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[Xmca-l] Re: Mediating Activity and Mediated Activity

I just posted to David, then remembered your post below. and think that, for me, the phoneme WAS an artifact that I discovered while studying and learning Spanish. This was before I had taken any linguistics, so when I was learning Spanish, phoneme and allophonic variants were lived, cultually immersive concepts before I learned how to talk and write about the abstraction in my linguistics coursework. Vygotsky said that we don’t understand our first language until we learn a second. I think he meant we didn’t learn how to talk and write metalinguistically. But children, even very young ones, adjust their speech to their audience. So, they are metalinguistically aware before they can explain metalinguistically why they make the adjustments they do. Kids who grow up bilingual are the recognized champs at code switching, but I think we all code switch a lot. And we all understand codes we can’t speak. So learning different codes goes on all the time, no study needed. That doesn’t mean learning new codes is necessarily easy. Take this chat. 

> On May 5, 2016, at 5:30 PM, Lplarry <lpscholar2@gmail.com> wrote:
> David,
> A question came to mind as I read your comment on phonemes  as artifacts generated from written language*systems* projecting back onto spoken language
> Would you say generally:
> The more we study (....) the more we discover (....)
> In other words the phenomena *discovered* is an artifact of our studying (....)
> Sent from my Windows 10 phone
> From: David Kellogg
> Sent: May 5, 2016 2:45 PM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Mediating Activity and Mediated Activity
> That's not the only question. See the last paragraph, where the author
> talks about the amazing fact that smaller speech communities have fewer
> varieties of hats and the clear evidence that this provides for the
> diffusion and diversification of a hat gene during the spread of homo modus
> sapiens from its ancenstral home in the valley of the Seine.
> My own question is much more basic, Martin. I do not believe in phonemes. I
> think that the unit of analysis for spoken language must map onto meaning,
> and that points to a unit the size of a syllable, roughly corresponding to
> a word. (My mother uncovered evidence for this when she did dichotic
> listening tests on me as an infant.) Phonemes are actually artefacts of
> writings systems, retroactively projected onto spoken language, and this is
> why, as the article discovers, the more we study a language, the more
> phonemes we "discover" in it.
> By the way, Cavalli-Sforza's work DID make the fundamental methodological
> mistake of correlating language variation with variation in mitochondrial
> DNA. See:
> Cavalli-Sforza, L.L. (2000)
> *Genes, Peoples, and Languages,* University of California Press.
> David Kellogg
> Macquarie University
> On Fri, May 6, 2016 at 5:44 AM, Martin John Packer <mpacker@uniandes.edu.co>
> wrote:
>> Right, the question here is whether the data used - from the World Atlas
>> of Language Structures - was sufficiently accurate and detailed in its
>> characterization of the phonemes in each language.
>> Martin
>>> On May 5, 2016, at 8:09 AM, Peg Griffin <Peg.Griffin@att.net> wrote:
>>> Mark Liberman  considered the Atkinson work in the Language Log a little
>> while ago
>>> http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=3090
>>> -----Original Message-----
>>> From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:
>> xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Martin John Packer
>>> Sent: Thursday, May 05, 2016 8:43 AM
>>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>>> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Mediating Activity and Mediated Activity
>>> Helen,
>>> This is a different analysis, in a different paper, that purports to
>> document how selected members of the Indo-European language family spread
>> geographically between the seventh millennium BC and 1974.
>>> Martin
>>>> On May 5, 2016, at 12:11 AM, Helen Harper <helen.harper@bigpond.com>
>> wrote:
>>>> The theory is attractive, but these theories are always a bit
>> bothersome. I don’t enough about historical linguistic theory to say
>> anything sensible but it always pays at least to look for the counter
>> argument:
>>>> http://www.geocurrents.info/cultural-geography/linguistic-geography/qu
>>>> entin-atkinsons-nonsensical-maps-of-indo-european-expansion
>>>> Helen
>>>>> On 5 May 2016, at 11:46 AM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:
>>>>> Remarkable and beautiful!
