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

I guess I would agree with your own evaluation the paper you shared with us is "a poor start" at a critical review of Vygotsky's linguistics, but unlike Mike I'm not really disarmed by adjectives like "playful" and nouns like "romp". 
Like Andy, I think it's better to really seriously READ what Vygotsky writes (particularly about the indicative and the nominative functions of language, which are the basis on which the symbolizing function is built). Particularly when you are working with late Vygotsky (and Chapter Seven of Thinking and Speech is the latest we have and ever can have) it doesn't make much sense to rely on other accounts of his work. Too many of these are like the excavations of Schliemann at Troy--they dig right down through the city of Priam and mistake the foundations for the actual edifice.
For example! A lot of your argument rests on the idea that Vygotsky sees self-directed speech (a more accurate term than either "private" or "egocentric") as being "abbreviated". That is one possible translation, but it's a misleading one, and it ignores the fact that when Vygotsky actually discusses the relationship of self-directed, inner and written speech (as well as foreign languages, science concepts and other elaborated genres) he uses the term "maximally expanded" as often or more often than he uses the term "maximally reduced". There is, therefore, no bassis for saying that Vygotsky sees inner speech as reduced written speech, and genetically the arrows point exactly the other way: it is written speech (and foreign language speech) that is maximally expanded.
Like you, I'm a regular reader of "Language and Communication" and big fan of Roy Harris. In fact, I have always believed that what Harris is really doing in his many books on integrationism is restating, and even popularizing, the monistic view of language that is laid out by Volosinov in Marxism and the Philosophy of Language. As we all know, Harris is a brilliant and critical interpreter of Saussure, and in many ways has done far more to undo the damage done to linguistics by Saussure's over-eager graduate students and to restore Saussure's own self-searching skepticism about his formalist views than anyone else.
EXCEPT, pehaps, Vygotsky. I think Vygotsky actually finds the single kernel of truth in Saussure's course when he argues that a science of phonetics needs to be founded on MEANING MAKING and not on the physical description of noises people make with their mouths. However, his ability to find this kernel in a mountain of structuralist chaff should not deceive you; he is no uncritical consumer of Saussureanism.
You know and I know that the heart of the Saussurean language myth is the idea (promoted also by Roman Jakobson) that meaning exists at the intersection of paradigmatic and syntagmatic linguistic organization. Linear organization of language gives us the latitude of concepts, their thematic relationship to other concepts, while hierarchical organization gievs us their longitude, their semantics. If I say "I like apples" then the relationship "like" links me to apples, and the relationship "fruit", "Granny Smiths" links apples to objects on the one hand and science concepts on the other.
There is no question in my mind but that Vygotsky believes that language is both functional AND systemic, both a matter of integrating activities AND a matter of integrating concepts and examples. Language is both a traffic light, where signs have relatively fixed meanings in very limited places AND a car horn where meanings serve to integrate a wider range of activities, and we always need to look and see who is making exactly what noise to whom. 
But there is also no question in my mind which of these he sees as generative and primary and which derived and secondary. Before there were traffic lights, there were car horns, and there will be car horns after the last traffic light goes out. Here he and Harris are absolutely of one mind (which is not surprising, since both hearken back to Volosinov). 
Vygotsky’s distinction between the “phasal” aspects and the “semantic” ones depends on something that is absolutely ESSENTIAL to the integration of any human activity, namely  TIME: the phasal aspects of language (phonology, syntax) all occur in a linear fashion, one after the other. But the semantic aspects of language (that is, the thought and even to some extent the meaning content) happens holistically, all at once.
So the key question is how does thought content become parsed as phasal segments? Vygotsky’s answer is that it happens through word meanings. That is why he sees the development of consciousness in the development of word meanings.
Yes, it is true. Vygotsky thinks that this development happens because children are able to master words from their social situation of learning; word meanings that were inter-mental become reconstructed intra-mentally. But to say this is simply to make it clear the language is a special case of integrating human activities; it is to say no more than Harris says.
We also see the reverse process. Children use language, and externalize new senses of the words they know. When these become extremely common the language develops, because new significations are created from children's new senses.
Now it seems to me that the difference between Vygotsky and the "child centred" pedagogues you name (Bruner, etc.) really lies in this. Vygotsky does not romanticize; he doesn't pretend that in some way sense is the only reality of language and signification depends directly upon it. He does not pretend that the child's contribution to the language is "equal" with that of the social and cultural environment.
 Every child knows that's not true. When I make mistakes in Korean, it has no effect on the language as it is spoken by the other sixty million Korean speakers on earth; when a child makes mistakes in language, neither the child nor the child's teacher sees this as a deliberate act of creativity, and it isn't. What Vygotsky gives us is not "child centred" liberal demagogy, but real hope for transforming microgenesis into ontogenesis and ontogenesis into social progress. The way the child does this is very simple: the child grows up. 
David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

