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Re: [xmca] The Ubiquity of Unicorns: conversation
- To: email@example.com, "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Subject: Re: [xmca] The Ubiquity of Unicorns: conversation
- From: Peter Feigenbaum <email@example.com>
- Date: 29-Oct-2009 12:20:28 EDT
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My method of eliciting the speech involves children playing a game with a
cognitive component. I videotape each child (usually 4-, 6-, and
with me in the room, at a distance, as a possible resource for
interpersonal speech if the
child is feeling motivated enough to seek it out. The child is given
instructions about how
the game works, what the objective is, and is told "it's a new game, and I
want to know what
you think of it, and whether other kids would like it." The game I have
tended to use is a
Piagetian task in which a child is asked to connect some straight and
curved wooden tracks
together in such a way that they fit between two fixed endpoints glued to a
placed on the floor. The children can crawl on the board and move the
tracks around. The
objective is to "build as many roads as possible with the tracks" that I
provide them. To make
the entire experience more fun (especially for the younger children), I
also affixed to the board
a miniature "school" area, a miniature "amusement park and zoo" area, a
"lake" area, and a
"mountain" area. These areas are situated so that the tracks can be
constructed between the
areas, and therefore create a very enticing fantasy-play opportunity. This
was a conscious
decision, for my aim is to elicit every type of private speech
use--particularly, "word play",
"emotional expression", "descriptions of ongoing activity", "planning",
and the like. I want to have numerous examples of the full range of private
from the most impulsive to the most regulatory, so that I can examine the
structures and functions developmentally.
The analysis of the videotapes starts with a written transcript of the
This transcript is then used in conjunction with the videotaped speech and
and serves as the place to record the codings that are then imposed on the
The first cut is to segment the stream of speech into utterance units. Here
we start to
get quite conceptual already; how shall we define the boundaries? In
conventions for doing speech analysis are borrowed from linguistics, but
when it comes
to segmenting the flow of speech, developmental psychologists seem to have
their own conventions that best suit their psycholoinguistic needs. My
impression is that
most analysts have adopted a set of criteria that more or less coincides
boundaries. For my purposes, this is very helpful, for it divides the data
two types: 1) single sentences, sentence fragments, phrases, single words,
nonverbal behavior (such as facial expressions)--all of which are located
utterance's boundaries; and 2) conversation--connections between the
investigation and other (adjacent and non-adjacent) utterances--if any.
boundaries are a matter of convention, I would like to see researchers make
considered decision about how to slice and dice linguistic data, so that we
can best serve
our research agendas. In my case, the agenda is to test LSV's claims about
development of word meaning.
Once the data are segmented into utterance units, each unit can be "tagged"
along the following lines: 1) Is it private speech or social speech?
(direction of gaze,
loudness, pitch, intonational contour, content, relation to ongoing
action--all of these are
relevant to making the decision); 2) Is it task-relevant, supportive of
fantasy play, supportive
to self-regulatory action, etc.? (evidence for these functions are
marshalled as well);
and, in my own approach (which very few private speech researchers seem to
I ask: 3) Is the utterance in question part of a conversational sequence?
and content relationships to other utterances and to ongoing activity are
and 4) What conversational acts (speech acts) can be inferred from the
production, and performance of the utterance? (words chosen, grammatical
literal propositional meaning, inferred meanings of individual words from
conversational context, and context of ongoing activity; other inferred
the proposition from conversational context and context of ongoing
Naturally, all of this takes training, time, funding, and persistence--none
of which are
going to happen unless researchers are convinced that these (more extreme)
So....if YOU were going to investigate LSV's concept of word meaning,
dipping into the
stream of conversation (or monologue, or narration) at various points in
time to examine
the key qualities that will allow you to determine the level of development
of a child's
activity of communicating (interpersonally or personally) with speech, I
doesn't conversation have to be included in such an investigation? Is it
to investigate LSV's claims about word meaning if the data are limited to
phrases, and sentences? How about the social, interpersonal "exchange"
Words and phrases are just structures, but without conversation to breathe
into them, what have you got?
