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[Xmca-l] Re: Interdisciplinarity and Transdisciplinarity
I take it that "Cultural Historical" deliberately puts the cart before the
horse: history is the process, and culture is its product. And why not?
Natural language semantics works this way too; you will find tht "because"
is much more common than "as a result" or even "so" in spoken language.
Because we live here, it is the present that needs to be accounted fo; that
is why we have unruly perfective "aspects" like "past-in-the-present" (e.g.
"The worst has been averted"). But of course today's culture is tomorrow's
I don't think that a theme is a "concept area". Halliday's point is that
ANY concept area can be measured and treated mathematically, ANY concept
area can be treated historically, and so ANY concept area can be treated as
meaning. Take, for example, such wildly disparate areas as computers on the
one hand and consciousness on the other. It is possible to treat both as
ways of processing meaning, so long as we have a definition of meaning that
is broad enough (something like "information which is encoded within other
In 1954, my father and my mother published this paper together.
As you can see, it's about the "odd ball" problem: you have twelve balls
and and a balance, and you know that one of them is lighter or heavier than
the others; what is the minimum number of balancings you have to do to find
it? They treated the problem as "entropy of information", in other words,
as an essentially semantic problem, although of course entropy can also be
regarded as a purely physical phenomenon.
I do not want to make exaggerated claims for applied linguistics. We are
essentially a set of problems in search of a theory. But the way this state
of affairs came about is that in the early sixties Chomsky divorced
theoretical linguistics from real world problems, by creating an object of
study that was purely imaginary: "competence" as opposed to performance,
and the competence of a non-existent perfect native speaker in a homogenous
speech community to boot. Part of the discussion of Chomsky's Cartesianism
on the list is a discussion of that fundamental break, which, like
Saussure's break, really did throw linguistics back to the pre-historical
(i.e., thematically speaking, the pre-nineteenth century) age.
Enrollment in linguistics departments cratered in response to this; nobody
wanted to devote a career to studying arcane branches of X-bar syntax.
Applied linguistics (and also perhaps Communication, since not everybody
interested in language was willing to undertake a lifetime of exile) was a
response to this. Applied ling begat TESOL, which in an effort to avoid
becoming a nursing degree has become, alas, a kind of MBA for applied
linguists. As you can see, the movement has been to move towards "real
world problems" (and towards money) and away from theory. It has also been
a flight from history: I am teaching a course in the history of TESOL this
semester, and I am astonished at the number of books that claim that
teaching English began in the twentieth century. We are going to start our
course, next week, in 1413, when Henry Vth becomes King of England.
Hankuk University of Foreign STudies
On 23 February 2015 at 13:50, mike cole <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> I have had similar thoughts, David.
> The Dept of Communication we set up after I came to UCSD is referred to as
> an "inter-disciplinary department." I much preferred to (and prefer to,
> although my day for influencing
> such matters is well past) refer to our task as building an "inter
> discipline." I thought that perhaps mediation could serve as a unifying
> did you mean to say we should declare applied linguistics as the concept
> home of chat and focus on a natural language semantics? Or is there a trans
> disciplinary description that includes applied linguistics and natural
> language semantics but perhaps has other contributing streams of thought as
> right now cultural neurobiology seems to promoting itself as a
> transdiscipline that is treads on chat.
> For fun I wondered about the following from your note:
> "culture and history (where I take one is product and
> the other process)."
> Which is which?
> Maybe a mobius strip?
> On Sun, Feb 22, 2015 at 2:06 PM, David Kellogg <email@example.com>
> > CHAT has been variously described as “multi-disciplinary” or
> > “inter-disciplinary”. It seems to me that this formulation has left
> > undefined the depth and nature of interaction between disciplines and
> > all between CHAT on the one hand and discipline-based praxis on the
> > There's a similar problem in applied linguistics that might help. After
> > Dell Hymes's critique of Chomsky, and of the separation of competence
> > performance, applied linguists more or less rejected the idea of the
> > native speaker/hearer in a homogeneous speech community who knows his
> > language perfectly". We all tried to include “real world problems” in our
> > linguistics instead, and this meant including the other disciplines which
> > have grown up around those problems: foreign language teaching,
> > lexicography, and discourse analysis.
> > Then Widdowson distinguished between a disciplinary “linguistics
> > where linguistic theory is simply applied to problems like forensics or
> > compiling computer corpora, and a more multi-disciplinary “applied
> > linguistics” where the relevance of linguistic insights to problems must
> > mediated along with that of other disciplines, as we must in language
> > teaching.
> > For some purposes, that may not be a bad thing. In fact, the term
> > linguistics" seems to suggest a many-splendored technology rather than a
> > unified and unifying scientific theory. Not so with CHAT, which begins
> > the linked notions of culture and history (where I take one is product
> > the other process) and ends with theory. Theory suggests something rather
> > more conceptual than complexive.
> > Halliday argues that terms like “multi-disciplinary” and
> > “inter-disciplinary” imply that the real work, or the “locus of
> > still belongs in the disciplines themselves, and that a
> > approach is essentially a matter of bridge-building, assembling various
> > disciplines into what we might call a complex, that is, a grouping of
> > disciplines which is complex by virtue of its many parts and highly
> > links.
> > Instead, Halliday proposes a much more conceptually unified perspective
> > calls “transdisciplinary”, with an orientation “outwards” towards
> > discipline-transcendent themes rather than “inwards” towards
> > discipline-specific content. These different unifying themes have emerged
> > at different moments in intellectual history.
> > The earliest to emerge was mathematics which helped to unite the various
> > branches of “natural philosophy” into physics in the seventeenth century,
> > while in the nineteenth century the theme of evolution united the study
> > botany, zoology, economics and eventually, through cosmological enquiry,
> > even geology, physics and chemistry were annexed to the genetic approach.
> > In the twentieth century, “structure” emerged as a theme uniting all of
> > above to psychology, sociology, and anthropology. Today, according to
> > Halliday, the emerging theme seems to be the science of meaning.
> > It seems to me that the historical and cultural strands explain very well
> > how the strands of CHAT came together in the last century. But maybe an
> > applied linguistic engagement with natural language semantics in this
> > century can provide CHAT an opportunity to participate in and perhaps
> > lead the transdisciplinary project.
> > David Kellogg
> > Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
> It is the dilemma of psychology to deal as a natural science with an object
> that creates history. Ernst Boesch.