Re: [xmca] process structure of semiotic mediation

Date: Mon Nov 06 2006 - 07:21:47 PST

Interesting observation David. However, I do not believe it is a matter of
abreviation that Valsiner is discussing but rather the hierarchy that the
word "how" places on the converstaion. When A utters the word "how" it
places parameters upon what B responds with.

what do you think?


                      < To: <>, "eXtended Mind,
                      .kr> Culture,Activity" <>
                      Sent by: cc:
                      xmca-bounces who-is-at web Subject: Re: [xmca] process structure of semiotic mediation
                      11/05/2006 05:11
                      Please respond
                      to "eXtended
                      Mind, Culture,

I have a simple-minded linguist's question about the Valsiner article, but
being a simple-minded linguist (and not a psychologist) I can't seem to
answer it myself..

Valsiner says:

"In the case of continuous use in communication,t he sign undergoes a
process of abbreviation (Lyra & de Souza, in press). Abbreviation entails
partial or (full) disappearance of hte external manifestations of the sign,
yet it is retained in an abstracted and generalized intra-psychological
domain. In this way, the sign acts as a semiotic reserve for future needs
of semiotic regulation." p. 86

I gather what Valsiner is talking about is something like this:

A: How are you?
B: Fine, thanks, and you?

In B's rejoinder, it is commonly believed (by linguists even more
simple-minded than I) that there are missing signs, to wit, what B is
really saying is an abbreviated form of this:

B: (I am) fine. (I give you many) thanks. And (how are) you?

But there is an enormous amount of evidence against this account. First of
all, intonationally "And how are you" is not a paraphrase of "And you?";
one contains a referring back intonation (upwardly pitched) while the other
contains a future-oriented downard pitch.. Secondly, "I give you many
thanks" is a far less common phrase in English than "thanks"; it is not
credible that people store this extremely rare sentence in their minds as a
translation of the more common one. Thirdly, and most importantly from
where I sit, it's just not developmental; it presupposes that written
language ontogenetically and even phylogenetically antedates speech
(Derrida's position) and spoken utterances derive from otiose,
grammatically "complete" sentences.

I think Bakhtin would reply that there are indeed three units in B's
rejoinder, but they are not sentences and they are certainly not composed
of elided signs. They are utterances, which we may define (rather as real
language users do) as units which are bounded by a real or potential change
of speakers.

A: How are you?
B: Fine.
A: Glad to hear it.

A: How are you?
B: Fine, thanks.
A: Glad to hear it.

A: How are you?
B: Fine, thanks, and you?
A: Not bad.

This shows why we think there are three parts to B's rejoinder (which is
precisely what the intonation suggests) and also why those three parts
cannot be sentences or ""partial (or full) disappearance of the external
manifestations of the sign (...) retained in an abstracted and generalized
intrapsychological domain".

I think, in general, Valsiner does not take seriously enough the
possibility that signs can exist mainly and even wholly
extra-psychologically. Dragonflies are a sign of the typhoon season in
Korea whether they are internalized or not, else Pierce's "iconic" meaning
would not be possible. A smile is not necessarily the "partial or full
disappearance of the external manifestation of a sign"; on the contrary, it
may be all there is.

David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education
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