>>>>> andy
>>>>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>>>>> Andy Blunden
>>>>> http://home.mira.net/~andy
>>>>> http://www.brill.com/products/book/origins-collective-decision-making
>>>>> On 5/05/2016 12:02 PM, Martin John Packer wrote:
>>>>>> <http://www.historyofinformation.com/expanded.php?id=3285>
>>>>>> <https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/04/16/where-on-earth-
>>>>>> did-language-begin/>
>>>>>> Martin
>>>>>>> On May 4, 2016, at 6:47 PM, Martin John Packer <
>> mpacker@uniandes.edu.co> wrote:
>>>>>>> David,
>>>>>>> No, Cavalli-Sforza studies human migration by tracing shared genes.
>> I was referring to the work of Quentin Atkinson:
>>>>>>> Atkinson, Q. D. (2011). Phonemic diversity supports a serial founder
>> effect model of language expansion from Africa. Science, 332, 346-349.
>>>>>>> I tried to include an image in my last message, but it seems to have
>> been stripped out.
>>>>>>> Martin
>>>>>>>> On May 4, 2016, at 6:40 PM, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com>
>> wrote:
>>>>>>>> Henry:
>>>>>>>> Martin's referring to the work of Cavalli-Sforza, which assumes
>>>>>>>> that you can trace the spread of language by studying
>>>>>>>> mitochondrial DNA. This overlooks the fact the people do not
>>>>>>>> simply inherit languages. They learn them.
>>>>>>>> I think that this may be Vygotsky's most overlooked contribution.
>>>>>>>> Vygotsky's description of the proto-language of the child's first
>>>>>>>> two years of life, combined with Halliday's great "Nigel" studies,
>>>>>>>> provides us with...the key to the origins of language.
>>>>>>>> The question of the origins of language in linguistics is a little
>>>>>>>> like string theory in physics; it's something linguists go into
>>>>>>>> because they find working with data messy and unpleasant, and dead
>>>>>>>> speakers tell no tales. For most of Western intellectual history,
>>>>>>>> the only field workers were amateur archaeologists seeking
>>>>>>>> Biblical confirmation: a quest for the Garden of Eden and the
>>>>>>>> Tower of Babel. In the 19th Century, the field became so
>>>>>>>> speculative that the Royal Society and the French Academie des
>> sciences banned the acceptance of scientific papers on the subject.
>>>>>>>> It was almost forgotten in the twentieth, and recent attempts to
>>>>>>>> revive it by searching the Human Genome Project for a "language
>>>>>>>> gene" have led absolutely nowhere.
>>>>>>>> Vygotsky shows us what language looks like when the infant tries
>>>>>>>> to invent it. When he says that thinking and speech have separate
>>>>>>>> roots, and then come together, what he means is that the first
>>>>>>>> languages, which are still being invented right in front of our
>>>>>>>> noses, have separate two layers: a semantics and a phonetics, and
>>>>>>>> these are then linked. But that link is not yet wording; it's not
>>>>>>>> lexicogrammar: it's simply pointing out and naming
>>>>>>>> things: matching sounds to objects.
>>>>>>>> Halliday shows us how the child is able to exapt the lexicogrammar
>>>>>>>> he sees and hears being enacted around him to his own functional
>>>>>>>> purposes, his own semantics and his own phonetics. It's a big
>>>>>>>> step, but it's a step that even a two year old human can make given
>> the collaborative help of conspecifics.
>>>>>>>> So it is not reasonable to assume that it was made only once.
>>>>>>>> Throughout human history, the number of human languages has tended
>>>>>>>> to diminish and not increase, either through genocide or through
>>>>>>>> literacy or both. Babel was indeed our past, but the single
>>>>>>>> language that supposedly preceded it is really a long-ago that is
>> yet-to-come.
