYS puts this term in scare quotes, because for him it's not
really autonomous at all. The one year old child is REALLY trying to
participate in language. The chld knows that languages have intonation and
stress, and when you listen to "autonomous" speech you can hear that the
child is using sounds purely as vehicles for intonation and stress. But the
chld doesn't yet know about vocabulary and grammar.

  As a vehicle for intonation and stress, the child is using made up words
like "poo-foo" (LSV's example). These "words" have similar properties in
all languages (variation of the onset and repetition of the coda). But for
that very reason they do not have lexical meaning; lexical meaning accrues
from sharing sense and not from inventing it. As soon as the child
discovers lexical meaning, this neoformation completely disappears.

  Well, not COMPLETELY. As Volosinov points out, it lives on in the form of
expressions like "well well!" "Ah ha!" and also what we call "wiseongeo"
and "witaeeo" in Korean. These are expressions like "hickory-dickory-dock"
(which refers to SOUND and is therefore a "wiseongeo") and
"higgledy-piggledy" (which refers to ACTION and is therefore a "witaeeo").
Volosinov's own examples are things like "so so" and "well well", which are
reduplications that merely serve as vehicles for intonation.

  And of course intonation does NOT disappear--intonation and stress are
actually the FIRST kind of neoformation, the kind that is positively
selected for and does not die away. But intonation and stress is something
that was always there, perceptually available, for the child, it's given
and not created, and thus not really part of the child's neoFORMATION.
"Autonomous speech" as speech completely disappears; it is not
internalized, but destroyed by a superior, more adaptive neoformation,
namely vocabulary and grammar (which is also realized by stress and

  I think we can make a very similar argument about "negativism" in the
crisis at age three. What LSV is referring to is NOT simply negation--not
the ability to say "no" which is, as you say, internalized and does not
disappear. What LSV means is the tendency of the child to say "no" without
any real volition, even when the child is given a choice that the child
really wants to take.

  One day when Yang-yang was very little my wife and I took her to a little
park near our house in Xi'an. She wanted EVERYTHING she saw, and since I
like to spoil my little neice I had a great time taking her on rides and
buying her "tanghulu" (sour crab apples covered with sugar). When she came
out of the park she saw a guy going by on a motorcycle and asked to have
one. She cried when I said no, and my wife (who grew up during the Cultural
Revolution) laughed, "Comrade Yang, under the relentless waves of the
reform policy and opening up to the commercial economy, has lost her
revolutionary compass!"

  A year later she came to visit us in Seoul. She had completely changed.
She hadn't exactly acquired a revolutionary compass, but she sure knew how
to say "no". In fact, when I asked her if she wanted to go to Seoul Land (a
kind of Disneyland we have in Korea) she said "no" even though she really
wanted to go. I soon learned not to ask; we just told her that we were
going, and then she would go along.

  Today she's very different. My wife tells her that we are going out, and
she asks if she can come along. It used to be that my wife would say that
she could only come along if she has done her Chinese calligraphy homework
or her math for the day. Sometimes her grandmother will ask her to go for a
walk, and she will say something like "I haven't done my homework yet, so I
can't" or even "If I want to be a scholar like Auntie Fang (my wife) I have
to do my homework and I haven't got time to waste with you". (She got a
real hiding from her grandma for that!)

  I don't really know if Comrade Yang has at last found her revolutionary
compass. But I think that THIS is what LSV means by internalization and
Comrade Yang's "negativism" stage is clearly quite unrelated.

  David Kellogg
  Seoul National University of Education

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Received on Wed Feb 13 07:21 PST 2008

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