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Re: [xmca] perception/conception etc

This is the 26th post on a very long discussion!!

There is a crucial difference between chimp language and early-ish human
language. Chimps (let's say on a symbol board or even signing), never get to
the position of making embedded/ co-ordinated clauses, such as a relative
clause e.g. they can't say "The man who brought me my food, ... ." I am not
sure when children start this, but the fact remains that chimps *never *manage
it, and so their language doesn't get off first base. Identifying identity
and using logical connectives, for example are crucial to human language.
Right now because it is early I am not able to tell you what the cognitive
consequences of this type of language is (try me later), but that is my
usual tuppence worth. (Differentiation and synthesis maybe?)


On 17 July 2010 09:52, Steve Gabosch <stevegabosch@me.com> wrote:

> David, your clarification of Vygotsky's statement helps.  It is an
> interesting translation example of the difference in meaning that subtle
> differences in word choices can make.
> Minick: (with regard to chimps:) "The critical issue is not the use of
> sounds, but the *functional use of signs* in a manner appropriate to human
> speech."
> Instead: "The essence of the matter indeed lies not at all in the sounds,
> but in the functional use of the sign, which corresponds to human speech."
> The central idea I am getting from Vygotsky in this section with regard to
> chimps is that they think, and even use language.  They have at least 32
> meaningful forms of emoting and relating, according to one account Vygotsky
> cites.  But for the chimp, according to Vygotsky, thinking and speech are
> not connected in any way, and remain so.  In humans, these two processes
> also have different genetic roots and originally develop separately.  In
> subsequent sections Vygotsky will explain how, in contrast to animals, they
> come to intersect in human ontogenesis.
> I remain curious what light the new knowledge we have these days regarding
> animal use of signs is shedding on Vygotsky's ideas about how to
> differentiate animal from human mental processes.  Is his observation about
> the disconnected character of thinking and speech in the chimp being
> validated?  Does his differentiation between lower and higher mental
> functions hold up?  What have Vygotsky scholars written on this?
> Interesting observations on behaviorism and structuralism.
> - Steve
> On Jul 16, 2010, at 8:18 PM, David Kellogg wrote:
>  That's a mistranslation, Steve. Vygotsky doesn't say that the "critical
>> issue" is the functional use of signs in a manner "appropriate to human
>> speech", whatever that might mean.
>> He says that that the use of the sign must "correspond" to the way humans
>> use speech, that is, that it must be a functional equivalent in the same way
>> that the child's complexes are functionally equivalent to the adult's
>> concepts.
>> Если верно, что интеллект шимпанзе способен овладеть человеческой речью и
>> что вся беда только в том, что он обладает не звуковой подражательностью
>> попугая, он, несомненно, должен был овладеть в эксперименте условным жестом,
>> который по своей психологической функции совершенно соответствовал бы
>> условному звуку. Вместо звуков ва-ва или па-па, которые применял Иеркс,
>> речевая реакция шимпанзе состояла бы в известных движениях руки, которые,
>> скажем, в ручной азбуке глухонемых означают те же звуки, или в любых других
>> движениях.
>> Суть дела ведь заключается вовсе не в звуках, а в функциональном
>> употреблении знака, соответствующего человеческой речи. "If it is correct,
>> that the intellect of the chimpanzee is capable of mastering human speech
>> and that its entire misfortune consists only in that it lacks the capacity
>> for sound imitation of the parrot, it will, undoubtedly, have to master in
>> the course of the experiment the conditional gesture, which about its
>> psychological function would completely correspond to conditional sound.
>> Instead of the sounds va-va or pa-pa, which Yerkes used, the speech reaction
>> of the chimpanzee would consist in given motions of the hands, let us say,
>> in the manual alphabet of deaf mutes indicate the same sounds, or in some
>> other motion. The essence of the matter indeed lies not at all in the
>> sounds, but in the functional use of the sign, which
>> corresponds to human speech."
>> Vygotsky begins with the hypothesis that the chimpanzee is basically a
>> perfectly capable language user who has been disabled only in the peripheral
>> skills of speech production, rather like a deaf-mute child. That is why he
>> uses "its entire misfortune" instead of "the difficulty" and "mastering"
>> instead of "acquiring" (Minick's words).
>> Vygotsky cleverly ties this hypothesis to the behaviorist view that there
>> is nothing more to speech than behavior, using the word "conditional", which
>> is the correct translation of what we usually, but incorrectly, call the
>> "conditioned reflex".