>>>>>>>> David Kellogg
>>>>>>>> Macquarie University
>>>>>>>> On Thu, May 5, 2016 at 9:04 AM, HENRY SHONERD <hshonerd@gmail.com>
>> wrote:
>>>>>>>>> Gente,
>>>>>>>>> As far as the invention of language, whether spoken, signed or
>>>>>>>>> written, do we know whether it was invented once, or many times,
>>>>>>>>> independently? Are we humans alone in the universe, the only
>>>>>>>>> inventors of language? Are these questions relevant to the
>>>>>>>>> thread? If not, I only have questions, so they’re my best shot.
>>>>>>>>> Henry
>>>>>>>>>> On May 4, 2016, at 3:57 PM, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com>
>> wrote:
>>>>>>>>>> Well, but then in hindsight everything coevolves with everything,
>> Andy.
>>>>>>>>> And
>>>>>>>>>> only in hindsight. Three problems with that.
>>>>>>>>>> First of all, this view of "co-evolution" renders the idea of
>>>>>>>>>> evolution vacuous. There is no obvious reason why the larynx
>>>>>>>>>> should be considered
>>>>>>>>> the
>>>>>>>>>> "rudiment" of language rather than the mouth or the ears or for
>>>>>>>>>> that
>>>>>>>>> matter
>>>>>>>>>> the hand (Stokoe makes a very convincing argument that sign
>>>>>>>>>> languages predate vocal ones). So then we have to say that
>>>>>>>>>> speech co-evolved with mouths and ears and hands?
>>>>>>>>>> Secondly, to pre-empt a little the upcoming issue of MCA, that
>>>>>>>>>> this view
>>>>>>>>> of
>>>>>>>>>> co-evolution also makes it impossible to explain crises as
>>>>>>>>>> internal phenomena. The pace of change of language is
>>>>>>>>>> qualitatively different from the pace of change of the
>>>>>>>>>> "rudiment" of language, wherever you choose to locate it, and
>>>>>>>>>> this changing of gears needs to be explained. It wasn't a simple
>>>>>>>>>> adaptation to the environment, whatever it was; it doesn't
>>>>>>>>>> appear
>>>>>>>>> to
>>>>>>>>>> be environment specific at all.
>>>>>>>>>> Thirdly, this notion of co-evolution, discovering "rudiments" in
>>>>>>>>> accidents,
>>>>>>>>>> does not give us a unit of analysis that has all of the
>>>>>>>>>> properties that
>>>>>>>>> we
>>>>>>>>>> are interested in studying. The quipu and the notched stick are
>>>>>>>>>> deliberately endowed with meaning, but the larynx is not.
>>>>>>>>>> Perhaps what you mean is not the larynx but the vocal tract: the
>>>>>>>>>> lungs, the bronchial tubes, the wind pipe, the voicebox, the
>>>>>>>>>> oral cavity, the tongue, the lips and the nose and nasal
>>>>>>>>>> passages. But this did not evolve at all; in  fact, as a
>>>>>>>>>> physiological organ the vocal tract does not even exist. It's
>>>>>>>>>> not an adaptation but an exaptation--a bringing together of
>>>>>>>>>> organs which evolved with very different functions for a purpose
>>>>>>>>>> which is not an adaptation to the environment but an attempt to
>> create a qualitatively new type of environment, namely a semiotic one.
>>>>>>>>>> The notion of the co-evolution of tools and signs not only
>>>>>>>>>> renders the
>>>>>>>>> idea
>>>>>>>>>> of evolution almost meaningless, it also makes it next to
>>>>>>>>>> impossible to consciously and deliberately and rationally
>>>>>>>>>> introduce design into development. If signs are, like tools,
>>>>>>>>>> just ways of slavishly adapting to an environment or (worse)
>>>>>>>>>> slavishly adapting the environment to human whims, we can only
>>>>>>>>>> stagger and struggle against each other, from one adaptation to
>>>>>>>>>> the next. But if speech is an audaciously wise attempt to create
>>>>>>>>>> an environment of an entirely new type, an environment made of
>>>>>>>>>> meaning rather than merely of matter, then we humans might have
>>>>>>>>>> some hope of transforming the bitter blind combat of each against
>> all into a common collaborative project. That would be co-evolution indeed.
