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[Xmca-l] Re: Taxis and Embedding in Conversation


I don't see why doing justice to the memory of James McCawley has to
involve revising history. I was a freshman radical, and there is a good
reason why nobody asks a freshman to write a Festschrift. I think most of
us would have just said that it was abso-blooming-lutely
fan-fucking-tastic, and I probably would have tried to say that it was
a-blooming-solutely fantas-fucking-tic). I have since read quite a bit of
his work (a pleasure anyone who really wants to do him justice should not
deny themselves) but that first impression--that he was the kind of Ayn
Rand libertarian currently laying waste to the health insurance system that
the Obama administration left behind--has certainly not been dispelled.

Vygotsky uses "phylogenesis" and "ontogenesis", because these were current
in the nineteenth century. He doesn't use "sociogenesis" or "microgenesis",
because these were not. The term "Aktualgenese" was used by the
Gestaltists, but it meant percepts in a tachioscope, or dots on the
horizon. Vygotsky prefers to speak of "teaching-learning".

Semiogenesis is from Halliday. As James says, it exists at all levels: just
as the phylogenesis of the brain doesn't come to a halt when we start
building societies, and sociogenesis doesn't stop in order to allow us to
raise children, ontogenesis doesn't stop when children learn to talk.
Halliday describes how Nigel at one is able to distinguish between "Dada?"
("Where's Daddy?") and "Dada!" ("There you are!") and this immediately
turns his repertoire of three words *"Dada", "Ama", and "Anna") into six.
Later, Nigel uses UP intonation to mean "somebody do something" and DOWN
intonation to mean "I see!", and these intonational forms eventually,
combining with wording, become interrogatives and declaratives. That's
semiogenesis--the genesis of meaning potential.

So I think it's possible to see a lot of Vygotsky's pedology in terms of
semiogenesis. Early childhood is the gradual increase of meaning potential
through class generalizations (e.g. common nouns instead of proper nouns).
The Crisis at Three is the increase of meaning potential through polarity
(e.g. negation and "negativism"). Preschool is semiogenesis through
imaginary situations, and the Crisis at Seven is semiogenesis through the
internalization of perizhivanie. School age seems (to me) to involve
semiogenesis through turning (instructional and other) narratives into
dialogues, or "communication" into "generalizations", Thirteen is
semiogenesis through "dissociation", and adolescence is semiogenesis
through conceptualization. Taxis and embedding seem to be important aspects
of this: taxis allows us to create hierarchies of superconcepts, and
embedding allows unlimited recursiveness and delicacy for subconcepts.

But just as ontogenesis becomes a leading factor in sociogenesis (and just
as sociogenesis becomes a leading factor in phylogenesis, at least if you
are human) I think that semiogenesis takes on a significance of its own in
adulthood. It seems to me that significance is not so much embodying
experience as, in childhood, but disembodying it. Perhaps "overliving it"
is a better way to think of it: that is, after all, literally what
"perezhivanie" means:

Children are dumb to say how hot the day is,
How hot the scent is of the summer rose,
How dreadful the black wastes of evening sky,
How dreadful the tall soldiers drumming by.

But we have speech, to chill the angry day,
And speech, to dull the rose's cruel scent.
We spell away the overhanging night,
We spell away the soldiers and the fright.

There's a cool web of language winds us in,
Retreat from too much joy or too much fear:
We grow sea-green at last and coldly die
In brininess and volubility.

But if we let our tongues lose self-possession,
Throwing off language and its watery clasp
Before our death, instead of when death comes,
Facing the wide glare of the children's day,
Facing the rose, the dark sky and the drums,
We shall go mad no doubt and die that way.

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:


Recent Article: Thinking of feeling: Hasan, Vygotsky, and Some Ruminations
on the Development of Narrative in Korean Children

Free E-print Downloadable at:


On Tue, Jul 4, 2017 at 6:05 PM, James Ma <jamesma320@gmail.com> wrote:

