Re: [xmca] Leont'ev responds (in abstentia) to the Socio-CulturalTheory Interest Group Seminar Series

From: Mike Cole (
Date: Sun Oct 01 2006 - 11:23:39 PDT

Fascinating observations, David.
A couple of thoughts set off by them.

1) The social situation of development in this case of second language
learning is that it involves in-school, second language
teaching. LSV argued that deliberate instruction was central to acquisition
of "true"/"scientific" concepts. When I have met
(for example) Liberian children who have acquired several languages before
the age of 10 with no schooling, I sincerely doubt
that the second, third....... language learning involved the scientific

2. The role-based play versus rule-based play is precisely Piaget's
differentiaion of play in early childhood and middle
childhood, pre-operational and operational stages respectively.


On 9/29/06, Kellogg <> wrote:
> It's in "Thinking and Speech" that Vygotsky makes the argument that
> foreign language learning involves the learning of word meanings that are
> closer to scientific concepts than to every day concepts.
> At first glance, this claim seems incredible; it flies in the face of
> everything we try to do when we teach foreign languages.
> But it's true. Last night my grads were teaching two types of children's
> games that appear in our elementary English book here in Korea.
> The role plays produced language that was quite linear, on a single
> "plane" of imagined reality, e.g.
> "My friends called me 'Piggy'. So I cried. I'm so fat. Because I don't
> like fruit and vegetables. I always eat hamburgers and fried chicken."
> The rule-baed games produced sentences that create imaginary situations,
> like this:
> "If you land on this square, you will get another turn."
> "The student who gets all the cards first will win the game."
> "When you get to the last section, you will be finished."
> It's really not hard to see that the "role play" sentences consist of a
> narrative, syntagmatic discourse strategy, and that is why they rely on what
> we used to call "compound" sentence structure.
> In contrast, the rule based games (at the upper end of the children's zone
> of proximal development) require a hierarchical, paradigmatic, complex
> clause structure, where a backgrounded clause is grammatically dependent on
> a foregrounded one. And it's not hard to see why; when we discuss abstract
> rules, we have to create imaginary worlds, and the grammar does that by
> having one clause stand for a condition or background and the other one lay
> out the events contingent upon that background.
> This is precisely the situation of foreign language teaching (and, as
> Vygotsky points out, literacy, although to a lesser extent). We cannot rely
> on non-verbal context to infuse text with meaning. On the contrary, we must
> use text as a background to conjure up an imaginary context.
> I think it is for this reason that in all known languages (well, all
> languages that I know) scientific concepts come from outside the language,
> and are still encoded in words that have the strong foreign savour.
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education
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