--- On Thu, 7/23/09, Jones, Peter <P.E.Jones@shu.ac.uk> wrote:

From: Jones, Peter <P.E.Jones@shu.ac.uk>
Subject: RE: [xmca] Intensions in context and speech complexity ; From 2-?
To: "'eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity'" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Date: Thursday, July 23, 2009, 7:49 AM

Hi anton
No it was just a private email discussion - but I can certainly ask them if they'd be willing to share their views on xmca?

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Anton Yasnitsky
Sent: 23 July 2009 13:56
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Intensions in context and speech complexity ; From 2-?

Hi Peter,

I am just wondering where exactly Tatiana Akhutina and Peter Feigenbaum have discussed the paper in question: was this discussion published anywhere?


----- Original Message ----
From: "Jones, Peter" <P.E.Jones@shu.ac.uk>
To: "ablunden@mira.net" <ablunden@mira.net>; "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Sent: Thursday, July 23, 2009 7:39:43 AM
Subject: RE: [xmca] Intensions in context and speech complexity ; From 2-?

Hi andy and mike and all
Many thanks for your interest in the paper and for comments which I'll take on board very seriously.
It is, as billed, a critical exploration of some aspects of vygotsky's work but certainly not an attempt at a balanced, overall appraisal - I think the conclusion says 'an irreverent romp around cultural-historical theory' which was maybe not such a good idea after all. But I'm concentrating here on a particular issue - namely the specifically linguistic arguments and assumptions which inform and underlie the speech internalization hypothesis which LSV advances. And it is, in response to your query, in the details of this particular argument that the influence of the standard 'language myth' is to be detected in my view, which I summarise in the conclusion. In other words, the whole problematic of 'egocentric speech', 'inner speech' and so on is framed around particular ideas and assumptions taken from particular linguistic theories and traditions - is it not legitimate to examine, in the light of more general considerations to do with the
cultural-historical creation of human capacities and abilities, the validity of these ideas and assumptions and their compatibility with the overall programme? What if these specific arguments for speech internalization don't actually hold water? More generally I think there are a series of interconnected 'issues', let's say, with vygotsky's position that have been raised critically by many and various scholars from time to time - internalization, the natural-cultural (lower-higher) distinction, the relationship between word and concept, and the (quite disastrous) cross cultural research on which Luria and Vygotsky collaborated. For me, these issues remain deeply problematic and they are all interconnected as well not least because of the centrality of concepts of language and meaning which are at the core of vygotsky's thinking about culture and the cultural nature of human psychological functions. They are problematic in particular because in my view
the relationship of this whole set of ideas and principles to marx's own views on human activity and creativity is in question. I'm afraid I don't accept that internalization is 'part of any rational theory of psychology' for reasons I give in this particular piece but I do find it interesting how and why the concept gets into cultural-historical theory in the first place. Anyway, it's good to hear your views but I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree for the moment! I apologise, too, for interrupting what was obviously a fruitful discussion with my own post. I should also say that the paper in question has been criticised most cogently already by Tatiana Akhutina and Peter Feigenbaum in a separate discussion.
With all v best wishes

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Andy Blunden
Sent: 23 July 2009 05:35
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Intensions in context and speech complexity ; From 2-?