> Hello Alfredo, I came across the term "semiogenesis" in the past but can't
> remember who coined it.
> To me, the four domains of human development I mentioned earlier are
> invariably imbued with signs and symbols. If I were to suggest more
> appropriate terms for describing the semiotic aura in these domains, they
> would probably be phylosemiosis, ontosemiosis, sociosemiosis and
> microsemiosis?
> James
> On 4 July 2017 at 01:13, Alfredo Jornet Gil <a.j.gil@iped.uio.no> wrote:
> > Pegg, thanks for making sure justice is made in the treatment of another
> > scholar; I am sure many in the list appreciate it.
> >
> > David, James, you both have used the term 'semiogenesis,' which seems to
> > have gone unremarked but it certainly called my attention. I made a
> search
> > on the xmca archive and the term 'semiogenesis' had appeared only a
> couple
> > of times before. And, unless the term is just a synonymous with such
> > expressions as 'genesis of symbolic activity', 'semiogenesis' does not
> > appear in the English versions of Vygotsky's collected works.
> Sociogenesis,
> > by contrast, appears often and is elaborated in several places, as do
> > ontogenesis and phylogenesis. What is the history of the term
> > 'semiogenesis' in CHAT? Why did not Vygotsky and others use it?
> >
> > Reading about the contrast between ants and whales that was mentioned in
> a
> > previous post, I also wondered what a distinction between the social and
> > the semiotic would be for researchers in the field of biosemiotics, who
> are
> > concerned with the production of signs all across the biological
> spectrum.
> >
> > Alfredo.
> > ________________________________________
> > From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu>
> > on behalf of Peg Griffin <Peg.Griffin@att.net>
> > Sent: 03 July 2017 06:30
> > To: 'eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity'
> > Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Taxis and Embedding in Conversation
> >
> > For anyone who is interested, this is about the characterization of Jim
> > McCawley in the message this replies to.
> > I found it inappropriate, unacceptable, not true and not needed to make
> > any point in the message.  Perhaps the writer is unaware of the
> impression
> > given by the characterization provided.
> > As repair, I will point out that many admired Jim as a kind and open man,
> > an activist for causes seen in the US as leftist, a deeply thoughtful
> > linguist who data grubbed (he said "data fetishist") as a student of many
> > languages and colleague of many linguists, a fine cook and musician.  He
> > died in 1999.  You can find obituaries in the Chicago Tribune and the New
> > York Times, and in the Linguistic Society of America's journal, there is
> a
> > memorial:
> > Lawler, John (2003). James D. McCawley. Language. 79:614–625.
> > doi:10.1353/lan.2003.0173
> > (His candidacy on the Libertarian ticket, by the way, was not for
> > Governor, but for a seat on the University of Illinois Board of trustees
> --
> > 3 times in the 70's in the complex politics of Chicago and Illinois as
> part
> > of intentional moves concerning power, corruption, and the relation
> between
> > universities and politics in the US in general.)
> > PG
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces@
> > mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of David Kellogg
> > Sent: Sunday, July 02, 2017 5:37 PM
> > To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> > Subject: [Xmca-l] Taxis and Embedding in Conversation
> >
> > Greg:
> >
> > Bear with me for a linguistic excursus. It will involve taking the scenic
> > route. But after all, that's what whales do.
> >
> > So one of the first linguistics professors I ever had at the University
> of
> > Chicago was James McCawley. He was a right wing nut job: when he wasn't
> > professsoring, he was running for governor of Illinois on the LIbertarian
> > ticket. Because he was a libertarian, and because he was a bit of a nut,
> he
> > would lecture on why we freshmen like to say "Fan-fucking-tastic!"
> instead
> > of, say, "Fantas-fucking-tic!" In "My Fair Lady", Audrey Hepburn sings:
> >
> > Oh, so lover-ly singing abso-blooming-lutely still Ah would never budge
> > till spring crept over me window sill!"
> >
> > Why not "ab-blooming-solutely" (which has the advantage of alliteration)
> > or "absolute-bloomingly" (which would make more morphological sense)? or
> "
> >
> > The answer has to do with embedding, which is a phenomenon that occurs on
> > virtually every level of language: sounding, wording, and of course
> > meaning. So for example, at the level of wording, imagine that I receive
> a
> > letter from a elementary school crush, and it is discovered by my wife.
> >
> > a) She tore up the letter, which upset me.
> >
> > Now imagine that this long-lost elementary school crush turns out to be a
