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Re: [xmca] Honestly....

I guess the reason I REALLY wanted to change the name of this thread is that I found Martin's contribution had the effect of rendering the question moot (or "mu" as the Chan Buddhists like to say). 
Martin said that babies are born ideally prepared for their hypersocial and pancultural existence by being born unprepared for any specific, biomechanical--i.e. asocial and noncultural--niche. To me this suggests being born open-minded, in contrast to being born with language specific cognitive structures.
When we look for phonological language universals (e.g. the distinction between consonants and vowels) we often find that they are traceable to the physical architecture of the vocal tract. That architecture may tell us something about the structure of a woodwind instrument but does not obviously say a whole lot about the structure of the mind. 
We also find that these distinctions are hardly universal. Sign languages, for example, do not have a distinction between consonants and vowels, and neither does Chinese. There are many sounds like /w/ or /h/ which are consonants in one language and vowels in another, and even sounds like "y" which are both in a single language.
Now this creates a bit of a problem for me, because I have always privately theorized that the distinction between bound and unbound morphemes (e.g. "re-" and "-ed" vs. "work" in a word like "reworked"), or bound and unbound phrases (e.g. "who has the most cards" and "the student wins" in a sentence like "the student who has the most cards wins") is a metaphorical extension, an iteration, of this basic consonant-phoneme distinction. 
Now I think this private theory is quite wrong; the structural dependency of morphemes and phrases is imposed from the top down and not the bottom up. It is a reflection of the dependence of an answer on a question, a response on an initiate, and not a reiteration of the dependence of a consonant on a vowel.
Who cares? Well, I think structural dependency and boundedness of basic units is one of the hallmarks of human as opposed to machine languages and natural signs. In binary codes it does not really make any sense to say that "0" and "1" are either "bound" or "unbound", although of course larger units, closer to human needs, may be bound or unbound. Similarly, there is no structural dependency in the way that twilight signals nightfall or the way that snow heralds six more weeks of winter.
And I think that in a sense distinguishing human languages from machine languages on the one hand and natural signs on the other is a more important task for linguists than distinguishing human language from animal communication (which is not in any categorical way possible, since humans are nothing more or less than hypersocial and pancultural animals). 
Halliday, in the volume of his Collected Works concerned with early childhood language (Volume Five, London: Continuum), begins with the story of Nigel at fourteen days old. He had apparently developed a nasty boil, and he cried incessantly. His mother undressed him, saw the boil, and Nigel stopped crying. Halliday points out that this was an indubitable act of communication and even evidence of a "theory of mind", because the pain did not disappear. Only the information gap did.
When I read this story, though, I imagine Nigel responding to his mother's knowledge of his pain with a whimper, and perhaps that whimper was created by the bounding of the naseopharyngealized vowels with labial consonants (maybe /m/ or /b/). Not a bad definition of a word, though as yet only a word for myself!
David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education 
--- On Thu, 4/29/10, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:

From: mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Honestly....
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Cc: "Avis Ridgway" <avis.ridgway@education.monash.edu.au>
Date: Thursday, April 29, 2010, 4:46 PM

I, too, have found this thread really interesting. The video you mention,
Avis, sounds fascinating. Is it available somewhere on the web? These
phenomena are mostly written about or depicted in still shots. Seeing the
dynamics would be really interesting.

I have not been following the newborn development literature closely in the
past couple of years, but I think one of the points
of continuing interest/concern/controversy is how to interpret early
capacities once thought present only much later. Early
infant imitation has been among those controversial areas, although my
impression is that along with other signs of early
capacities (infant response to human face, surprise when elementary physical
"laws" are violated, etc.) there is a lot
broader acceptance of the existence of such capacities than there was when
Bower was writing.

I think that part of the current focus of research is on whether such
phenomena are learned, or "pre-pared" by our phylogenetic history.

When you write:
"These video recordings over the first days , weeks and months and spoken
observations are very helpful in showing that learning from birth is
supported by a social situation, and also shows how parents 'in the know'
observe with intention and how that interested observation builds abilities
in the child to respond" I am unclear about your view of the first
manifestations of, say, tongue protrusion. That first time, was it learned?

I totally agree that the social situation of development is central to
learning AND development, and that the interested observation of those in
the know is central to creating contingencies that make the process build.
But the first time?

Perhaps I have misinterpreted both you and David. The issue of the sources
of change in early infancy, like later developmental periods, along with the
issue of "origins" seems very well worth our careful consideration.

I also want to second David Kellog's invocation of Elen Dissanayake's work.
She also wrote a marvelous article in a book
on the origins of music, focused on ontogenetic origins in humans, that she
relates to early language acquisition, which, for
hearing children, pretty certainly begins before birth and is built upon in
reciprocal interactions thereafter. See
http://www.ellendissanayake.com/ for a lot more by this really interesting


PS-- And thanks for the ref to Marilyn Fleer's book. With her article now
under discussion at XMCA maybe we can
cadge a copy of the book for review in MCA!!