As you can tell, I have several axes to grind!
Thus, conceptual explorations of word meaning need to be tempered against
practical and pragmatic concerns involved with implementing and applying
concept to data. I am convinced that both theory and practice need one
for either one of them to develop.
Now that I've laid bare the methodology for obtaining the data that then
empirical "facts" about word meaning, I would appreciate any help or
might have for improving or deepening the conceptual structure of this
so that the "facts" we seek might be more in line with LSV's conception.
Sorry to be so verbose.
Sent by: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity"
10/29/2009 08:40 Re: [xmca] The Ubiquity of
AM Unicorns: conversation
Please respond to
; Please respond
WHat experimental technique do you use, Peter, to observe
Peter Feigenbaum wrote:
> Thanks for the warm welcome.
> I thought my response to the ongoing discussion would be useful,
> but I can see that it will take more work on my part to demonstrate
> the relevance of what I'm proposing.
> I should also add that my orientation to LSV, private speech, and
> word meaning is not just conceptual, but also practical. While I truly
> enjoy the erudite philosophical discussions on this listserve, and find
> them helpful in sharpening up crucial concepts, there is research to be
> done to verify these ideas, and that enterprise involves making concrete
> decisions about conceptual possibilities.
> As for your synopsis of my ISCAR presentation, you did a fine job. All I
> would add (and this was not spelled out sufficiently in my presentation)
> is a fuller description of the properties that emerge when speaking and
> thinking "converge". As I see it, that momentous convergence that LSV
> points to is none other than the momentous activity of a child uttering
> her first meaningful word. Several aspects of that new activity need to
> be made explicit.
> First, it's not just thinking and speaking that converge inside a child's
> head; the whole activity is a convergence of infant and caregiver as
> That is, a child's first word is spoken "to someone", and therefore
> constitutes the very first instance of the infant engaging in
> conversation--even though the infant is unaware of the rules and
> conventions for conducting this new activity. Fortunately, adults step in
> and do the work of creating a state of mutual involvement until the child
> is competent enough to do so on her own.
> Which leads to the second point: if conversational activity is born with
> child's first meaningful word, then tracking the growth and development
> conversational understanding and skills needs to be a central aim of
> Vygotskian research. Since the convergence of speaking and thinking is
> also the same event in which word and meaning come together as one
> to form a new activity, tracking conversational development is
> with the development of word meaning.
> To respond to your first question--is word meaning an activity of
> through language use" or does it refer to a particular psycholinguistic
> structure--the answer is: both. Speech communication, word meaning, and
> conversation are, in my view, conceptually interchangeable. These terms
> all refer to the activity of making meanings with speech sounds. Thus,
> particular speech structures are woven into the activity. That's the
> thing about "activity"--it's a material process involving material
> and from it can come "ideas" and "idealizations"!
> If Vygotsky's claims about word meaning and its development are to be
> tested using empirical data, then the concept of word meaning needs to be
> translated and transposed so that it can take the form of an empirical
> methodology--while retaining its basic features. Personally, I don't know
> one private speech researcher who uses LSV's concept of word meaning
> when analyzing speech data--and to me, that suggests something is very
> wrong. So I have been focused on augmenting the concept of word meaning
> in order to create a corresponding method that can capture word meaning
> and its development from a data-analytic perspective. That involves
> certain conceptual choices, particularly regarding the linguistic units.
> Your suggestion that there could be any number of linguistic units that
> be proposed is certainly valid. My justifications for choosing words,
> and conversation as the three major levels in the organization of speech
> communication are based on both conceptual and pragmatic grounds. We
> need a method of studying this phenomenon developmentally from a data
> perspective, and this scheme seems tome to be the most workable one.
> Does that help clarify my viewpoint?
> -----firstname.lastname@example.org wrote: -----
> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <email@example.com>
> From: Steve Gabosch <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Sent by: email@example.com
> Date: 10/28/2009 07:19AM
> Subject: Re: [xmca] The Ubiquity of Unicorns: conversation
> Welcome, Peter! I liked your presentation and paper at ISCAR 2005 a
> lot, and am very glad to see you getting involved here on xmca.