>>>>>>>>>> David Kellogg
>>>>>>>>>> Macquarie University
>>>>>>>>>> On Wed, May 4, 2016 at 2:09 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>
>> wrote:
>>>>>>>>>>> David, I am responding to "Tool use--and even tool
>>>>>>>>>>> manufacture--is quite common in higher primates. But while the
>>>>>>>>>>> higher primates regularly use gesture, there is no evidence of
>>>>>>>>>>> any other species developing anything
>>>>>>>>> like
>>>>>>>>>>> a lexicogrammar."
>>>>>>>>>>> In his somewhat discredited book "Ape, Primitive Man and Child,"
>>>>>>>>> Vygotsky
>>>>>>>>>>> makes the point that the form of activity which is found in
>>>>>>>>>>> non-human animals in *rudimentary* form but is fully developed
>>>>>>>>>>> in humans, is the
>>>>>>>>> key
>>>>>>>>>>> to the "transition from ape to man" and is thus the "essence of
>>>>>>>>>>> man" (to use a lot of 19th century language). That is why he
>>>>>>>>>>> was so determined,
>>>>>>>>> at
>>>>>>>>>>> the time, to find "rudimentary" forms of writing among
>>>>>>>>>>> not-literate
>>>>>>>>> peoples
>>>>>>>>>>> (those memory sticks and knots).
>>>>>>>>>>> For all the faults of this work, I think this was a profound
>> insight.
>>>>>>>>> What
>>>>>>>>>>> he seemed to have been blind to is that the larynx evolved
>>>>>>>>>>> together with the hand, and human beings learnt to speak at the
>>>>>>>>>>> same time as they
>>>>>>>>> learnt
>>>>>>>>>>> to make tools. It was only in 1931 that he recognised that a
>>>>>>>>>>> spoken word was as much a sign as a piece of technology
>>>>>>>>>>> manufactured for
>>>>>>>>> communicative
>>>>>>>>>>> purposes - which nonetheless, did turn out to mark a
>>>>>>>>>>> qualitative leap in human cultural development.
>>>>>>>>>>> The great insight from this work is that despite himself, he
>>>>>>>>>>> looked
>>>>>>>>> *not*
>>>>>>>>>>> at the attribute of human beings which was exclusively found
>>>>>>>>>>> among
>>>>>>>>> humans
>>>>>>>>>>> (lexicogrammar) as the "essence of man," but on the contrary to
>>>>>>>>>>> the mediating activity which produced the change from one
>>>>>>>>>>> species to
>>>>>>>>> another.
>>>>>>>>>>> This is the Hegelian idea of concept, a.k.a. species, as
>>>>>>>>>>> opposed to the positivist concept of species/concept which looks
>> for "essential"
>>>>>>>>>>> attributes as definitive. But he didn;t know that until 1931.
>>>>>>>>>>> Andy
>>>>>>>>>>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>>>>>>>>>>> Andy Blunden
>>>>>>>>>>> http://home.mira.net/~andy
>>>>>>>>>>> http://www.brill.com/products/book/origins-collective-decision-
>>>>>>>>>>> making On 4/05/2016 1:48 PM, David Kellogg wrote:
>>>>>>>>>>>> Greg:
>>>>>>>>>>>> Tool use--and even tool manufacture--is quite common in higher
>>>>>>>>> primates.
>>>>>>>>>>>> But while the higher primates regularly use gesture, there is
>>>>>>>>>>>> no
>>>>>>>>> evidence
>>>>>>>>>>>> of any other species developing anything like a lexicogrammar.
