Re: [xmca] Rote, Role, Rule

From: Steve Gabosch <stevegabosch who-is-at>
Date: Wed Dec 17 2008 - 01:43:22 PST

Your response is most helpful, David, many thanks.

I need to ponder the double stimulation application here. I am trying
to grasp how the four words play a role as an auxiliary stimulus.
They would certainly play an organizing role as the puzzle is explored
and words are revealed. What especially strikes me as actively
playing the role of auxiliary stimulus is being able to handle and
manipulate the blocks, move them around into various arrangements and
combinations with each other, comparing them, examining them in
relation to one another, while one is thinking about which parameters
and by what rules they form the final solution groups. I was looking
at Engestrom's article on how he uses the principle of double
stimulation in his Change Laboratory work in the Vygotsky Cambridge
Companion you pointed me to - it is a very powerful concept with many
kinds of applications, and not just in research, which I will be
thinking about more. Interesting to see that come up in the Vygotsky/
Sakharov blocks! All great stuff.

And I especially appreciate your pointing to and discussion of
Mescharyakov's study of Vygotsky's four genetic laws. His article
also collects LSV's discussions of major stages of development and
relates them to the genetic laws. This is extremely helpful to me. I
will be studying that article more closely.

And you make yet another interesting application, as you have done on
other occasions, of Peirce's three kinds of signs. Your insights
nudge me to think of them in the context of this puzzle in this way:
the subject is looking at 23 blocks with a confusing mass of nothing
by iconic signs - colors, shapes, sizes, heights, etc. - with each
block having one of four symbolic signs hidden underneath it. The
task is to discover, out of the many iconic signs, the correct
indexical signs that point to each of the four symbolic signs.

Thanks again, David, lots to think about.

- Steve

On Dec 16, 2008, at 7:25 AM, David Kellogg wrote:

> 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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