Re: [xmca] Tables, Fiddles, and Chukovsky's Fiddlesticks

From: Lois Holzman (
Date: Tue Nov 14 2006 - 16:15:04 PST

I'm quoting only a small part of David's valuable post about mediation as a
jumping off point for more talk about the possibility of non-mediation.

> I'm afraid it gets worse! I also think I disagree with Mike and even with
> Jaan Valsiner about mediation. To me, it is actually possible for language
> itself to be unmediated. Words like "er" and "erm" and "um" and "oh" and
> "ah" and even "aha", tears, laughter, the purely iconic use of "get ready,
> get set, go!" (where ANY three noises would do as well, because it
> actually not the words, but the silences between words that provide the
> timing for the child)...all of these are simply sounds and have only
> iconic meaning (to use Peirce's term). So I think they are basically
> unmediated (and that is why they never need to be taught).

Why only those funny quasi-linguistic sounds as candidates for being
unmediated? I think I can understand how, if one sticks to a language in
context or meaning in use view of language, then one might feel the strong
need to invoke mediation. But if one has an activity understanding of
language (as some, including me and Fred Newman and, using terms, John
Shotter, do), then not only don't you need to invoke mediation but to do so
reintroduces the problem you're trying to make vanish (again, a la
Wittgenstein). I believe there is a reading of Vygotsky that supports a
non-mediated view of language (and it's most clearly presented on pp. 135-6
of Lev Vygotsky: Revolutionary Scientist and too long to write here at this
moment) in the child's earliest years. Newman and I and others make a
distinction between meaning-making and language-making, the former being a
precondition for the latter. Action is mediated but activity is not. The
developmental activity of early childhood makes adaptation possible,
including the adaptation of using language. But there's no logical nor
psychological reason that meaning making activity must stop, only
culturally-socially-politically adaptive reasons that it too often does.
Improv and performance are among the tool and result ways for language users
to participate in making meaning when no longer very young children.


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