> Your post outlines a very interesting concept, extending Vygotsky's
> concept of word-meaning to the linguistic unit of conversation.
> I took a quick re-look at your 2005 paper, A Dialectical Model of
> Vygotsky's Theory of Speaking and Thinking. I like the way you
> describe Vygotsky's three stages of thinking/speech development, and
> the way you propose a fourth that completes the full developmental
> Here is a quick synopsis of your paper (in my clumsy terms). As you
> describe them, each of these stages takes two 'forms', so to speak, a
> speaking form and an intellectual (thinking) form.
> The paper describes Vygotsky's three stages of speaking/thinking as:
> 1) interpersonal speech, which combines the speaking form of external
> social speech dialogues, and the intellectual form of implicit
> practical thinking;
> 2) personal speech, which combines the speaking form of external
> private speech monologues and the intellectual form of explicit verbal
> thinking; and 3) personal speech, which combines the speaking form of
> internal inner speech monologues and the intellectual form of explicit
> verbal thinking.
> To these stages outlined by Vygotsky, you suggest a fourth stage:
> 4) interpersonal speech, which combines the speaking form of inner
> speech/social speech with internal monologues and external dialogues,
> and the intellectual forms of explicit and implicit verbal thinking
> and practical thinking.
> In this post, you extend Vygotsky's concept of word-meaning beyond the
> word and the sentence to the conversation as a unit of analysis. A
> key element that emerges in the second and third stages of speaking/
> thinking development - that element being the monologue, or inner
> speech - creates the basis for the fourth stage. And the monologue is
> also a key element of how you are looking at conversation. Very
> interesting analysis!
> Please correct the rough edges of my synopsis - and where I am off-base.
> As for considering conversation a "third level" linguistic unit,
> following the word and the sentence, I have a naive question. The
> term "word-meaning" that Vygotsky uses in Russian - znachenie slova -
> as I understand it (via Holbrook Mahn's paper at a recent AERA
> conference), means something more like "meaning through language use"
> rather than "individual-word-meaning". In this sense, Vygotsky may
> not have been referring specifically to any linguistic unit when he
> spoke of word-meaning. Yes? No?
> As for linguistic units, I have another naive question. Apologies for
> using non-technical terms here. We have things like parts of words,
> words, phrases, combinations of phrases, sentences, and then perhaps
> sequences of directly related sentences. And then, of course, we have
> conversations. And the distinctions can get a lot more complicated
> than that when we look at syntax. This leads me to ask: what permits
> us to say that "words" are one level, "sentences" are a second level,
> and that "conversations" are a third? Are we skipping any necessary
> levels? Or creating a level that we shouldn't?
> I don't mean to undermine the idea of that different structural levels
> contain, transmit and transform meaning in qualitatively different
> ways. Units smaller than sentences, complete sentences, and
> conversations are clearly on very different levels. My question is:
> how can it be demonstrated and explained that these three levels are
> the right ones for this job?
> It would be very sweet and simple if this were the case ...
> - Steve
> On Oct 27, 2009, at 8:34 AM, Peter Feigenbaum wrote:
>> Greetings, fellow members of XMCA.
>> My name is Peter Feigenbaum, and I’m a private speech researcher.
>> Some of
>> you may know me from my presentations
>> at ISCAR. I have been following several of the threads on this
>> for the past few weeks (time permitting!), and I
>> believe I might have something useful to contribute to this particular
>> What prompted me to chime in is the frustration expressed by Michael
>> Glassman regarding how to construct the question
>> of meaning in such a way that brings “activity and rules systems and
>> all into some type of transactional field”. I have
>> been working on an augmentation of LSV’s analysis of “word meaning”
>> might be just what Michael’s seeking.