I had a read of your paper.

You argument hinges on the proposition that Vygotsky 
uncritically accepted "the language myth" as the foundation 
of his psychology. You explain this myth via Harris on p. 
168. It's more or less the spontaneous, common sense view of 
language. But Peter, I can find no point of contact between 
this myth and what I have read in Vygotsky, except that in a 
certain sense I think Vygotsky assumed the existence of the 
myth as a background in explaining his contrary view. I 
recall nothing of this in what you taught me in that van in 
England in 1984. I don't believe in the "myth" and yet to an 
extent of 99% my knowledge of linguistics comes from 
Vygotsky. The proposition is not believable.

Why the need to shoot down Vygotsky at this time?

Also, I think it is a mistake to think that the word 
"internalisation" connotes one specific set of ideas along 
with it. And actually the same applies to many words. People 
brought up in China speak Chinese. People brought up in 
England speak English. Was it in their genes? Did they 
reinvent the language personally? *Some* kind of 
internalisation is part of any rational theory of 
psychology. One of the first things I learnt from Vygotsky 
was how learning is an active process of appropriation and 
even invention. This does exclude the idea of "internalisation."


Jones, Peter wrote:
> Hi all
> I take the liberty of attaching a recent published paper on the theme of vygotsky's conception  of the transformation of external into inner speech in case it may be of some interest. The abstract is rather stark and possibly unhelpful in tone but I hope there is something a bit more comprehensible and relevant within!
> All v best
> Pete E  Jones
> -----Original Message-----
> From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Mike Cole
> Sent: 20 July 2009 15:57
> To: ablunden@mira.net; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: Re: [xmca] Intensions in context and speech complexity ; From 2-?
> Andy/David/ Lois:
> Why are the simplifications when children imitate sentences that carry out
> the intentions of others and limit their agency to
> complying with external constraints imposed by others absent when they carry
> out their own intentions in speech acts that are instrumental to carrying
> out those goals and may be more complicated, grammatically, than what
> experimenters ask of them? I get the dropping out the subject part in inner
> speech, I think.
> mike
> On Sun, Jul 19, 2009 at 10:30 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:
>> Mike, my reading of Vygotsky's explanation of the process of speech being
>> abbreviated as it transforms into silent speech, as I recall, is that the
>> child for example leaves off the subject of a sentence for example, because
>> they already know the subject, and such like. I.e., as I read it, they carry
>> dense elements of context internally so that the verbal instruction to
>> themselves carries that context implicitly. Just like if I say "Pass me
>> that" the hearer won't understand without the help of a shared visual field.
>> So intention is part of the context, but it is the context, and it's
>> various mental representations and cues which is relevant, isn't it?
>> So for example, the continued presence of all the elements of a snippet of
>> dialogue act as cues which would allow something to be repeated, because the
>> entire act in response to cues in the context can be repeated.
>> But also, relevant to a topic we have been discussing, Mike, the project of
>> which the speech act is a part has to be understood and shared by the child
>> if they are to make sense of it, and of course psychological testing is not
>> generally such a project.
>> I don't really know if that's relevant to the distinction you're after
>> Mike.
>> Andy
>> Mike Cole wrote:
>>> David's note of a few days ago on 3-7 year old changes in egocentric
>>> speech
>>> reminded
>>> 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?
>>> mike
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> xmca mailing list
>>> xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
>>> http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca
>> --
>> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> Andy Blunden (Erythrós Press and Media) http://www.erythrospress.com/
>> Orders: http://www.erythrospress.com/store/main.html#books
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Andy Blunden (Erythrós Press and Media) 
Orders: http://www.erythrospress.com/store/main.html#books

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