>> Pavlov's great idea was not simply that animals could be "conditioned" or
>> trained. It was that a response was "conditional", that it depended on a
>> stimulus. That stimulus was by nature not natural at all, but rather
>> completely arbitrary and at bottom utterly meaningless.
>> This idea that language consisted of ARBITRARY signs and MEANINGLESS
>> connections was at the very heart of Saussureanism, and the combination of
>> Pavlov and Saussure led to a kind of intellectual disaster. When we fully
>> recover, hopefully some time in the present century, we will probably
>> consider the twentieth century, to be a kind of medieval dark ages of
>> linguistics in general and foreign language teaching in particular.
>> The combination of behaviorism and structuralism proved almost
>> irresistible: on the one hand, learning was simply a matter of controlling
>> what learners do, and we don't have to bother with messy issues like what
>> they think or what the might mean. And on the other, we have a view of
>> grammar like a machine that corresponds perfectly to the computational model
>> of human cognition; a computer which has input and output in the form of a
>> potentially infinite supply of meaningless sentences.
>> I think this corresponded almost perfectly to the intellectual atmosphere
>> in which you and I grew up; a period in which the cultural and ideological
>> bankruptcy of civilization was common knowledge, but it was combined with a
>> very high degree of scientific and technical solvency that was very hard to
>> overlook and easy to confuse with a coherent research agenda for the
>> humanities and the social sciences: a mechanically perfect form of despair.
>> David Kellogg
>> Seoul National University of Education
>> --- On Fri, 7/16/10, Steve Gabosch <stevegabosch@me.com> wrote:
>> From: Steve Gabosch <stevegabosch@me.com>
>> Subject: Re: [xmca] perception/conception etc
>> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
>> Date: Friday, July 16, 2010, 7:49 PM
>> David's post got me looking at the text.  I have a side question that goes
>> along with some of David's thoughts - about what Vygotsky meant by
>> "functional use of signs in a manner appropriate to human speech."
>> The passages David analyzes follow Vygotsky's discussion of the
>> possibility that chimps could respond to sign language - an interesting idea
>> he picks up from Yerkes.  He says that the chimp could be able to "master a
>> conditioned gesture" with hand movements.  "The critical issue is not the
>> use of sounds, but the *functional use of signs* in a manner appropriate to
>> human speech."  The next paragraph begins with "Since experiments of this
>> kind have not been carried out, we cannot predict with any certainty what
>> the results would be."
>> We now know the answer to Vygotsky's question - chimps under human
>> tutelage can indeed get pretty good with both hand-based sign language and
>> keyboard-based sign use, eventually acquiring a vocabulary of up to maybe
>> 250 words, or something like that, in the case of Washoe.  I understand that
>> chimps trained this way also sometimes use it with one another, to a limited
>> extent.  But there are also severe limits on what these chimps actually do
>> with these signs.  We also now know there are cases of some other highly
>> trained animals that seem to be able to use signs to a limited extent.  How
>> does what we now know about teaching animals to use signs influence the
>> answer to that critical question Vygotsky asked - can chimps "functionally"
>> use signs in a manner appropriate to human speech?   What exactly did
>> Vygotsky mean by this formulation?
>> - Steve
>> On Jul 16, 2010, at 6:56 PM, David Kellogg wrote:
>>  Dear Martin:
>>> Thanks for the second dose of Barsalou; I'm digesting it. It's not
>>> concise like the other one!
>>> But it seems to me that in both cases the crucial text for comparison
>>> here is Chapter FOUR of Thinking and Speech. Let me present THREE paragraphs
>>> for close scrutiny, corresponding to pp. 106-107 of the Minick translation
>>> (but the Minick translation really leaves a lot to be desired here, just in
>>> terms of English grammar!).
>>> I'm pretty clear on the first two paragraphs, but the third one is hard
>>> for me to understand. Help from Russianophones much appreciated, as usual!