On Wed, Apr 28, 2010 at 9:39 PM, Avis Ridgway <avisr@netspace.net.au> wrote:

> Thanks for interest and sharing references.
> My point in sharing was not to illuminate "temporary cognitive
> capabilities"
> (understood for years), but to go far wider and direct our thoughts more to
> the role of the daily life social context
> and play in children's learning and development.
> Fleer, M. (2010). Early Learning and Development: Cultural-historical
> concepts in play.
> Melbourne: Cambridge University Press.
> Avis
> On 29/04/2010, at 12:28 PM, David H Kirshner wrote:
>  The amazing, but temporary, cognitive capabilities of newborns was
>> documented decades ago. The following article presents pictures as
>> evidence.
>> Bower, T. G. R. (1976, Nov. 23). Repetitive processes in child
>> development. Scientific American, 5(5), 38-47.
>> David
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu]
>> On Behalf Of Avis Ridgway
>> Sent: Wednesday, April 28, 2010 3:49 AM
>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>> Subject: Re: [xmca] Honestly....
>> Adding to Helen's observation, I have video of my son ( an
>> audiologist) holding his 12 hours old daughter out in front of him
>> along his arm, head supported in extended arm and hand ..., so that
>> they are face to face. He is checking to see if she responds to him.
>> He sticks his tongue out at her and she does this back to him. He
>> calls to his wife who is videoing this from the hospital bed "did you
>> see that??? He does it again and she "replies"/ copies"
>> He tries something different. He does a yawn and YES she yawns back.
>> These responses are recorded on the video.
>> As a researcher in early childhood, I can see that my granddaughter's
>> early responses have been carefully noted, especially her speech
>> development because her mother is a speech pathologist. Both parents
>> paid very careful attention to record very early sounds and
>> responses.  These video recordings over the first days , weeks and
>> months and spoken observations are very helpful in showing that
>> learning from birth is supported by a social situation, and also shows
>> how parents 'in the know' observe with intention and how that
>> interested observation builds abilities in the child to respond.
>> Avis
>> On 28/04/2010, at 12:25 PM, Martin Packer wrote:
>>  Helen,
>>> I am sure that you have a very smart daughter!  But I do think that
>>> what you've described is not as unusual as the nurses viewed it.
>>> Nurses do so much more than their fair share of the work in a
>>> hospital that they don't generally have the time or opportunity to
>>> observe what neonates are doing.
>>> A few weeks ago I mentioned here the research of Fajans, one of Kurt
>>> Lewin's students, who showed that the response of an infant to an
>>> interesting object varied depending on whether an adult was present
>>> or not. The infant seemed to perceive the object as more potentially
>>> available if someone were around to fetch it, and of course during
>>> the first year infants require that other people not only feed and
>>> clothe them, but move them around and fetch and carry for them. In
>>> your case, you facilitated your infant daughter's response to the
>>> nurse entering the room by supporting her, probably holding her in a
>>> seated position, because the newborn's head is so large in
>>> proportion to the body that they have very limited ability to move
>>> it unaided.
>>> It's interesting that your second observation was when she was about
>>> 2 months old, because there's a marked change in the organization of
>>> infant behavior at around six weeks. Neonatologists distinguish 6
>>> behavioral states in newborns, but around 6 weeks it gets very hard
>>> to apply the criteria. I had the opportunity to discuss this with
>>> Hanus Papousek, who I believed first developed the scoring of these
>>> states, and he confirmed my observation. One has the impression that
>>> already the infant has acquired some degree of control of their own
>>> reactions to the environment (note how I wove in those Vygotskian
>>> terms!), and consequently has greater ability to initiate
>>> interactions, such as the overtures to the other baby that you
>>> describe.
>>> Why infants are so fascinated by other infants continues to puzzle
>>> me, however! Perhaps it's the similarity of tempo.
>>> Martin
>>> On Apr 27, 2010, at 7:40 PM, Helen Grimmett wrote:
>>>  When I was in hospital with my first baby I was sitting on my bed one
>>>> morning holding my new daughter and singing her a song, engrossed
>>>> in how
>>>> intently she was watching me. As I sang, a nurse entered the room and
>>>> Natalie immediately swung her head round to look at her. The nurse
>>>> was
>>>> stunned, saying she had never seen such a young baby (a few days
>>>> old) do
>>>> that.
>>>> About 7-8 weeks later at my new mums group the maternal health nurse
>>>> commented on the way that Natalie (being held on my lap) was watching
>>>> and smiling at the baby on the Mum's lap next to me. "She's going
>>>> to be
>>>> a bright one, that one!" she 'warned' me.
>>>> Being my first baby, I didn't recognise any of these actions as
>>>> unusual
>>>> and thought this must be what all babies do, but the maternity nurses
>>>> who had seen hundreds of babies thought it was very unusual. Perhaps
>>>> Martin, it was those very early (within hours) intense interactions
>>>> of
>>>> talking, singing and reading to her that 'summoned' her to expect
>>>> others
>>>> to be interesting to interact with too? But don't all new parents do
>>>> this? (Well perhaps not the reading! - That was the luck of this
>>>> child
>>>> to have two primary school teachers as parents!)
>>>> Interesting....
>>>> Helen
>>>> ----- Original Message -----
>>>> From: Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu>
>>>> Date: Wednesday, April 28, 2010 8:13 am
>>>> Subject: Re: [xmca] Honestly....
>>>> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
>>>>  Andy,
>>>>> Thanks for the Levontin, which I will read with pleasure. But on
>>>>> this issue I'm drawing more on my own experience than what I read
>>>>> in books. After I finished my undergraduate degree I didn't want to
>>>>> get a PhD, so I looked for work around London and managed to get a
>>>>> research job that involved conducting observations of neonatal
>>>>> behavior at birth and an assessment (designed by pediatrician Berry
>>>>> Brazelton) of their capabilities during the first weeks of life (we
>>>>> repeated it at intervals from about 3 hours to 6 weeks of age). I
>>>>> am attaching a photo I took of one of our research participants to
>>>>> illustrate why I think it's not quite right to say that children
>>>>> must 'acquire' the tendency to engage in interaction. To talk of
>>>>> the child being 'summoned' to interaction works better for me, and
>>>>> obviously children need to be drawn out (but 'trained'? Not so sure
>>>>> about that!). I forget the exact age of this child, but he was
>>>>> about 3 days old. My students are always surprised to see how
>>>>> attentive and intent such a young baby can be.
>>>>> Martin
>>>>>  _______________________________________________
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