>> In LSV’s day, the field of linguistics recognized only two structures
>> capable of subserving speech communication: words
>> and sentences. But there is a third linguistic structure that
>> entered the
>> discipline several decades ago and, although it is
>> still marginal as opposed to mainstream, it has the potential to
>> our concept of word meaning and to enable us
>> to devise a methodological unit of analysis that can track this
>> throughout childhood. I am referring to: conversation.
>> Most linguists and developmental psychologists don’t think of
>> as a linguistic structure; instead, they regard
>> it more as a social or even behavioral activity that happens to be
>> in organizing the interpersonal exchange of
>> linguistic utterances. But once you get past the obvious turn-taking
>> conventions that regulate the superficial participatory
>> structure of speech communication, you find a deeper set of rules that
>> govern how participants are expected to “think”.
>> For example, most cultures have a tacit rule about “sticking to the
>> If you have ever doubted such a rule, just try
>> speaking in non-sequiturs and see how far you get before the listener
>> gently suggests you consider checking in to rehab.
>> In 1977, C.O. Frake asserted that, in order to become a competent
>> communicator with speech, it is not sufficient to know
>> how to speak grammatically, or even sensibly; one must also know how
>> speak “appropriately”. Are there rules for social
>> appropriateness with speech? Dell Hymes thought so. In 1962 he
>> that ethnographers go out and record what he
>> called an “ethnography of speaking” for every culture. By that he
>> meant “a
>> specification of what kinds of things to say, in
>> what message forms, to what kinds of people, in what kinds of
>> Consider, by way of example, “familiar” and
>> “formal” verb endings in French, Spanish, Italian, and other
>> languages. So
>> powerful is the influence of formal and familiar
>> social relations and social situations on our conversations that these
>> relations ended up being institutionalized in language
>> in the form of their very own words! (And pity the person who
>> missteps and
>> uses terms that are reserved for familiars in
>> the context of a formal situation).
>> More importantly, however, there are two other fundamental
>> structures of
>> conversation that make it tremendously advantageous
>> to include conversation as the third “layer” in Vygotsky’s analysis
>> of word
>> meaning: one is the division of conversation into
>> alternating “speaking” and “listening” roles, and the other is the
>> “initiation-response” structure of conversation, which obliges
>> speakers and listeners to play certain proscribed functional roles
>> on their
>> respective turns at talk. In fact, the real power of
>> conversation lies in the initiation-response structure, IMHO, which
>> (implicitly) how two utterances are related in
>> a conversational sequence. The very best illustration that I know of
>> is the
>> question-answer pair, which uses the cultural
>> convention of initiation-response to set up a predictable cognitive
>> relationship between the two utterances. Once a child
>> learns how questions are conventionally related to answers, and how
>> are conventionally related to questions
>> (as in the TV game show, Jeopardy), he or she becomes capable of, and
>> attentive to, using questions strategically—yes,
>> I mean consciously, volitionally, and deliberately—to get at desired
>> answers. The initiation-response structure of conversation
>> has all of the linguistic properties that are necessary for a
>> speaker to be
>> able to use one utterance to get at another. This is
>> the basis for the self-regulatory, self-reflective, self-monitoring
>> qualities of private speech--in its later stages.
>> In Chapter 7 of Thought and Language, LSV walks through his analysis
>> word meaning, which follows the same path as
>> the ontogenetic development of verbal thinking, or inner speech. In
>> final step of the movement "inward" from word
>> to thought, LSV refers to Stanislavky's approach to word meanings that
>> highlights the role of the speaker's communicative
>> intentions. LSV ends that topic with the claim, "To understand
>> speech, it is not sufficient to understand his words--
>> we must understand his thought. But even that is not enough--we must
>> know its motivation. No psychological analysis
>> of an utterance is complete until that plane is reached." I believe
>> gets at the heart of Michael (Glassman's) concerns.
