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Re: [xmca] The Ubiquity of Unicorns: conversation

Peter, it is very interesting to me to discuss something I know nothing about. How else can we subject our fundamentals to test?

Firstly, Peter, I think it is incoherent for you to talk of "conversation" as an "irreducible functional unit." "Conversation" is the whole animal not the cell. And in any case, it's not actually a conversation, though you might conceive of it as a limit case of a conversation if you wanted to. But you could also conceptualise what is going on as a performance, and a performance requires a script, scenes and stage directions; it *can* have an audience but doesn't have to have an audience (addressee).

Also, I don't think being a long monologue is any bar to being an utterance. Luther's 95 theses was an utterance in my reading, as was the Gettysburg Address. They can be broken down, but if they are, they cease to be an utterance and cannot be understood in that way as "a move".

Question: is private speech always associated with practical actions? If so, aren't these actions part of your unit of analysis?


Peter Feigenbaum wrote:
So we must approach the problem from both a practical and a conceptual
perspective, and find a way to make them coincide. For Bakhtin, utterance
unit boundaries can be concretely identified by turn-taking. For Vygotsky,
word meaning is the irreducible unit of analysis, beneath which the
functional integration of word and meaning ceases to exist. If conversation is, indeed,
that irreducible functional unit, then what is the smallest concrete form
conversation can take? It cannot be defined as a turn at talk, for some
turns can be quite extensive, such as a monologue consisting of multiple
But if an individual utterance is defined in terms of a single word (at
or a single sentence (at maximum), and these linguistic structures are
shown to have the functional properties of conversation (i.e., they participate
in an initiation-response structure with other utterance units or practical
then this unit would meet both the practical and conceptual criteria we
have been discussing.

Of course, this does not address all of the problems associated with the
analysis of private speech utterances, for there is still the knotty
problem of
*who is conversing with whom*! But that moves the problem down a different
path, which is a whole other topic.

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