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

This is an actual sentence from one of our teacher's books:
T: Listen. "Wah, doo warry! Wah Wah Wah!" Repeat!
Consider this sentence as a kind of hamburger. You can see that the bread, the very first word ("Listen") and the last word ("Repeat"), are pragmatically actionable. That is, you have to DO something with their meaning: you have to listen, and then you have to repeat what you heard. You can also see that the meat could be absolutely anything.
It is NOT true that the "meat" of the hamburger is somehow meaningless, or represents "bad teaching" or "rote" teaching or whatever. In fact, it has a very precise pedagogical purpose, and I am quite proud of my own role in putting it there. (We were teaching the children to differentiate the difficult semivowels and liquid consonants, /w/ and /r/, and we were preparing them for a dialogue in which they will have to say "I want a watch!") But it IS true that the 'meat' of the hamburger lacks PRAGMATIC meaning; it has semantics but it no pragmatics in a socio-interactional sense. It is not actionable as human activity.
Now, the same thing is of course true of this sentence, also from our teacher's book:
T: Listen! "Is Peter there?" Repeat!
Peter is an imaginary character in the textbook. Once again, I am proud of my role in putting him there; Peter is black and he is being called by Nami, a young Korean girl, who has a new soccer ball and wants to teach him how to play. But once again we can see that this sentence is in a strict, sociointeractional sense, inconsequential: Peter is neither here nor there.
Although BOTH sentences lack pragmatics and have only semantics (they have only znachenie and no smysl, or no theme and only meaning), they are not the same. One of them is like Mike's experiment of switching into Russian in the middle of a sentence;it concentrates on HEARING, PERCEPTION, and is consequently a matter of teaching a lower level psychological function. (Actually, "Wah doo warry" is based on a Korean TV joke from thirty years ago, but most kids won't know that.)
But the second one, the Peter example, creates an imaginary situation. In that situation, Peter IS there, Peter DOES meet Nami, Peter DOES play soccer with her, and perhaps they grow up, marry each other, and have an inter-racial child who is similarly interested in sports (Hines Woods, an NFL star in the USA, is the child of such an interracial marriage). This involves CREATIVITY, MEANING MAKING and is consquently a matter of teaching a higher level psychological function.
I think that the sentence repetition exercise and the syllogism may be differentiated in exactly the same way. Sentence repetition CAN involves meaning making (and in fact meaning making will dramatically extend your ability to remember and repeat sentences). But it doesn't have to, and children's brains can be very economical in a rather penny-wise but pound-foolish fashion (at younger ages they activity seek to reduce a lot of the imaginary situations we give them to rote repetition exercises).
A very different, higher level, problem obtains with Luria's syllogism. The Uzbeks try to reduce what is essentially a SYSTEMATIZING, CATEGORIZING problem which requires a higher level concept ("tool") to an imaginary situation. I agree that role play is a LOWER psychological function than conceptualizing (closer to the concrete, more visual-imagistic). But I think it is still a higher psychological function, at least relative to "Listen and Repeat".
David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

--- On Sat, 7/25/09, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:

From: Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Intensions in context and speech complexity ; From 2-?
To: mcole@weber.ucsd.edu, "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Date: Saturday, July 25, 2009, 8:59 PM

Mike, I had the impression that, when you first raised this 
issue, you had in mind a parallel with the saga of Luria in 
Uzbekhistan, which played such a role in your development. 
Isn't the child being asked to play "Say after me" in the 
same position as the Uzbek being asked to play "Complete the 


Mike Cole wrote:
> Ok. So speaking is a part of activity.
> But please explain the result of the difference between the two kinds of
> activities that generate
> two levels of grammatical complexity in activity-theoretic terms for me
> and/or performance terms.
> It is not just that the performances in the two situations are different.
> They are different in a way
> that is clearly linked to the language/thought/language game/life worlds,
> etc. related to the different
> situations vis a vis who is controlling the situation, who has the power,
> whose/what intentions are being
> performed/
> Little ones CANNOT play the game of "say after me." Later they can play this
> game. I do not believe that
> invoking internalization is necessary or helpful, Peter, but I do think that
> an explanation not only of the difference but of the
> chronological, and dare I say it, developmental, difference requires
> explanation.  I further believe that what
> David Kel has been writing is relevant to this issue and that it is related
> to issues of language teaching/learning
> in school.
> I appear an outlier here and will drop the issue. Thanks everyone for your
> efforts to penetrate my opaqueness.
> --------
> On another (who knows, maybe even related!) matter. The polls for the new
> article in MCA remain open. Brenda
> is away this week and she mediates posting of abstracts and contacting the
> publishers to make the winning
> candidate for discussion available. So I will keep the polls open until,
> probably, next Tuesday. But please take
> a minute to check the polls and vote.
> mike
> On Mon, Jul 20, 2009 at 9:11 AM, Mike Cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:
>> On Mon, Jul 20, 2009 at 9:05 AM, Lois Holzman <
>> lholzman@eastsideinstitute.org> wrote:
>>> This formulation of the question is clarifying, Mike, and helps me realize
>>> that I can't answer it—
>>> because it is asking something in terms that frame the thing that's going
>>> on in a particular way that, to me, is too assumptive.
>>> I don't see it in terms of external constraints, intentions and goals - I
>>> don't have a mentalistic understanding of the social relational activity of
>>> speaking, creating conversation, playing with language.
>>> I can't see what is gained by invoking compliance, imposition,
>>> limitations, intentions and goals, and I feel that doing so obscures the
>>> "form of life"-ness. I'm with Wittgenstein on this - speaking is part of an
>>> activity, or of a form of life."
>>> An experimenter asking a child to "say what I say" is a particular
>>> language game, and the same child talking/babbling in another situation is
>>> another. If I understand, you're trying to find a reason that what the child
>>> says is different in the two. I guess I wonder why you think they wouldn't
>>> be. And why the direction to look is "internal."
>>> Lois
>>> 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
>>> lholzman@eastsideinstitute.org
>>> www.eastsideinstitute.org
>>> www.performingtheworld.org
>>> loisholzman.org
>>> On Jul 20, 2009, at 10:56 AM, Mike Cole wrote:
>>>  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
>>>>>> _______________________________________________
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>>>>>> xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
>>>>>> http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca
>>>>>>  --
>>>>> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>>>>> Andy Blunden (Erythrós Press and Media) http://www.erythrospress.com/
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Andy Blunden (Erythrós Press and Media) 
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