RE: [xmca] Syllogism and interlanguage

From: Jay Lemke <jaylemke who-is-at>
Date: Fri Feb 01 2008 - 21:41:19 PST

Mark and all,

The relation between interaction structure or participation structure and
learning is a big subject in itself. Gordon Wells has written some
interesting things problematizing the relationship between IRF and learning

What may be suggested is that social interaction in something approximating
a realistic task, maybe with objects, maybe with some goals unrelated to
just learning the language, and certainly with a NEED to communicate about
the task with peers (and/or those more experienced with the target language)
is a good setting for learning how to improvise with limited linguistic

The goals of communication serve those of the task, and the goal of language
learning takes something of the back seat. The real problem I think is to
figure out what kinds of tasks place communication demands on students that
push them to move beyond a sort of pidgin in the target language.

I agree that inter-language is a pretty natural transition strategy, and
using both ad hoc pidgins and inter-language, as well as a lot of
periphrastic improve gets a sort of survival communication. What drives us
further towards learning more of the semantic and grammatical resources of
the target language? What kinds of situations and tasks?

For this, work using Halliday's register analysis can be useful. Mary
Schleppegrell (U of Michigan, ex UC Davis) and Bernie Mohan (U British
Columbia, retired??), as well as Geoff Williams (also UBC) and others have
done some relevant work.

At the wider sociocultural level, it's not clear that classrooms are good
places to learn new languages. They are pretty 'empty' environments compared
to those in which linguistic resources evolve, and they are also often too
homogeneous in terms of levels of competence in the language. We got stuck
with this approach because originally it was only dead, written, literary
languages that were to be learned.

The useful connections with Activity Theory come from the bottom of
Engestrom's triangle mnemonic for the relationships foregrounded by the
theory: social norms and rules, division of labor, community culture, etc.
And in a more networked extension of this core model, you can connect one
activity system to another and get something more like a Latourian "flat"
sociocultural model, where the "levels" are less evident. (Something is lost
that way, esp. relative timescales and dynamical emergence, but many
practical issues can be addressed by just linking activity systems.)

Good luck!


Jay L. Lemke
University of Michigan
610 East University
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
fax 734-936-1606

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On
Behalf Of Mark deBoer
Sent: Saturday, December 29, 2007 6:11 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [xmca] Syllogism and interlanguage

Hello everyone,

I apologize for introducing a new thread amongst the discussions of
Andy's article.

I am beginning my dissertation outline now and have started to go back
over some of my notes, especially those to do with The genetic method.

What I am attempting to do in my dissertation is to link Vygotsky with
methodology in the EFL classroom. In the past year or so, I have
developed a new type of methodology which focuses on learning how to
learn in a student centered classroom. In one of my papers I focused
on the development of interlanguage, which I believe is a fundamental
principle to language acquisition. Here in Japan, the focus is too
much on learning a set phrase, learning some vocabulary, and then
doing pairwork with flash cards or games in which the phrase is
repeated. The problem with this kind of methodology is that there is
no interlanguage. There is no language learned in a social setting
which is applicable to the language target being 'learned'.

In developing the V-task (methodology) I have focused on a number of
different ideas.
1. The use of interlanguage in the classroom and how language is
transferred from 'more capable peers' in a interactive setting.
2. The use of language to acquire more language, rather than the focus
on learning new language and leaving learnt language behind.
3. The discourse that occurs in the V-task classroom and how it
compares with the Sinclair-Coulthard IRF model. The reduction of
display questions as well as 'embedding', student-student only
interactions and the reduction of Feedback were examined and I created
a complementary model to the Sinclair-Coulthard model which examined
the discourse in that kind of interactive environment.
4. A study of the dynamics of the classroom using the activity theory
and recently the activity system transformation in the V-task classroom.

Since my interest lies in acquisition in the EFL classroom, there are
a number of ideas that I hope someone can assist me with.

In Lantolf and Thorne's Sociocultural Theory and the Genesis of Second
Language Development, they discuss Luria's research (p.39) with
regards to syllogism.

If for example, we use the general IRF model (prominent in Japan) for
our discourse patter in the classroom, we might get something like this:

T: What time is it? (holding a flash card)
S(s): It's one o'clock.
T: Good
  T: Now, What time is it?
S(s): It's 2 o'clock.
T: Good.

and the pattern continues. If students in their own practice sessions
make an error, the teacher more than often corrects them on form until
the target is learned.

In a classroom where interlanguage has been a focus and students are
more aware of the language and how it works could encounter in context
a variety of the above language target and still be able to get by.

1. Do you have the time?
2. What's the time?
3. Got the time?
4. Excuse me, could you give me the time?

In the interlanguage setting, the uses of have, what, got and give
could be construed as what the question intended to ask and that
being that 'I would like to know the time but I don't have a watch'.
Give, have or got, in the regular classroom are always taught with
concrete nouns thus possibly causing confusion.

Could syllogism be paralleled with interlanguage? Luria notes that it
is possible to develop the ability to derive a conclusion from
syllogism. In that regard is this correct?

Since the research covers scaffolding in the classroom (microgenesis)
and then moves into student autonomy (ontogenesis) and the study of
the dynamics of the classroom in this setting, eventually I would like
to take the research to the sociocultural theory and discuss the
development of the classroom setting over a period of time. This would
be with respect to the student - student interaction and the
development of interlanguage in the classroom. The discourse analysis
would determine how the classroom dynamics progressed over a period of

My question for this though, has been one that I can't seem to wrap my
head around. From the perspective of the Sociocultural theory and how
the language develops in the classroom, I'd like to find out if I am
crossing over into the activity theory realm.

The interaction which occurs in the classroom and the roles of each
student and the teacher based on the V-task lesson within the activity
theory, and how the roles change over time are separate from the
development of interlanguage?

Am I correct to believe that:

In the sociocultural theory the students in the classroom are focusing
on the use of the language and their use of language eventually
develops their abilities to effectively acquire language? Is this more
In the activity theory, the students are in collaboration with each
other to finish the task as well as eventually defining roles and
rules for each other within the classroom?

Is there no link between the two? I think there should be, and maybe I
am not well read enough to know the difference, but I think that the
effectiveness of the interaction in the classroom in the activity
theory should define the effectiveness of the acquisition.

This has been a burning question.

I hope that someone can help me with my questions.

Thank you!


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