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[Xmca-l] Re: The Social and the Semiotic

Thanks Andy, your personal take on is very interesting - perhaps you could
enlighten me on your point?

Larry, such strangeness has much to do with the vagueness of
"sociocultural" reflected in sociocultural theory itself.  Although my
current work focuses on Peirce and Vygotsky, the Hallidayan imagery is
always saliently present in my mind.  Halliday is explicitly
sociocultural.  Vygotsky used this term to refer to the higher
psychological functions as "sociocultural" in origin (e.g. p. 46 in Mind in
Society), but he defined his own paradigm using the term
"cultural-historical".  To me, "sociocultural" is somehow still in
wholesale fashion - maybe it should move out and become something which
would epitomise "cultural-historical"?

For years I've been taking "sociocultural" and "cultural-historical" to be
customary terms.  However, this doesn't stop me being "ruminant" (here I
borrow David's word portraying the SFL mindset) about the essence of these
terms, albeit seldom reaching anything with satisfaction.  At times I find
myself concluding that three entities - social, cultural and historical -
form an indispensable core of human existence.  I know this is no more than
stating the obvious!

More to the point, the way I see it is that "social" is enmeshed with
"cultural" and "sociocultural" as a whole is entangled with itself in
itself - this entanglement is perhaps the essence of the term.  But the
problem is that these two entities intertwine in a complex whole that
appears to be simultaneously "social" and "cultural" in an ambiguous
way.  Anyway,
on a positive note, this is perhaps ambiguity par excellence, as Emmanuel
Levinas would say! Or perhaps Umberto Eco's "unlimited semiosis"!



*James Ma*  *https://oxford.academia.edu/JamesMa

On 26 June 2017 at 16:53, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:

> The inclusion of "historical" is quite loaded, James, marking the Soviet
> heritage of CHAT, and rejected by those who regard the inclusion of
> "historical" as a modern arrogance based on notions of social progress.
> Personally, I like "historical" while I reject the notion of cultural
> totalities which can be ordered unproblematically, whether chronologically
> or otherwise.
> Andy
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> Andy Blunden
> http://home.mira.net/~andy
> http://www.brill.com/products/book/origins-collective-decision-making
> On 26/06/2017 6:19 PM, James Ma wrote:
>> Hello David, I have an applied linguistics background too. My first
>> acquaintance with the term "sociocultural" was in the work of H Stern who
>> described sociocultural factors in language learning and teaching. I do
>> feel a bit strange that "sociocultural" appears to be interchangeable
>> with "cultural-historical" when people talk about Vygotsky and his
>> followers.
>> James
>> *_________________________________________________________*
>> *James Ma*  *https://oxford.academia.edu/JamesMa
>> <https://oxford.academia.edu/JamesMa>*
>> On 25 June 2017 at 23:09, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com> wrote:
>> A few years ago there was a minor theoretical kerfuffle at the
>>> International Congress of Systemic Functional Linguistics in Vancouver.
>>> Systemic Functional Linguists tend to be gentle, ruminant creatures, who
>>> frown on intellectual prize fighting (building "vertical" intellectual
>>> structures, like building chemistry on physics and biology on chemistry,
>>> is
>>> the goal rather than building "horizontal" knowledge structures like
>>> competing fields of sociology, psychology, cognitive science). But they
>>> also prize delicacy and like to make fine distinctions that account
>>> exhaustively for data (e.g. vocabulary is treated as nothing but most
>>> delicate grammar, and grammar as most general forms of vocabulary, hence
>>> the use of "words" for the latter and "wording" for the former).
>>> Accounting exhaustively for language as a social-semiotic phenomenon
>>> usually involves a delicate distinction between the social and the
>>> semiotic, something like the distinction between physics and chemistry on
>>> the one hand and biology on the other. But Jim Martin argued that
>>> semiotic
>>> activity does not occur independent of social activity and vice versa,
>>> so,
>>> by Occam's razor, the terms are redundant and the hyphen superfluous.
>>> Surely the distinction between social behavior and meaningful behavior is
>>> nothing like the distinction between animate and inanimate, sentient and
>>> non-sentient, carbon-based self-replicating matter and inorganic
>>> compounds.
>>> Yesterday, we went whale watching out of Sydney Harbour. The Southwest
>>> Pacitic humpback community, which numbers between thirty and forty
>>> thousand, spends the summer (that is, your winter) months in Antarctica
>>> feeding on krill and small fish; they have an ingenious method of feeding
>>> called bubble-netting which takes about 27 years for a whale to learn.
>>> It's
>>> a lot like Leontiev's description of a primitive hunt: twelve whales work
>>> together to emit a circle of small bubbles encircling the prey, and
>>> gradually shaping it into a tall cylinder about thirty metres in
>>> diameter.
>>> When the krill kill is shaped in this way, the dinner table is set. The
>>> whales just sluice up and down through the cylinder with their baleen
>>> plates agape, raking in thousands of fish and/or tiny crustaceans with
>>> each
>>> pass.
>>> But then they embark on the road trip which brings them past Sydney
>>> Harbour
>>> and to points further north. The migration lasts many months, during
>>> which
>>> the whales do not eat at all. Even mothers, who have to produce about 40
>>> litres of whale milk daily, fast the whole six months. I noticed that the
>>> whales we saw were always in groups of two or three and I wondered to the
>>> marine biologist on board if whales worked in small communities in
>>> Antarctica but then went on holidays in nuclear families. She pointed out
>>> that these dyads and triads were all the same size and gender. "They're
>>> just mates," she said.
>>> She also said that the study of whale songs is being
>>> "de-anthropmorphized":
>>> it was previously believed that since they vary much like languages, with
>>> regional dialects and some "multilingualism", they must have an economic
>>> function in feeding, a sexual function in mating, or a political function
>>> in establishing male dominance (no easy feat, because females are
>>> polyandrous and rather larger than males). None of this is the case:
>>> whales
>>> sing when they aren't feeding, when they aren't mating, and when they
>>> aren't fighting: they just like to sing. And in fact the four-tone songs
>>> vary more like pop-tunes than like regional dialects or functional
>>> registers.
>>> Now, when the kerfuffle broke out between Halliday and Martin in
>>> Vancouver,
>>> Halliday pointed to ants as a species who were social but not semiotic
>>> (there is no reason to believe that "meaning" as distinct from molecular
>>> biology is at stake). You might think the Southwest Pacific humpback
>>> community is a good counter example, since they clearly have both social
>>> and semiotic activity. But it seems to me exactly the opposite: they are
>>> a
>>> clear example that social activity is goal oriented in one way, and
>>> semiotic activity is goal oriented in quite a different way. I have never
>>> liked using the term socio-cultural to describe Vygotsky's theory (it is
>>> the term generally used in my own field of applied linguistics) because I
>>> thought it was redundant; now I am not so sure.
>>> --
>>> David Kellogg
>>> Macquarie University
>>> "The Great Globe and All Who It Inherit:
>>> Narrative and Dialogue in Story-telling with
>>> Vygotsky, Halliday, and Shakespeare"
>>> Free Chapters Downloadable at:
>>> https://www.sensepublishers.com/media/2096-the-great-
>>> globe-and-all-who-it-inherit.pdf
>>> Recent Article: Thinking of feeling: Hasan, Vygotsky, and Some
>>> Ruminations
>>> on the Development of Narrative in Korean Children
>>> Free E-print Downloadable at:
>>> http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/8Vaq4HpJMi55DzsAyFCf/full