>> To know what a speaker's utterance "means", a listener/data analyst
>> consult the words and their lexical meanings,
>> the sentence (in which the words are embedded) and its propositional
>> (literal) meaning, the sentence's grammatical
>> structure, the conversational context (related utterances, prior
>> etc.), and the situational context in order to appropriately
>> infer the speaker's intention. Only after answering the ultimate
>> "why did
>> he say that?" can a listener come close to grasping
>> what the speaker "meant". Incidentally, my mentor, John Dore, an
>> analyst of
>> the development of children's conversational
>> skills and competencies, created a coding scheme for capturing a
>> communicative intentions. He applied
>> John Searle's analysis of "speech acts" to conversation, enabling a
>> analyst to identify the "conversational acts"
>> produced by speakers on an utterance-by-utterance basis.
>> There is much more that conversation lends to Vygotsky's analysis of
>> meaning--besides the "transactional space"
>> it provides in which word meanings are exchanged--but I won't take
>> any more
>> time or space here. I fear I’ve already worn out
>> my welcome! Let me just end by saying that Chapter 7 of Thought and
>> Language confused me for the longest time by its
>> references to the movement from “outside to inside”, from “word to
>> thought”. But once I began to cast this movement in terms
>> of basic conversational roles, it became clear (to me, at least)
>> that LSV
>> was referring all along to the activity of *listening*
>> (i.e., word > thought)--as opposed to the activity of speaking (i.e.,
>> thought > word), which embodies the reverse movement.
>> No wonder he likened his investigation of "thinking" to that of
>> studying "the dark side of the moon"--listening
>> is certainly the "dark side" of speaking!
>> Thanks for your indulgence. Hope this helps, Michael.
>> Best wishes to all,
>> P.S. If anyone cares to hear more about this, such as how the
>> addition of
>> the conversational layer affects LSV's analysis
>> of the *development* of word meaning, I would be more than happy to
>> come to
>> your university in person and deliver a
>> presentation on the topic! (I've been very busy lately developing this
>> Peter Feigenbaum, Ph.D.
>> Associate Director of Institutional Research
>> Fordham University
>> Thebaud Hall-202
>> Bronx, NY 10458
>> Phone: (718) 817-2243
>> Fax: (718) 817-3203
>> e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
>> <MGlassman@ehe.os To
>> u.edu> "eXtended Mind, Culture,
>> Sent by: <email@example.com>
>> bounces@webe cc
>> RE: [xmca] The Ubiquity of
>> 10/24/2009 11:42
>> Please respond to
>> "eXtended Mind,
>> Hi Michael,
>> I have been mulling over your question about meaning for the last day
>> trying to figure out how to convey it in a way that bring activity and
>> rules systems, and words all into some type of transactional field.
>> I have
>> been feeling trapped because as soon as I say what meaning means I am
>> reifying it, from an objective, almost realist perspective. It is so
>> damned hard to escape the realist and idealist traps that are lurking
>> everywhere. If I was going to describe what meaning is I would have
>> to do
>> it through showing an activity where meaning is determined by
>> transient and
>> yet very powerful rule systems (perhaps an addendum to Marx's false
>> consciousness). Then this morning I came across the column
>> "We Know What he Means" by a very good columnist named Bob Herbert.
>> I hope
>> this link goes through.
>> Meaning is definitely being established by Guiliani and Bloomberg in
>> sequence of events. Words are being used as instruments (some might
>> weapons) to achieve a goal. The fact that those who speaks the
>> words, and
>> probably many of those who listen, do not in any way agree with the
>> superficial aspects of the conversation (e.g. New York is in danger of
>> becoming 1967 Detroit) very specific meanings are at the same time
>> established in order to achieve goals. What is interesting is that I
>> wonder how people who don't know the rules around urban politics
>> would take
>> the words - and I would suggest that the words actually have a much
>> delimited meaning to them. However if those individual continued
>> Bob Herbert's columns for a year, or good Herbert and racial
>> politics, they
>> would I believe be able to get the same meaning as those who are
>> from New
>> From: firstname.lastname@example.org on behalf of Wolff-Michael Roth
>> Sent: Fri 10/23/2009 3:58 PM
>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>> Subject: Re: [xmca] The Ubiquity of Unicorns
>> Hi Michael,
>> you must have misunderstood me. We have two interconnected orders,
>> one of sound patterns, which we hear or read as words, the other one
>> some world generally. I didn't write about "meaning" because I don't
>> (try to) use it, because it is overused and abused. The two orders
>> are interwoven, and a sound can change the other order, "Step aside"
>> may get a person to move and therefore the world changes, but it also
>> may earn you a fist on the nose, and the two effects are different.