> > loathsome right winger soliciting funds for "Blue Lives Matter":
> >
> > b) She tore up the letter which upset me.
> >
> > Oh, what a difference a little comma can make! In b) "which upset me" is
> > embedded in the nominal group (the "noun phrase", for you Chomskyans). It
> > plays no part in the structure of the clause-complex (the "sentence" for
> > Chomskyans). So it has no effect on the tearing or on the "she", and it
> is
> > confined to "the letter", just as "fucking" intensifies the SOUND STRESS
> on
> > "TAST-ic" rather than the lexical meaning of "fantasy" or the more
> > grammatical meaning of "ic", and "blooming" intensifies the prosodic
> > emphasis of "LUTE-ly" rather than the lexical meaning of "absolute" or
> the
> > grammatical meaning of  "~ly". But in a) "which upset me" is a all about
> > her tearing up the letter and it impacts "she" and "tore up" and not just
> > the letter: it is abso-bloomingly-lutely part of the story of the
> > clause-complex as a whole.
> >
> > You can see that both McCawley's example and my own are about meaning,
> but
> > they are about different kinds of meaning. McCawley is talking about
> > prosodic meaning: the kind of meaning we get from rhymes, jingles, hip
> hop
> > and Homeric hexameters. I am giving you an example of lexicogrammatical
> > meaning, the kind of meaning we get when semantics (thinking) is realized
> > as lexicogrammar (wordings, which may be in turn realized as soundings,
> but
> > they may also be inner speech).
> >
> > But, as the poet says, if you would see the Yangzi River, you must ascend
> > another storey of the Yellow Crane Tower. In the latest volume of her
> > Collected Works, Ruqaiya Hasan is talking about a conversation between
> her
> > graduate student, Carmel Cloran, and Carmel's preschool son, Stephen.
> >
> > It's the kind of rangey conversation we all have with preschoolers: she
> > asks him what he wants for lunch, and he decides on peanut butter
> > sandwiches and passionfruit. The passionfruit is not in the fruit bowl
> and
> > it has to be retrieved from under the kitchen table, Stephen wants to
> know
> > why there are no passionfruit in Sydney at this time of year (it's
> winter)
> > and Carmel wants him to sit at his designated place at the table and not
> > the place where his Grandma usually sits, Stephen wants to know why
> Grandma
> > sits there and not elsewhere, and why he can't sit there when she's not
> > around, and then as Carmel brings the sandwiches and prepared fruit to
> the
> > table she talks about taking him shopping to Chatswood.
> >
> > One way to see this conversation is as a kind of Monty Python show--a
> > sequence of texts separated by "and now for something completely
> > different". This is, actually, the way they see things at the University
> of
> > Sydney, where each "text" in the conversation is attributed to a
> different
> > "genre" and even a different "register". In some of the texts the context
> > is present, in others it is present but under the table, and in others it
> > is in distant Chatswood and far in the future.
> >
> > But another way is to see some of the texts as embedded in others:
> looking
> > for the passionfruit is a kind of qualifier of Stephen's request for
> > passionfruit, and the explanation of seating has the function of a
> > "because..." or "since..." hypotactic. clause attached to Stephen's
> sitting
> > in the wrong place at the kitchen table.
> >
> > The trip to Chatswood? On the face of it, this is really "and now for
> > something completely different". And yet, from the Macquarie point of
> view,
> > it too is linked, but "paratactically". What is being kept up is the
> > interpersonal flow of meaning--the intimate, loving, but asymmetrical
> > relationship between care-giver and cared-for. This is not much related
> to
> > the social reproduction of the material conditions of life (and from
> > Stephen's view not at all): if they do not go to Chatswood they will not
> go
> > hungry tonight. But it is part of the flow of semiosis that forms the
> great
> > ocean current that carries humans and other warm-blooded animals on their
> > migrations.
> >
> > Yes, of course: semiogenesis and sociogenesis are linked, just as
> > phylogenesis and sociogenesis are not simply stacked the one upon the
> > other, and learning is not simply the "domestication" of development for
> > purpose of  Aktualgenese or microgenesis: there is an inner link in both
> > cases. But as soon as we say that the social reproduction of the material
> > conditions of life and the flow of semiosis have this inner link and are
> > not simply stacked like geological layers, we find ourselves admitting
> that
> > they can also be distinct, that eddies of semiosis sometimes carry us
> > backwards in sociogenesis and sometimes fling us far into our own
> futures.
> >
> > 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
> >