Re: [xmca] Streamed Discussion of Development in CHAT theory

From: Wolff-Michael Roth <mroth who-is-at>
Date: Tue Nov 20 2007 - 12:12:06 PST

I was thinking more in terms of recovering the semantic fields that
words make metonymically resonate---they are parts of the field and
denote the field as a whole. \ if I I was thinking of words as tools,
then in the sense that they come to embody crystallized forms of
knowing, which means, no longer associated with conscious
reflection---just like other tools come to embody previous practices
in crystallized form. :-) Cheers, Michael
On 20-Nov-07, at 11:46 AM, Michael Glassman wrote:

But here is the question. If you are saying there can the study of an
archeology of etymology (which I posit is different from there being an
actual archeology of etymology) are you saying that 1) words and/or
symbols exist in nature (to be discovered by humans at appropriate
moments) and go through their own evolutionary processes or 2) that
humans create words and/or symbols as tools in context, but then those
tools break off from their creators and become entities on their own
that go through some type of evolutionary process? Or is there some
other mechanism/issue involved? The devil is always in the details.


-----Original Message-----
From: []
On Behalf Of Wolff-Michael Roth
Sent: Tuesday, November 20, 2007 2:08 PM
To:; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Streamed Discussion of Development in CHAT theory

I believe that archeology of etymology is consistent with the
"cultural-historical" that we use as adjective to denote ourselves or
the theory we use. We cannot understand activity systems independent
of their cultural-historical development, how can we understand words
without looking at the ways in which they have become and are
continuing to become. Without interrogating words, concepts, texts,
we are subject to ideology (D. E. Smith). Cheers, Michael

On 20-Nov-07, at 10:54 AM, Mike Cole wrote:

You cannot be saying, David, that etymological archeology is entirely
uninformative? That
the dictionary definitions over long historical time periods change in
interesting ways cannot
be entirely unrelated to the words. I always assume that meaning is
words, not
in them. But it takes two to have consciousness too. .... along with a
discretely hidden

On Nov 19, 2007 3:34 PM, David Kellogg <> wrote:

> Dear Em:
> Thanks for your note, which (as you can see from the follow up!)
> really
> did get to the heart of what I wanted to talk about.
> But first a short note on the means of talking. I like apples too,
> and I
> particularly like the Biblical phrase "apple of my eye" because it
> is a
> mistranslation of a Hebrew phrase (the original writer, God if you are
> Jewish, wrote "pupil of my eye"). The general point is that (Mike's
> fondness
> for etymology notwithstanding) meaning is not in words, but rather
> in the
> process of using words to point to shared understandings (even
> where these
> shared understandings still lie in the future).
> If I say "assessment" and you say "test" and we are both talking
> about
> the same thing, it is much as if I said "this" and you said "that".
> In fact,
> the book which I have on DA (Sternberg and Grigorenko) is entitled
> "Dynamic
> TESTING", not assessment. But I'm not really enamoured of either
> word; we
> could call it "agency", just so long as we mean the same thing.
> The heart of my criticism is really the distinction between
> development
> and learning. It seems to me that many of the problems that we have
> had
> operationalizing the ZPD stem from the (understandable) desire to
> equate
> them. But I think development cannot be directly measured,
> precisely because
> it has to do with the relationship between psychological functions).
> Learning, in contrast, can actually be observed, because it takes
> place
> inter-mentally. So discussions inevitably end up emphasizing the
> latter at
> the expense of the former.
> As you correctly point out, objective psychology by is objective
> because
> it focuses on this external, intermental reorganization of
> functions and
> tries to understand the internal, intramental reorganization of
> functions on
> this basis. In so doing, the chasm between subjective and objective
> experience is not obliterated, but it can be partially filled in
> and bridged
> with language.
> Early on in the San Diego-Helsinki discussion, Mike expresses some
> perplexity about a passage of Vygotsky where he discusses:
> a) the REVERSAL of central functions and peripheral ones during
> periods
> of development.
> b) the REVERSAL of the role of the whole and the parts during
> crises of
> development
> Now, it seems to me that these are two different things. But they
> both
> part of the intramental reorganization of functions, and therefore
> they are
> both not susceptible to direct observation. Some examples of a) might
> include (off the top of my head):
> 1) a toddler who goes from collecting large numbers of stuffed
> toys just
> for the purpose of handling them and peripherally gives some of
> them rather
> boring, object-oriented names (e.g. "Kitty" for a stuffed cat) to a
> smaller collection of stuffed toys that have elaborate names,
> personalities,
> and life stories. Concrete objects were central; now they are
> peripheral.
> Imaginary situations were peripheral; now they are central.
> 2) a school child who goes from a form of speech where sound is
> central
> and visual meaning-making is quite incidental (gesture during
> speech) to a
> form of speech where visual information is central and the sound is
> purely a
> resonant afterthought (i.e. written language). Once again, what was
> central becomes peripheral, and what was peripheral is now central.
> 3) an adult who learns a foreign language without daily use of that
> language. In the native language, we begin with a situation, which
> gives
> rise to discourse, which may be written down, if we choose, as
> text, but the
> textfulness of daily discourse is not a necessary precondition. In
> learning
> a foreign language, we reverse the whole process, and it is
> precisely this
> which gives it a more deliberate, volitional (and less fluent)
> quality.
> (Indeed, the use of a foreign language is simply the exercise of
> deliberate
> choice at the scale of a whole language instead of at the scale of
> a sound,
> a word, or a phrase.) Once again, the first shall be last and the
> last shall
> be first.
> I think that b) is a linked but distinct process. It's far more
> general,
> and it's even more clearly embedded in the cultural organization of
> the
> child's education (the sort of thing we read and write
> Bildungsromans to
> describe). Here the whole structure of the personality undergoes
> reorganization and the development of the component parts of the
> personality
> (volition, attention, memory, etc.) is decisively subordinated to
> their
> reorganization (and indeed we see that in periods of crisis volition,
> attention, and memory may be degraded rather than improved). And
> here Mike
> starts to get cold feet, because the resulting schema of child
> development
> is simply too schematic and cannot take into account the myriad
> processes we
> see in a).
> This schematic quality of b) bothers Mike because the idea that
> there is
> a single, unique structure for each period seems to contradict the
> multiplicity of the examples (and the different time scales that
> they appear
> to occupy) we observed with process a). It is also what Professor
> Subbotsky
> seeks to explain by referring to the homogenous quality of
> education in
> Vygotsky's time (I have my doubts about this, based on my
> experience in
> China!) and I think it's what Professor Hakarrainen means when he
> refers to
> Elkonin, and the "periodization" problem (which LSV also delves
> into in his
> essay 'The Problem of Age').
> LSV is rather ambivalent on the problem of periodization: as
> Professor
> Hakarrainen points out, he denies that chronological age is the
> same thing
> as either physiological age or mental age (and this is also
> implicit in his
> use of learning disabled children in his examples). He also DENIES
> at one
> point that school year can be used, but then he asserts that because
> development is bound up with the educational experience of
> children, school
> grade levels do "roughly" correspond to developmental periods.
> Chaiklin gets
> around this problem by giving us TWO ZPDs, a subjective and an
> objective
> one, but some people, including me, feel this solution leads to
> dualism.
> Examples of b) appear to include:
> 1) The transition from a newborn infant to a toddler. For the
> infant, the
> "leading activity" is contact with the care-giver and the baby's own
> movements are peripheral (as LSV points out). For the toddler, the
> relationship is quite the reverse. (I got into trouble with Paul
> because I
> tried to argue that the infant's manipulation of adults by the
> control of
> his/her own crying is a form of agency, and in this sense Paul is
> quite
> right; an infant is not a toddler.)
> 2) The transition from toddler to preschooler. For the toddler, the
> handling of concrete objects is a leading activity, while the
> creation of
> imaginary situations is implicit in this as an afterthough, while
> in the
> case of the preschooler, the relationship is quite the reverse.
> That is why
> we have the transition described under a) 1) above.
> 3) The transition from preschooler to schoolchild. Professor
> Subbotsky
> and Professor Hakarrainen BOTH suggested that this involves the
> replacement
> of play with learning. My ex-grad Yongho Kim has argued that it is
> not so
> simple: what LSV really says is that school is a continuation of
> play based
> on abstract rules rather than imaginary situations, and this is why
> children
> will very often conceptualize their whole schoolday around competitive
> playground games (as we see when we ask them what they did all day at
> school). This can be observed in their language: the language of
> role play
> is really an extension of referential language to imaginary
> situations, but
> the language of rule play is quite different, involving
> conditionals and
> embedded clauses.
> Professor Vasquez raised the question of whether this was a matter of
> change in the "neoformation" (that is, the unique structure that
> Vygotsky
> was talking about) or in the "leading activity" (which Leontiev and
> Elkonin,
> but not Vygotsky, highlight). This question was never answered. It
> seems to
> me an absolutely key question, though!
> The problem I have with DA is this: whether we are looking at a)
> or b)
> (and I think that a] is often nothing more than the phenotypic
> manifestation
> of the genotypical transformation described in b), neither one is
> directly
> measurable. BOTH are going lead to "U shaped" curves of
> development, that
> is, crises. In a crisis, whether the child is interacting with a
> more able
> peer or not, there is a degradation and not an increase in
> performance. You
> can't have a crisis and keep on learning linearly at the same time.
> How can ANY form of assessment, dynamic or static, distinguish
> between
> those degradations in performance that are developmentally
> progressive (nay,
> decisive) and those which are due to poor learning? It is like
> trying to
> predict the DIRECTION in which this thread will develop on the
> basis of
> reading the past postings. We may predict footsteps from footsteps,
> but we
> can't predict future turnings, future trails.
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education
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