>>> Но все, что мы знаем о поведении шимпанзе, в том числе и из опытов
>>> Иеркса, не дает ни малейшего основания ожидать, что шимпанзе действительно
>>> овладеет речью в функциональном смысле. Мы полагаем так просто потому, что
>>> мы не знаем ни одного намека на употребление знака у шимпанзе. Единственное,
>>> что мы знаем об интеллекте шимпанзе с объективной достоверностью, это не
>>> наличие &Lt;идеации&Gt;, а тот факт, что при известных условиях шимпанзе
>>> способен к употреблению и изготовлению простейших орудий и применению
>>> &Lt;обходных
>>> путей&Gt;.  "Everything that we know about the behavior of the
>>> chimpanzee, including what we know from the experiments of Yerkes gives us
>>> not the least foundation for expecting that the chimpanzee can actually
>>> assimilate speech in the functional sense. We assume this simply because we
>>> know of not one single case of sign use in chimpanzees. All that we know
>>> about the intellect of chimpanzee with objective certainty is not the
>>> presence of "ideation", but simply the fact that under given conditions the
>>> chimpanzee is capable of the use and the production of the simplest
>>> instruments and the application of  "detours"."
>>> Why does Vygotsky insist that there is not one single case of sign use in
>>> chimpanzees? He has just said that not only the experiments of Yerkes but
>>> also the more thorough and reliable work of Kohler showed that chimps could
>>> (for example) use social-expressive gestures, beckon to and invite each
>>> other, and even use "simple explanations" such as reaching for a stick to
>>> explain the use of a stick or moving a box. Why doesn't that count?
>>> Vygotsky sees two things as partial steps in the direction of sign use,
>>> and neither one is sufficient. The first is the use and production of the
>>> simplest instruments. Now, the fact that Vygotsky does NOT consider this to
>>> be enough to qualify the chimpanzee as a sign user tells us that Vygotsky
>>> DOES make a distinction between tools and signs. This distinction is later
>>> obscured by Leontiev and even explicitly denied by activity theorists (and
>>> even in MCA we find articles that speak of "tools for signs").
>>> Vygotsky does not obscure this distinction. The material of a sign is not
>>> essential to its function. But the material of a tool is. Functionally, tool
>>> use does not necessarily include ideation, for either the producer of the
>>> tool or for the consumer. I can produce tools without knowing very
>>> specifically what they are going to be used for, and I can and do consume,
>>> for example, food, clothing and shelter without know very specifically about
>>> the tools which produced them. The same thing is not true of a sign; in
>>> order to understand a sign as a sign, we have to revisit the conditions of
>>> its production: we must always know who is using it and why.
>>> The second partial step towards ideation that Vygotsky sees in chimpanzee
>>> behavior looks, at least at first glance, more promising. It is the use of
>>> "detours". I at first thought what was meant was a <<short cut>>, but in fact
>>> almost the opposite is the case.
>>> Imagine, for example, a U-shaped cage. A banana is placed near one of the
>>> arms of the "U" but it is out of reach even using a stick. The chimpanzee
>>> can, however, use a stick to PUSH the banana near the other arm of the "U"
>>> and then walk around the "U" to get the banana. So the chimpanzee uses a
>>> detour and not a shortcut to get the banana.
>>> Now it will be seen that this really does involve a very early form of
>>> ideation, because the chimpanzee has to have an imaginary picture of the
>>> situation in order to achieve the solution. So why can't we consider this to
>>> be a precursor of sign use?
>>> I think Vygotsky would probably answer that although there are the
>>> rudiments of ideation, this ideation is qualitatively different from social
>>> ideation. It is not a culturally shared ideation; it is an ideation which is
>>> really a kind of mental copy of the visual field.
>>> Мы не хотим вовсе сказать этим, что наличие &Lt;идеации&Gt; является
>>> необходимым условием для возникновения речи. Это вопрос дальнейший. Но для
>>> Иеркса несомненно существует связь между допущением &Lt;идеации&Gt; как
>>> основной формы интеллектуальной деятельности антропоидов и утверждением о
>>> доступности человеческой речи для них. Связь эта столь очевидна и столь
>>> важна, что стоит рухнуть теории &Lt;идеации&Gt;, т.е. стоит принять другую
>>> теорию интеллектуального поведения шимпанзе, как вместе с ней рушится и
>>> тезис о доступности
>> шимпанзе
>>> человекоподобной речи. "We do not want to completely affirm that the
>>> presence of "ideation" is the necessary condition for the appearance of
>>> speech. That is another question. But for Yerkes there is undoubtedly a
>>> connection between the assumption of "ideation" as the basic form of the
>>> intellectual activity of anthropoids and the assertion of the accessibility
>>> of human speech for them. This connection is so obvious and important that
>>> it is sufficient for the theory of "ideation" to crumble , i.e., it is
>>> enough to accept another theory of the intellectual behavior of chimpanzee,
>>> for the whole thesis concerning the chimpanzees access to human like speech
>>> to collapse."