>> I think Wittgenstein and especially later philosophers would agree
>> that there is NO system of rules sufficient to explain language in
>> use, which was precisely the point in the discussion between Derrida
>> and Searle on speech act theory, and the various interpreters of the
>> exchange, as people like Culler and Habermas subsequently further
>> The rules themselves are made as we go, and this is what I attempt to
>> capture (at least in part) with the notion of con/texture and con/
>> texting, where text not only "means" but also establishes the very
>> context within which it definitively "means" (to use your verb). (See
>> I can mention use, thereby also use, and the difference between
>> mention and use becomes undecidable, in the very sentence preceding
>> this parenthesis.)
>> I have no idea in which sense you use "meaning". What does someone
>> understand when they understand the "meaning". What is "meaning"? The
>> trouble is with the word that users point to something obliquely.
>> What is the "meaning" of Bildung?
>> On 23-Oct-09, at 11:23 AM, Michael Glassman wrote:
>> But Michael,
>> Isn't this taking something of a realist approach to words? That is
>> that certain words mean certain things, which the reader can actually
>> know and therefore use to help interpret of the meaning of the text
>> around them. This means that there are certain words that can be
>> known and can't be known, based on experience. I am thinking of
>> Wittgenstein's observation of the chess game, where if you saw two
>> people playing from a distance you would think they were playing the
>> same game with the same rules you were playing, but this is only an
>> assumption, because they do not share the community's understanding
>> of the rules. But I am thinking that Wittgenstein saw this more as
>> an issue of cultural capital rather than absolute knowledge. If it
>> is important to teach an individual the rules of the game you can
>> teach them. I think somebody like Rorty might argue that this was
>> inevitable as long as the players, those reading the text, were
>> interested and active in the understanding. When an individual
>> writes a text he is writing at least to some degree to teach what all
>> the meanings of the word are. So somebody reading a text reads the
>> word Bildung in the text, he or she is confused, but is interested in
>> understanding. They return to the text again as they attempt to get
>> their horizon to meet with the author's (hat tip to Gadamer). In the
>> end the reader may not be able to describe Bildung outside of the
>> text, outside of the authors specific vision. And may not be able to
>> describe it to somebody who is not sharing that particular horizon.
>> But they understand the meaning and the role that word is playing in
>> the text in an important way.
>> From: email@example.com on behalf of Wolff-Michael Roth
>> Sent: Fri 10/23/2009 2:04 PM
>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>> Subject: Re: [xmca] The Ubiquity of Unicorns
>> On 23-Oct-09, at 10:51 AM, ERIC.RAMBERG@spps.org wrote:
>> consciousness has developed. David Kellogg has provided numerous
>> of how native Korean speaking people do not grasp basic concepts of
>> english language. Some of the low achieving students I work with have
>> I think, with Heidegger, Derrida, Rorty, Wittgenstein, Davidson,
>> Deleuze, and others, that the difference between knowing a language
>> and knowing one's way around the (cultural) world is undecidable.
>> Concepts are not just concepts of English language, they are
>> irreducibly interwoven with the way of life.
>> This is why Anglo-Saxons tend to have difficulties with activity
>> (Tätigkeit, deyate'nost) and activity (Aktivität, aktivnost'). This
>> is why there is no concept like Bildung, because in the conduct of
>> life of Anglo-Saxons, there is no equivalent segmentation to which
>> the concept could refer, and there is no inter-concept relation where
>> such a distinction would be useful.
>> I do find the concept of "concept" problematic, because it is being
>> used on this list without working out just what it stands for. (in
>> general use, it appears like meaning that is somehow related to
>> xmca mailing list
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