>>>>>>>>>>>> It's in that sense that I was arguing that tool use has
>>>>>>>>>>>> temporal priority over
>>>>>>>>> signs. I
>>>>>>>>>>>> don't think tools and signs co-evolved phylogenetically any
>>>>>>>>>>>> more than
>>>>>>>>> they
>>>>>>>>>>>> co-evolve ontogenetically. I think that practical intelligence
>>>>>>>>>>>> and speech have separate genetic roots and separate functional
>>>>>>>>>>>> paths, the
>>>>>>>>> one
>>>>>>>>>>>> oriented towards the environment and the other towards
>> conspecifics.
>>>>>>>>>>>> While he was in prison, Oscar Wilde was allowed one sheet of
>>>>>>>>>>>> paper a
>>>>>>>>> day,
>>>>>>>>>>>> which was issued to him in the morning and then locked in a
>>>>>>>>>>>> safe in the evening. He used this to write a very long letter
>>>>>>>>>>>> to his lover Lord
>>>>>>>>> Alfred
>>>>>>>>>>>> Douglas (about a third of this letter, with the long and
>>>>>>>>>>>> highly contradictory complaints removed, was published as "De
>> Profundis").
>>>>>>>>> But it
>>>>>>>>>>>> was only after his release that he was able to transform the
>>>>>>>>>>>> sorry mess into great art, a ballad about a trooper who was
>>>>>>>>>>>> hanged while he was in prison.
>>>>>>>>>>>> He did not wear his scarlet coat For blood and wine are red
>>>>>>>>>>>> And blood and wine were on his hands When they found him with
>>>>>>>>>>>> the dead The poor dead woman that he loved And murdered in
>>>>>>>>>>>> their bed
>>>>>>>>>>>> It's all there: the blue coat of the trooper is now red,
>>>>>>>>>>>> Christ
>>>>>>>>> transforms
>>>>>>>>>>>> blue water into red wine at Canaa, wine is transformed into
>>>>>>>>>>>> blood
>>>>>>>>> before
>>>>>>>>>>>> Gethsemane and Golgotha, and even the main complaint Wilde has
>>>>>>>>>>>> against Douglas in "De Profundis", which is that "each man
>>>>>>>>>>>> kills the thing he loves but each man does not die" is changed
>>>>>>>>>>>> into "murdered in their bed". But the very first step in this
>>>>>>>>>>>> transsubstantiation of mere suffering into
>>>>>>>>> great
>>>>>>>>>>>> art happens in the very first word, where Wilde begins with "he"
>>>>>>>>> instead
>>>>>>>>>>>> of
>>>>>>>>>>>> "I".
>>>>>>>>>>>> Of course it's possible to use your personal misery to create
>>>>>>>>>>>> great
>>>>>>>>> art.
>>>>>>>>>>>> But it's hard, for (at least) three reasons. First of all,
>>>>>>>>>>>> it's hard to stand back and let the material alone rather than
>>>>>>>>>>>> try to whip it into shape. Second, it's hard to reconcile the
>>>>>>>>>>>> sense that your pain is the
>>>>>>>>> one
>>>>>>>>>>>> and only and incomparable and ineffable and the sense that you
>>>>>>>>>>>> are at
>>>>>>>>> the
>>>>>>>>>>>> same time everywoman. Thirdly, pain is debilitating: it
>>>>>>>>>>>> withers your embrace right at the very moment when you need to
>>>>>>>>>>>> reach out, makes you unfit for companionship right when you
>>>>>>>>>>>> need it most, fills your mouth
>>>>>>>>> with
>>>>>>>>>>>> incoherent screams precisely when you most need the precision
>>>>>>>>>>>> of words
>>>>>>>>> to
>>>>>>>>>>>> convey what you are feeling to others. On top of that, as
>>>>>>>>>>>> Vygotsky
>>>>>>>>> says,
>>>>>>>>>>>> really good art is not the contagion of feeling: it's the
>>>>>>>>> individuation of
>>>>>>>>>>>> social emotion and not the socialization of individual emotion.
