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Re: [xmca] Intensions in context and speech complexity ; From 2-?

Hi All,
Mike's post sent me back to my most recent thinking on imitation (two weeks ago!) as well as to my language development research in the mid-70s with Lois Bloom. I do recall that my first published article (Imitation in Language Development: If, When and Why) was one of a handful at the time that focused on spontaneous imitation as opposed to elicited imitation, such as Slobin's study Mike refers to. OUr findings from longitudinal data from 6 children from single words to syntax were quite interesting: by our operational definitions, some of them didn't imitate and their language development was similar to those that imitated. Those that did imitate, imitated what they were in the process of learning, and not what they knew well nor what was beyond them. Today I would say they imitated what was in their ZPD and that their imitations were part of creating that ZPD. So it seems to me that the change referred to —to the more simplified form— could be understood as the child making meaning with what has been said, playing with it, creating with it, using it. For the social situation doesn't end just because the child is alone--s/he takes it with her/him; it becomes part of her/his life world and repertoire.

What I can add about the relevance to school is the importance of opportunities for language play, and especially the kind of creative imitation Vygotsky believes is critical for very young children. For the most part schools do not create opportunities for children to play with language in the way that is described here. We've created this thing called "vocabulary" which they are obliged to learn. Children are asked to get the correct or finished version tas quickly as possible—and they are typically given simplified language to help them do this. There is little of the playfulness that happens when the language around you is not simplified, and you are free to play with and use it in a variety of ways.

Perhaps helpful in adding to what I am saying is part of this quote from Vygotsky, which I wrote about in an article several years ago and resurrected for a just completed chapter for Cathrene-Ana-Vera's upcoming volume:

But is fully developed speech, which the child is only able to master at the end of this period of development, already present in the child’s environment? It is, indeed. The child speaks in one word phrases, but his mother talks to him in language which is already grammatically and syntactically formed and which has a large vocabulary… Let us agree to call this developed form, which is supposed to make its appearance at the end of the child’s development, the final or ideal form. And let us call the child’s form of speech the primary or rudimentary form. The greatest characteristic feature of child development is that this development is achieved under particular conditions of interaction with the environment, where this … form which is going to appear only at the end of the process of development is not only already there in the environment … but actually interacts and exerts a real influence on the primary form, on the first steps of the child’s development. Something which is only supposed to take shape at the very end of development, somehow influences the very first steps in this development. (Vygotsky, 1994, p. 348—the article is The Problem of the Environment, appearing in The Vygotsky Reader) Apologies for the slightly abridged version of the passage.

Not surprisingly, I "relate" creative imitation to performance....


Lois Holzman, Director
East Side Institute for Group and Short Term Psychotherapy
920 Broadway, 14th floor
New York NY 10010
tel. 212.941.8906 ext. 324
fax 212.941.0511

On Jul 16, 2009, at 5:00 PM, Mike Cole wrote:

David's note of a few days ago on 3-7 year old changes in egocentric speech
me of an old article by Slobin and Welch (reprinted in Ferguson and Slobin,
*Studies of Child Development, 1963)
*that it took a while to track down. The study is often cited in studies of
elicited imitation where an adult says some
sentence and asks a little kid to repeat it. Kids simplify the sentence in
normal circumstances ("Where is the kitty"
becomes "where kitty") and other such stuff. There is a pretty large
literature on this.

But when I went to find the phenomenon in the article that had most struck
me, I could not find it in the recent lit
on elicited imitation. The phenomenon seems relevant to the monologic,
dialogic etc speech discussion.

The phenomenon is this: When a 2yr/5month old child is recorded saying "If
you finish your eggs all up, Daddy, you
can have your coffee." they can repeat this sentence pretty much as it is
right afterward. But 10 minutes later it has
become simplified a la the usual observation.

Citing William James (the child has an "intention to say so and so") Slobin
and Welch remark:

If that linguistic form is presented for imitation while the intention is still operative, it can be faily successfully imitated. Once the intention is gone, however, the utterance must be processed in linguistic terms alone
-- without its original intentional and
contextual support." In the absence of such support, the task can strain the child's abilities and reveal a more limited competence than may actually
be present in spontaneous speech (p. 489-90).

This kind of observation seems relevant in various ways both to language
acquisition in school settings and to my reccurrent
questions about the social situation of development. Is it relevant to the
discussion of egocentric and social speech, David?
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