[xmca] LCA - More questions/comments on Halliday and Wells

From: Kristen R. Clark (kristen@webleaf.com)
Date: Thu Jun 30 2005 - 04:07:46 PDT

Dear fellow XMCA-ers - A few of us at LCHC were able to have an informal
meeting to discuss the Halliday and Wells works. In attendance were
Koichi Haishi, Ignacio (Nacho) Montero, Lars Hennig Rossen, Marie
Judson, Deborah Wilson, and Kristen Clark.


We generally agreed that the overall discussion has been interesting and
that the readings were key in helping us orient ourselves to the similar
and complementary approaches of Halliday and Vygotsky. A couple of
general issues were raised which were in agreement with Gordon's general
introduction - that questions of objects/levels of analysis and whether
one would utilize Vygotsky or Halliday as a framework for approaching
specific problems are generally bound up in one's particular research
goals and commitments.


Prominent among our discussion was whether the privileging of language
(on the part of Halliday) towards a semantic theory of development may
be too bold an account in that it casts development in purely linguistic
terms. It seems important to make explicit the multi-modality of the
sociocultural experience and the significant role of affect/emotion, and
of course, biological constraints in development.


These notions of multi-modality seem to emerge strongly with the
increasing relevance of new information and communications technologies
(particularly in schools). To say that obtaining language is to obtain
the potential for meaning-making/learning is somehow not enough. We
need to know how varying semiotic contexts for meaning making enable the
interpretive process. QUESTIONS/FURTHER THOUGHTS: With this in mind, if
learning is increasingly tied to semiotic practices not relegated to
traditional print or standardized language-based literacy events and
learning, don't we necessitate a more specific understanding of just how
language mediates development? Do learning contexts associated with
new infrastructures of information and communication change the terms of
discussion or create new implications for either Vygotsky or Halliday's


In a different vein, it's easy to see how the critical edge within
Vygotsky and succeeding generations of CHAT researchers emerges out of
this tradition of using Marx to talk about divisions of labor and
contradictions between exchange/use values related to education as an
activity system, etc. (see especially Engestrom, 1987). Halliday and
others working within a critical socio-linguistic framework locate
inequity in the inability of individuals to engage in discursive
practices relevant to educational and (recently) globalized economic
contexts. I think Gee refers to students most able to engage in this
type of networked discourse in the new economy as "portfolio people".
The focus of work in the linguistic line often remains on highly
localized, moment-to-moment analyses of discourse. QUESTIONS/FURTHER
THOUGHTS: As one turns from analyzing the social realities of schools,
students, teachers, etc., to designing pedagogy doesn't a focus on
localized grammars limit one's ability to design educational
interventions that are meaningful across more expanded contexts? How
can we reconcile these challenges? This seems to be an important area
of cross-relevance for those following both Halliday and Vygotsky.


I'll leave these issues for now - I appreciate any responses. Our group
will meet again to discuss the next readings in the coming week.


-Kristen Clark


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