>>>>>>>>>>>> The unmotivated reconciliation that ends "Lemonade" is deus ex
>>>>>>>>>>>> machina, i.e. both unartistic and unrealistic. Either it was
>>>>>>>>>>>> manufactured for
>>>>>>>>> mass
>>>>>>>>>>>> market consumption, or the raw emotion that preceded it was. Or
>> both.
>>>>>>>>>>>> David Kellogg
>>>>>>>>>>>> Macquarie University
>>>>>>>>>>>> On Tue, May 3, 2016 at 11:05 AM, Greg Mcverry
>>>>>>>>>>>> <jgregmcverry@gmail.com>
>>>>>>>>>>>> wrote:
>>>>>>>>>>>> I would have to agree with Andy on the co-evolution of the
>>>>>>>>>>>> tools. To
>>>>>>>>>>>>> separate one as developing phylogenetically as
>>>>>>>>>>>>> ontogenetically seems false.
>>>>>>>>>>>>> Could one argue that agriculture was a pre-cursor to formal
>>>>>>>>>>>>> writing systems but sign systems evolved as a form of
>>>>>>>>>>>>> communication long before? I am not a cultural
>>>>>>>>>>>>> anthropologist. I really do not know if there has been a
>>>>>>>>> writing
>>>>>>>>>>>>> system developed in a hunting and gathering culture.
>>>>>>>>>>>>> Yet that does not mean those same cultures were not ripe with
>>>>>>>>>>>>> sign systems and meaning makings.
>>>>>>>>>>>>> I think the mediation and differentiation of tools coevolving
>>>>>>>>>>>>> is even more stark when we consider the age of the web. For
>>>>>>>>>>>>> the first 25 years of
>>>>>>>>> the
>>>>>>>>>>>>> web the people building the web were also doing their own
>>>>>>>>>>>>> identity
>>>>>>>>> work.
>>>>>>>>>>>>> People that hung out on the the Well, Usenets, chat rooms.
>>>>>>>>>>>>> xmca listservs, etc were defining the tools in a way to help
>>>>>>>>>>>>> define themselves. Here
>>>>>>>>> is
>>>>>>>>>>>>> agreat piece by Ben Werdmuller reflecting on how his tool
>>>>>>>>>>>>> development could not be separated from his own ontological
>>>>>>>>>>>>> development:
>>>>>>>>> https://words.werd.io/we-are-the-monkeys-of-rum-70f81d4a02df#.n0x
>>>>>>>>> 23ugom
>>>>>>>>>>>>> In terms of Beyonce. Whether you call it a mediating activity
>>>>>>>>>>>>> or a mediated activity. I am not sure it matters. The point
>>>>>>>>>>>>> is to be a force. For
>>>>>>>>> those
>>>>>>>>>>>>> not in the states her latest release has been seen as a call
>>>>>>>>>>>>> to women
>>>>>>>>> of
>>>>>>>>>>>>> color. Her Super Bowl performance was both celebrated and
>> vilified.
>>>>>>>>>>>>> I haven't heard Lemonade yet ( I suffer from severe pop
>>>>>>>>>>>>> culture
>>>>>>>>> deficit)
>>>>>>>>>>>>> but I hear it getting talked about all over the web. I wonder
>>>>>>>>>>>>> how
>>>>>>>>> Hegel
>>>>>>>>>>>>> would think of something like the web where the culture is
>>>>>>>>>>>>> both
>>>>>>>>> affected
>>>>>>>>>>>>> by
>>>>>>>>>>>>> market pressures but not limited to any one national
>>>>>>>>>>>>> identity. Is the
>>>>>>>>> web
>>>>>>>>>>>>> the w

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