Re: [xmca] Subjective Objective

From: David Kellogg <vaughndogblack who-is-at>
Date: Sun Aug 03 2008 - 10:00:02 PDT

Andy (C) and Phil:
The LSV ref is "Thinking and Speech" in Volume One of LSV Collected, Phil.
Thanks for the wordle, Andy! It's a very interesting little artefact, not least because it only concentrates on so-called "content" words (open class words) and does not count the "functors" (closed class words).
I'm doing some work on this right now. In fact, it's related to the comment that Phil picks up on.
There's a really interesting book by an extremely Boffinish guy called Burrows on the novels of Jane Austen. Even does wordle studies of the most frequent content words in books that they sell, but Burrows has calculated, for example, that in the novel Northanger Abbey, the character Henry Tilney uses "the" and "of" twice as frequently as the character Catharine Moreland, and Catharine on the other hand uses "I" twice as often as Henry. (Burrows, J.F. [1987] Computation into Criticism. Oxford: Clarendon).
So what? Well, I found that third graders have a much HIGHER proportion of so-called "closed class" words in their utterances than fifth graders. This is the OPPOSITE of what the textbook teaches: the third grade textbook is not so rich in closed class words as the fifth grade one.
What's going on? One thing that's happening is that the kids utterances are getting shorter and more elliptical and the textbooks are getting longer and more elaborated. Here, for example, is a dialogue from the fifth grade textbook. Ann is visiting a Korean friend called Jinho:
Ann:       Where's the bathroom?
Jinho:     This is the bathroom.
But this is how it is rendered in a learner role play, with Jinho visiting a “future house” manned by a robot:
Jinho:     Where is the bathroom?
Robot:    This way, please.
In one sense, development appears to take the opposite direction from that predicted in Vygotsky’s celebrated “genetic law”: we are going from intra-mental grammar to inter-mental discourse rather than vice versa. But in another sense the law is completely vindicated.
For Vygotsky this genetic law is not a description of the moment by moment process of learning; interpreting the genetic law would simply be to put a “Vygotskyan” veneer on the old theory of acquisition through exposure.
Vygotsky’s genetic law (or rather, laws, as pointed out in Mescharykov 2007) is really an attempt to account for the restructuring of mental functions that we discover as a result of development. In this sense, the genetic law has been supported: foreign language learning represents a zone of proximal development for the child precisely because it builds over and above native language learning.
Its central line of development is initially generalized concepts and explicit grammatical rules (“No, I can’t” and “This is the bathroom” rather than “No!” and “This way, please”) and the actual use of the language is a peripheral line of development Later the elliptical forms characteristic of the elementary stages of first language use become the central line of development, and explicit knowledge of the language becomes peripheral.
Yet whether the child is developing an abstract, algebraic understanding of the very nature of (first and foreign) language or learning interactional use of the language, the direction of development is from inter-mental to intra-mental, for the simple reason that outside the classroom environment there is no other source of “exposure” to the language.
David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

--- On Sun, 8/3/08, Phil Chappell <> wrote:

From: Phil Chappell <>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Subjective Objective
To:, "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <>
Date: Sunday, August 3, 2008, 1:51 AM

Hi David,

Do you have the reference to your paraphrase below? The phrase
'exacting and even scientific awareness' is alluring!


On 02/08/2008, at 12:00 AM, David Kellogg wrote:

> LSV says that the learning of foreign language word meanings is
> closely analogous to the learning of foreign language concepts;
> foreign languages, unlike some (but in Korea not all) forms of the
> native language, must be learnt volitionally and consciously, with
> exacting and even scientific awareness (1987: 220-221).

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