>>> I think that Vygotsky does not want to set up ANY single criterion for
>>> the appearance of speech.
>>> First of all, that would go against his triangulatory method of examining
>>> phenomena from a functional, a structural and a genetic point of view
>>> simultaneously.
>>> Secondly, if a phenomenon really does have a single necessary and
>>> sufficient cause, then at least from a causal-dynamic point of view, that
>>> cause is not a cause at all; it's part of the phenomenon itself, and
>>> consequently the explanation is not an explanation (this is what Vygotsky
>>> says about, for example, the use of "libido" or "Gestalt" or "personality"
>>> in his essay the Historical Meaning of the Crisis in Psychology).
>>> Thirdly, this is a book about thinking and speech, and for the purpose of
>>> his argument, it is absolutely essential that ideation, which is a
>>> phenomenon of thinking, should be both linked to and distinct from speech.
>>> Vygotsky is going to argue that thinking and speech do not diverge from a
>>> single common root as physiological functions do (adaptation), but rather
>>> converge from separate roots as cultural and historical phenomena do
>>> (exaptation).
>>> В самом деле, если именно &Lt;идеация&Gt; лежит в основе интеллектуальной
>>> деятельности шимпанзе, то почему нельзя допустить, что он так же
>>> человекоподобно &Lt;решит задачу&Gt;, представляемую речью, знаком вообще,
>>> как он решает задачу с применением орудия (правда, и тогда это остается не
>>> больше чем предположением, а отнюдь не установленным фактом). "In fact, if
>>> "ideation" alone is the basis of the intellectual activity of chimpanzee,
>>> then why can we not assume that the anthropoids would "resolve a task"
>>> expressed in speech, or in the use of general signs, as they solve problems
>>> with the application of instruments (this would, of course, be no more than
>>> an assumption, far
>> from an
>>> established fact)."
>>> This is the bit where I get lost. As usual, Vygotsky takes several
>>> logical leaps that are not really spelled out in the text.
>>> If, as Yerkes assumes, the mental capacity for ideation is at the basis
>>> of the chimpanzees practical intelligence (and not, as Kohler argues, the
>>> chimp's ability to notice and make use of affordances actually present in
>>> the visual field) then we should be able to ask yes/no questions and get
>>> coherent answers.
>>> We do this all the time with children in foreign language classes. The
>>> teacher assumes that the child has the idea, but not the language in which
>>> it is expressed, and so we ask yes/no questions and we find, very often,
>>> that children can guess what we mean and answer appropriately, using "yes"
>>> or "no" or using their hands to show "X" or "O".
>>> It seems to me that Vygotsky is asking why it doesn't occur to us to
>>> ASSUME that we can do this with chimpanzees. After all, chimps do solve
>>> tasks with tools, and in some cases (e.g. the "detour" described above)
>>> there is clear evidence of rudimentary ideation. But we don't assume that
>>> the chimp will answer a simple yes/no question by, for example, using a
>>> pencil or another tool to mark "X" or "O" on a test.
>>> It seems to me that Vygotsky is not asking why we cannot do this with
>>> chimpanzees. Whether we can or cannot do it with chimpanzees is a matter of
>>> hypothesis and future empirical research (and in fact Savage-Rumbaugh's work
>>> suggests strongly that it is possible).
>>> What Vygotsky is asking is why we don't look at the chimpanzee with this
>>> ASSUMPTION, with this HYPOTHESIS. Perhaps it is because we suspect that
>>> "ideation" is far from being the only basis, or even the main basis, of
>>> chimpanzee thinking. Perhaps we suspect that what chimpanzees think with is
>>> a lot more like a percept than a concept.
>>> David Kellogg
>>> Seoul National University of Education
>>>  --- On Thu, 7/15/10, Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu> wrote:
>>> From: Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu>
>>> Subject: Re: [xmca] perception/conception etc
>>> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
>>> Date: Thursday, July 15, 2010, 3:37 PM
>>> A few days ago Andy commented on a paper by Barsalou that Mike had sent
>>> around. I am attaching another paper by the same author, with the question,
>>> how similar is this analysis of cognition to what LSV was writing about in
>>> T&L?
>>> Martin
>>> -----Inline Attachment Follows-----
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