Re: [xmca] Rote, Role, Rule

From: Derek Melser <derek.melser who-is-at>
Date: Tue Dec 16 2008 - 16:35:37 PST


Yes, in my account metaphor is by definition a non-canonical word use
albeit metaphors can eventually become hackneyed, then dead and even
(etymologically) fossilised. Metaphor is parasitic on standard usage. The
essence of it, of new metaphor at least, is the commandeering of some
established term for a quite new (and generally mildly surprising) purpose.
So there has to be a stock of basic referring expressions in use, before
metaphor can come along and do its special thing.

I hasten to add, for the benefit of any integrationists who might be
listening, that in my story metaphor is not a 'semantic' phenomenon
(whatever that could be) but a (relatively sophisticated) communicative
interaction between two or more people. There's a lovely example in John
Wisdom: It goes something like: "Someone is trying on a hat. 'My dear, the
Taj Mahal', her friend says. Instantly, the look of indecision leaves the
face in the mirror."


2008/12/17 David Kellogg <>

> Steve: Haydi reminds me that I left some matters in the air. Let me try to
> bring them down to earth here.
> a) I don't know why the blocks count as one stimulus, but that's clearly
> what LSV means when he says that the whole experiment is called the
> functional method of double stimulation, and adds that there are two sets of
> stimuli, one set of blocks and one set of signs.
> b) Well, to me, a sign is something that stands for something else. The way
> in which it stands for something else is significant though: like Peirce, I
> think it's useful to differentiate between:
> 1.Iconic signs in which something stands for itself, like a foot.
> 2. Indexical signs where something stands for something else by virtue of
> an unmediated, direct link of some kind, like a footprint.
> 3. Symbolic signs which stand for something else by virtue of a "law", like
> the word "foot", "pied", "fuss", "bal", "jiao", etc.
> So of course the things you name, the color and the shape of the blocks are
> signs too, but they are iconic signs, signs that stand only for themselves,
> while the words "bik", "mur", "cev" and "lag" are signs that stand for
> something else by virtue of a "law".
> I guess I should say that I think that "law" or "rule" is slightly
> unfortunate here; I think Peirce was, rather like Saussure and those who
> followed him, a little too influenced by the bourgeois "contract" metaphor
> for language (too much Rousseau and Condillac!). Contracts are created by
> language, but language is not created by any form of social contract.
> As I said last time, linguistic rules are not "laws" in any natural or
> legal sense; they have numerous exceptions, and disobedience is not only
> unsanctioned but often widely understood and admired (children's
> malapropisms, poetry, wit).
> So how do we account for the clear (to me) difference between indexical
> signs and symbolic ones, between the colors and corners of the Vygotsky
> blocks that mean nothing to either the experimenter or the child and the
> nonsense words which refer to an artificial concept known initially only to
> the experimenter?
> We account for it by saying that the link between "bik", "mur", "lag" and
> "cev" and the concepts of "+diameter/+height", "+diameter/-height",
> "-diameter/+height", and "-diameter/-height" are mediated by intermental,
> interpersonal, and ultimately cultural/historical means.
> The difference between indexical and symbolic signs corresponds, then, to
> LSV's first genetic law, the distinction he makes between natural and
> cultural psychological processes.
> On pp. 114-115 of Minick's translation of "Thinking and Speech", LSV
> divides ALL experimental observations of the formation of higher
> psychological functions (e.g. counting, concept formation, foreign language
> learning) into four general stages, and these correspond quite precisely to
> the "four genetic laws" which Mescharyakov notes in his essay on LSV's
> terminology in the Cambridge Companion.
> First of all, there is the differentiation of a culturally
> mediated function from a naturally unmediated one. For example, the child
> learns that perceptually "heaping" objects does not give a precise idea of
> number, that animals cannot simply be divided into "two legs good, four legs
> bad", and that a foreign language is not just a funny accent.
> Secondly, there is the diferentiation of the cultural mediated function
> into a social, inter-mental moment and a psychological, individual one. This
> is what most people mean by the genetic law. LSV says this stage really
> corresponds to an "external" kind of folk psychology, on the analogy of folk
> physics (e.g. "what goes up must come down"). It's a folk psychology
> precisely because the internal connections between things are first mastered
> externally but not internally: the child imitates mathematical, zoological
> and foreign language expressions without actually understanding them.
> Thirdly, there's the differentiation of the psychological, individual
> functions into extra-mental and intramental. The child cannot work with
> numbers but can work with countings, the child thinks that a dog called a
> cow will have horns and give milk, the child imagines that a foreign
> language is just a set of incorrect labels for familiar words. This is of
> course the true origin of what Piaget calls "ego-centric speech", better
> referred to as self-directed speech.
> Finally, there's a differentiation of intra-mental functions into
> spontaneous concepts, which are syntagmatically organized and based on
> everyday experience and scientific concepts which are paradigmatically
> organized and based on logical thinking. For example, the child learns that
> numbers "exist" quite independently of counting and even of objects, because
> they exist, algebraically, as relationships. The child learns that animals
> are not simply divided into species but even into genuses and families. The
> child learns that all languages have nouns and verbs, even though not all
> languages have articles and prepositions.
> On p. 115, LSV calls this "rooting", for reasons that are not entirely
> clear to me. He says that he calls it that because it involves the
> transformation of an external plane into an internal one, but it seems to me
> that ALL of the various differentiations involve that in one way or another.
> So it seems to me that "law" or "rule" is far too crude to refer to all the
> different differentiations that are going on here. It does not even
> differentiate, as Mike points out, between the "rules" of a game and the
> "rules" we find in roles, between the "procedural" step-by-step rules that
> you follow when you bake a cake or do morning exercises and the
> "constitutive" rules that you follow when you try to march in step. I would
> say that conversational rules are really the latter, not the former, and I
> wouldn't call them rules at all. If anything, they are role like.
> Now, one of the effects of applying all this to the development of language
> is to make it, by and large, with the exception of the rather
> over-emphasized scientific end of things, much less systemic, much more
> local, and more like the kind of thing that Derek Melser is talking about.
> Language is really, in the everyday sense, a convenient exaptation of
> animal communication systems, mostly used as a handy way of integrating
> human activities, as Roy Harris puts it. Rather than being an intricate set
> of interlocking laws that girdle the whole earth; it's a pretty local,
> jerry-built, improvised phenomenon more like LSV's beloved quipus than Dr.
> Johnson's dictionary or the Nazi "Enigma" codes.
> That's disturbing to linguists, for a number of reasons (it sounds so much
> grander to say that we are working on universal grammar than to say we study
> the verbal equivalents of nods and winks). It might actually be disturbing
> to Derek, too, because if this localized version of (the roots of) language
> is correct, there can really be no difference in principle between metaphor
> and the canonical use of language; what I mean is always nothing more or
> less than the way I mean it.
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education
> Andy and Wolff-Michael: Even if "sleeping" is not "Tatigkeit" (and I think
> it certainly is; infants need to learn the adult sleep cycle, and their
> teaching is organized and purposeful), what about playing?
> As usual, I'm thinking about this stuff rather grammatically: as transitive
> vs. intransitive processes. "Sleep" is intransitive (as are "existential"
> verbs like "happen" and "emerge"), but "play" as a verb is both intransitive
> ("Let's play") and transitive ("John plays golf"). It seems nonaccidental to
> me that in all the languages I know the former sense is associated with
> children and the latter with adults.
> Haydi: No rush! I look forward with patient anticipation to your response.
> dk
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Received on Tue Dec 16 16:37:28 2008

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