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Re: [xmca] Ethnomethodology and Hedegaard's Article


Let me pick up on ONE thing in your encyclopaedic post:

While the adult
> may have been conceptualizing specifically whale calves
> (newborn and very young whales) in their intended meaning of
> the term, the child, who Vygotsky theorized is probably
> using mostly complexive thinking in the form of
> pseudoconcepts up through adolescence, is likely to be
> thinking of the meaning of the term differently.  To
> the child left to their concrete-imaginative devices, many
> kinds of things besides whale calves might belong to the
> meaning of the term "baby whale."

What Jens says is that the "baby whale" doesn't look like a baby. Now, we really need to know a little Danish here to figure out what this means. It is QUITE possible that Jens does not understand that a noun before a noun is an adjective and not a noun. In other words, baby whale is a whale, and not a baby.

This is NOT to deny what you are saying about complexive vs. conceptual thinking. Quite the contrary. I think it confirms it perfectly. But it suggests that children approach word meaning from the OUTSIDE inwards. That is, they treat expressions like "baby whale" as unanalyzed wholes, which they associate with the most familiar (visually familiar) images, in this case "babies" and not "whales".

The principle "outside inwards" is not a dualistic one. We are not talking about human beings or even words as inside-out ravioli, with meat on the outside and soul-pasta inside. We are talking about how words are EXTERNALLY determined before they are internally so, how their structure exists for others before they exist for myself. This is not Cartesianism, but a simple application of Vygotsky's genetic law(s).

Natural before cultural
Social before individual
Extramental (self-directed) speech before intramental (inner) speech
Spontaneous concepts before scientific ones

As a linguist, this "outside in" principle has VERY broad applications in my work. In general, I believe:

Discourse before grammar
Intonation and stress before syntax and lexis
Syntax and lexis before segmentals
Labial segmentals before palatals and palatal sementals before glottals

And in general the research supports all of these claims (some exceptions here; inter-dentals are trouble for purely natural, physiological reasons).

This raises Mike's question about CONTEXT though, which is really another form of Paula's question about what DRIVES all of this.

How do children, particularly school age children, figure out coherence in discourse? Here too, I think the answer is outside in; here too it's the graphic-visual baby before the symbolic-scientific whale.

In our third grade textbook, there are two characters who are brother and sister: Minsu, and Mina. The coherence of a character is defined as its boundedness, specifically by external and internal necessity.

Externally, Mina is bounded by the artist, who gives us visuals. In these visuals we see that she is a human and not an alien. She is a girl and not a boy. She is Korean and not a foreigner. She is a child and not an adult. Mina is also bounded, though less successfully, by the writer, who gives us text. In this text we must be able to see that she cannot fly. She cannot be referred to as “he”. She cannot work or make money, and she must go to school. She has to LEARN English and does not already know it perfectly (this is somewhat problematic in our text, thanks to the voice actors on the CD ROM, where Mina’s vocabulary, grammar, and segmental pronunciation are always perfect, even though her intonation and stress are usually terrible). 

Because this bounded character is purely external, it may be complexive or conceptual. For example, here is a dialogue improvised by the third graders:

Minsu: Can you fly?
Mina: No, I can’t.
Minsu: Can you skate?
Mina: No, I can't.
Minsu: What time is it?
Mina: It's eleven twenty five.
Minsu: How many cow?
Mina: Two cow.
Minsu: How old are you?
Mina: I'm ten.
Minsu: What day is it?
Mina: Tuesday.
Minsu: Can you ski?
Mina: Yes, I can.

We can see that here Mina’s character is unstable. First of all, because she is human and cannot fly, there is no clear reason for her little brother to ask the first question. The second question is reasonable (and it is an item-based combination, rather than a fixed expression) and so is the third (Mina’s answer is realistically precise, because it is also an item-based combination). However, the third question suggests that Mina’s character is no longer entirely coherent; it is a question that Minsu normally addresses to an adult (Tony’s uncle) and there is no clear reason why it should be addressed to his sister. “How old are you?” is a clear violation of the internal knowledge of Minsu’s character: as Mina’s brother, he knows the answer to this question and has no reason to ask it. Minsu and Mina appear in this dialogue as chain complexes rather than as coherent concepts. The dialogue is simply “one thing leads to another”. 

Compare that with the following. In this dialogue the chldren have decided that Minsu is an OLDER brother, and Mina is a YOUNGER sister who is in love with a little boy in her third grade class. She has a slim, pretty figure and she wants to show off. Minsu has more traditional ideas:  

Minsu: Put on your coat.
Mina: No. 
Minsu: Outside, cold! (i.e. “It’s cold outside.”)
Mina: No! 
Minsu: What! 
Mina: I'm sorry. 
Minsu: Put on your glove. 
Mina: Yes. 
Minsu: Put on your cap. 
Mina: Too big. 
Minsu: Put on your sweater. 
Mina: Too small. 
Minsu (holding up a beautiful scarf): Put on your scarf.
Mina: Yes, please! 
Minsu: Put on your pants. 
Mina: No, I'm skirt. (i.e. “I want to wear a skirt.”)
Minsu: You, inside, play! (i.e. “You must stay inside and play and cannot go out.”)
Mina: No!

Here we see that Minsu and Mina are not simply externally bounded by humaness, gender, age, and nationality. They are also internally bounded by their wishes and their desires. Minsu must act in a way that is consistent with his wish to keep Mina from showing off her figure and Mina must act in a manner that is consistent with her desire to flirt. This is what gives the dialogue coherence; it is what makes it possible, at every point, to say who is saying what to whom and why.

David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

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