Re: sign/tools in interacting levls and forms of operation

From: Steven Thorne (
Date: Thu Jun 16 2005 - 17:48:16 PDT

two issues Michael --

the first is to confirm your comment that gesture and David McNeill's
work is very important -- we use his research extensively as a way to
get at shifts (or lack of shifts as is more often the case) in
conceptual mediation by learners of languages beyond the first.

second, i find wartofsky's primary, secondary, and tertiary model
useful, and also activity, action, operation levels as analytic
categories. no problem here. however, what do you mean by "It
therefore no longer mediates consciousness in the way we use the
term." and who is the "we" in the second clause?

mediation rarely involves conscious awareness. and when
meta-cognitive levels are achieved, they are partial. the less
conscious we are of mediational means (linguistic or otherwise), the
more powerful their effects.

but perhaps i don't understand what you mean (or maybe we disagree?).
habituation to an artifact, whether as an extension of the body
(Bateson's cane for example) or otherwise, mediates consciousness
whether it is at the level of operation in a smoothly functioning
process-ontology or migrates up to an action should a challenge
present itself.

the same holds for language of course. this is why, in many (though
not all) ways, "native" or expert users, struggling with a complex
social-emotional, information, or cognitive situation exhibit
behaviors on a continuum with those of a second or foreign language
learner. in an effort to regain self-regulation, the expert speaker
regresses to earlier stages of development.


>one more comment--if a tool such a cane or hammer is transparent in
>use, then it is similar to my tongue or my arm or my leg, it is part
>of me and the world begins on the other end. (On this point, see,
>for example, the discussion by Devereux, 1967, and the partition of
>the observer|world dialectic.) It therefore no longer mediates
>consciousness in the way we use the term. This is why we need to
>distinguish whether language is used in operation or about
>operation, in action (primary artifact) or for action (secondary
>artifact) or about action (tertiary artifact).
>Is there anybody out there who consciously selects words when
>talking to family, friends? Who knows the exact sequence of words of
>an utterance prior to having finished uttering a sentence in
>everyday conversation? For people interested in these topics, it is
>worthwhile to read David McNeill's contribution in Culture,
>Communication, and Cognition, as well as his subsequent work where
>he writes about growth points, catchments, the dialectic of
>speech/gesture, stop orders (which allow us to stop when we have the
>sense that an utterance is [grammatically] complete. He, too,
>grounds his work in Vygotsky, but consequently pushes the dialectic
>nature of communication; he also draws on the
>non-representationalist ideas of Merleau-Ponty (at least in his
>later work).
>McNeill, D. (1985). Language viewed as action. In J. V. Wertsch
>(Ed.), Culture, communication, and cognition: Vygotskian
>perspectives (pp. 258-270). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
>McNeill, D. (1992). Hand and mind: What gestures reveal about
>thought. Chicago: University of Chicago.
>McNeill, D. (2000). Catchments and context: Non-modular factors in
>speech and gesture. In D. McNeill (Ed.), Language and gesture (pp.
>312-328). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
>McNeill, D. (2002). Gesture and language dialectic. Acta Linguistica
>Hafniensia, 34, 7-37.
>On 16-Jun-05, at 2:22 PM, Russell, Donna L wrote:
>>Hello Everyone
>>My first post- a very brief response to Wolf-Michael Roth note on
>>primary, secondary and tertiary activity and signs/tools.
>>I research the use of innovative tools in educational settings
>>using activity theory to identify the mediational processes
>>involved in these activity settings.
>>I defined the differences in mediational processes of tools among
>>primary, secondary and tertiary activity among teachers
>>implementing a collaborative problem-based unit in an online
>>workspace. I found that primary contradictions impacted their
>>implementation of the online problem-based unit in ways implied by
>>the name-- in an underlying and ongoing manner that impacted their
>>responses throughout the activity. However, I found that
>>professional development that identified and addressed these
>>primary contradictions,through reflection and guided dialogs for
>>instance, can facilitate expansion of their object and impact their
>>implementation of innovative tools.
>>Donna L. Russell, Ph.D.
>>Assistant Professor
>>Learning Technologies
>>Curriculum and Instructional Leadership
>>University of Missouri-Kansas City
>>Kansas City, MO 64110
>> <>
>> <>

Steven L. Thorne
Assistant Professor of Applied Linguistics
Linguistics and Applied Language Studies
Communication Arts and Sciences
Associate Director, Center for Language Acquisition
Associate Director, Center for Advanced Language Proficiency 
Education and Research
The Pennsylvania State University
Interact > 814.863.7036 | | | IM: avkrook

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