Re: [xmca] PoTAYto and PoTAHto

From: Wolff-Michael Roth <mroth who-is-at>
Date: Thu Oct 09 2008 - 10:25:51 PDT

Hi all,
isn't all this talk of yours very intentionalist? Aren't there other
ways of thinking about this? For example, take Bakhtin and reported
speech, one is direct speech, and children come to produce the sounds
in social contexts, as themes. (Pragmatic function) But the words are
like other regularities, in fact, following F. Mikhailov it is better
to think in terms of sound envelopes, which will allow us to avoid
some common problems when we speak and write about language.
        Concerning meaning. Bakhtin/Voloshinov say, that in the limit,
"meaning means nothing".
        The bifurcation between mere sound and the signified is an
interesting one, and we can learn a lot about it in Mescheryakov's
experiments with the deaf blind.
        Also, it is not just "for itself," for the utterance, any utterance,
always straddles the Self-Other dialectic,

On 9-Oct-08, at 10:00 AM, Martin Packer wrote:


If I am understanding your question correctly, the same issue comes
up with
the first words, no?

A child's first one-word utterances are produced at an age (around
12m) when
all the evidence suggests that the child is not yet capable of
or producing symbols (24m). To the child the utterance "pancakes!"
pragmatically but it does not represent the specific breakfast item.
It is,
Liz Bates argued, a secondary circular reaction. To the adult,
however, the
word is both indexical and symbolic. Over time (waving my hand magically
here) the child comes to use the word symbolically *because* the adult
responds to it as such. From in-itself to for-others to for-itself.
Developmental psycholinguists debated long and hard about how much
to attribute to the child when they produce such holophrasic
utterances, and
the more sensible argument seemed to me to locate the knowledge in
the dyad

Am I on track?


On 10/8/08 8:21 PM, "David Kellogg" <> wrote:

> I'm reading a wonderful but rather puzzling paper about the
> development of

> ostension (that is, the "showing" part of "show and tell") in infancy
> and early childhood (that is, seven to thirteen months).
> Moro and Rodriguez point out that ostension is polysemic: it can be
> declarative, but it can also be interrogative. It can be a sign to
> others
> ("Look at this!") but it can also be a sign to yourself ("Now I wonder
> the devil this thing is?"). That's what makes it possible for
> adults and
> to use the same set of signs and mean utterly different things.
> But Paula points out this is true of ALL language, else adults and
> could not communicate, and communication could not develop: Today,
> you say

> poTAYto and I say poTAHto; you say a concept and I say a complex.
Tomorrow, I
> will say po-TAH-to and I will mean a concept.
> So what's unique about ostension? Well, Moro and Rodriguez make the
> rather inelegant comment:
> "Ostension is a sign that is rarely studied by psychologists for
> itself
> which (sic) is geenrally considered as (sic) an indexical sign,
> which it
> not."
> (Production of Signs and Meaning Making Process in Triadic
> Interaction at
> Prelinguistic Level, in Abbey and Diriwachter, eds. Innovating
> Genesis:
> Microgenesis and the constructive mind in action. Charlotte:
> Information
> Press. p. 210.)
> That's it. No explanation. OK--so according to Peirce, an icon is
> that stands for itself, but an index is something that stands for
> else, and a symbol is something that stands for something else by
> virtue
of a
> rule.
> So if I'm seven months old an I hold up a block, the block's an icon.
It just
> stands for the block as far as I'm concerned. But for my Mommy, the
holding of
> the block stands for "What the devil is this?" and requires a
> (symbolic)
> explanation that I won't understand, but she'll point to the block and
then to
> a hole in the back of my toy truck and I might understand what that
> means
or I
> might not, depending on my ability to handle indexical meanings.
> But doesn't that mean that, microgenetically, the whole ostensive
> episode
> contains an icon AND an index AND a symbolic mode of meaning making
> too?
> isn't this true of ALL language?
> A word like "potato" has a "sonic envelope" (translated, very
> confusingly,
> "phasal" in Minick's version of "Thinking and Speech", p. 223).
> Like Grape

> Nuts, sound is what it is. It also has intonation, which suggests
> what it
> does. And of course, it has a symbolic meaning which we can, if we
> like,
> define in a dictionary.
> What we CAN'T do is pretend that any one of these elements excludes
> the
> others: that would be like suggesting that language is pronunciation
> without vocabulary or grammar, or vocabulary without pronunciation and
> grammar, or grammar without vocabulary or pronunciation. Some of my
> dear
> colleagues behave that way sometimes, but we all know better or we
> actually talk to our students.
> A potato chip does not stop being a potato. Why should ostension stop
being an
> index?
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education
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Received on Thu Oct 9 10:27 PDT 2008

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