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Re: [xmca] The Genetic Belly Button and the Functional Belly

I am editing some writing and will send it to you after I am done.


On Jul 21, 2010, at 1:54 AM, Carol Macdonald wrote:

I think there is a problem with terminology. What you describe are sounds, not phonemes. Phonemes are specific to a language and each language has a
set of phonemes which form a system.  For example, in English, /p/ is
contrasted with /b/ meaning they help to contrast words e.g. "pig" vs.
"big". In Arabic this distinction does not hold.

By all means send me what you have, as we may be talking at cross purposes.


On 21 July 2010 10:33, Joseph Gilbert <joeg4us@roadrunner.com> wrote:


Are there no phonemes that you feel, or associate with a feeling? How about the sound of the "m"?: Or the "r"? Why does our alphabet begin with the
"a" sound and end with the"z" sound. Does the "a" suggest awakening,
(beholding something for the first time),? Does the "z" suggest sleeping? Why are the letters/sounds arranged in the sequence in which they are? When I experimented with this phenomenon be voicing the phonemes repeatedly, I noticed that their sound generated, within my emotional body, distinct,
specific reactions/feelings. There is a connection between how we are
affected by our vocal sounds and how we use them to label things. If you
would like, I will email you more on this issue.


On Jul 21, 2010, at 12:20 AM, Carol Macdonald wrote:


We don't feel phonemes. If we did, the whole field of phonology would be
rendered redundant. We, as linguists,  have to scour the evidence of
speech for the rules governing phonemes in any particular language.

In contrast, vocal speech, like groans, or for that matter groans of
delight, "um" to hold our turn in conversation (perhaps too) have meaning
themselves and we can identify these.


On 20 July 2010 23:55, Joseph Gilbert <joeg4us@roadrunner.com> wrote:

 Dear David Kellogg:
Back to fundamentals: When you voice the phonemes, any of them, do you
or does the sound suggest to you a feeling/emotion? If you were to
experience the effect of vocal sounds on your feeling/emotional state, it seems you would comprehend, in its most basic manifestation, how spoken language works. The foundation of spoken language is as simple and as primal as it can be; and that foundation must be understood clearly and unequivocally in order to understand language at all. If one ignores language's deepest structure, one will be sent on a "wild-goose- chase", fruitlessly and interminably pursuing all sorts of vague and pointless minutia of who said what when about what someone else said about this and that! Just start from the beginning with a fresh slate
with the knowledge that you, as an intelligent human being, can
what is already there in front of you, staring you in the face. Truth
not hide from people, people hide from truth. When we no longer opt for
ignorance and choose to look at what is there, we will then understand. Spoken language is first and foremost sound, sound make by the
Sound made by the body is inherently expressive of what is happening in
body. The bodily happenings behind those body-made sounds are experienced
bodily happenings in those who perceive those sounds. This is how vocal communication works. Verbal communication is a special case of vocal
communication, the only difference being that in the case of verbal
communication, we use inherently emotionally loaded, body-made sounds, to
refer to things external to us.
      So far, so good? Do I hear an "amen"?
      If you get to this point, the rest is easy sailing.

              Joseph Gilbert

On Jul 20, 2010, at 1:52 PM, David Kellogg wrote:

 Dear Joseph Gilbert:

There is a bookstore in Paris which played a much more important role in my education than the university I nominally attended (from which I
graduated). The name of the bookstore is Joseph Gilbert.

This entirely defines the way I mentally pronounce your name: it is pronounced the French way, stress on the last syllable, and the “-bert” rhymes with pear and ends in a Parisian growl; I can’t really think the
in any other way.

Now, this personal reaction is probably wrong, and more importantly, it
probably on this list entirely idiosyncratic; it is part of “theme”
than “meaning”, of “sense” rather than “signification”, and “smysl”
than “znachenie”. It is easy to trivialize it, and in fact Paulhan does
that when he remarks, in the paper “Qu’est-ce que la signification des mots?” which so influenced Vygotsky, that he has a friend whose name
him of scrambled eggs, but this cannot be said to be the “meaning” of

What I want to argue is that acts of thinking, including the teaching of concepts to children, are precisely idiosyncratic in this nature; the “thinking” part of word meaning, the generalizing part, the abstracting part, is precisely theme, not meaning, sense rather than signification,
smysl rather than znachenie.

My professor (because after I dropped out of university my education was taken in hand by people like Henry Widdowson and not simply bookstores
Joseph Gilbert) would say it is pragmatic and not semantic meaning, the
of meanng that must be endless compared with the world and endlessly renegotiated, and not the part you look up in dictionaries and then
And it is from billions of such pragmatic acts that semantic meaning
arises and is codified sometime in the eighteenth century: not the other
around, which is the way we experience it today.

It seems to me that two points emerge from this, and one belongs to you and the other to Professor Kotik-Friedgut. The first is that it’s not
the case that kids are somehow “more concrete” or “more inductive” than adults. If anything, kids tend to be MORE abstract, because they have
vocabularies (e.g. the verb “like”) and this constantly pushes them
metonymy, metaphor, and polysemy. However, they are more inclined to
and remember what I called (in an off-list letter to Carol) the SENSUOUS
aspects of communication, including the idiosyncratic elements of
pronunciation, facial expression, gesture, and contextual reference.
More on
this, with respect to the context-embeddedness of chimpanzees, from
and Chapter Four of Thinking and Speech.

The second point is that the way in which sense is going to be actually, physically, sensually stored in the brain (as opposed to the mind; I
that one thing we HAVE to accept if we accept Luria’s idea of an
inter-cortical mind is that the mind and the brain are NOT the
consists of connections which will vary wildly. It will be more like the
in which information is stored on a hard drive in a computer before your
the defragmenter than the models we’ve been working with, which all
that the brain is something like a suitcase or a large company: either
in last out, or first in first out. I think I might go even farther than Professor Kotik-Friedgut (though of course I lack her cred on this): I’m
even sure that the right hemisphere is always implicated in all

In the first section of Chapter Four in Thinking and Speech, Vygotsky is responding the work of Yerkes. Yerkes was a very nasty piece of work; he
involved in research which led to the Army learning proficiency tests
determined the recruits who were most suitable for clearing minefields), racial IQ, and so on, and so it is with some unease we look at his many
enthusiastic attempts to show that chimpanzees were capable of
just like “negroes”.

Nevertheless, as Steve points out, Yerkes was the man to go to for
attempts to teach chimpanzees how to talk in those days (and for some
thereafter—von Glasersfeld and Savage-Rumbaugh, who eventually cracked
particular nut, named their first chimp language—Yerkish—after him). We
sum up this section, using Steve’s method, like so:

a) Vygotsky remarked that Yerkes attributes “ideation” to man by a
FUNCTIONAL ANALOGY between the apparently intelligent, imaginative
of apes (orangutans and chimpanzees) and similar behavior in man. Both
solve problems using simple tools and detours, ergo (reasons Yerkes)
can imagine solutions as workplans and carry them out. Vygotsky
this purely functional viewpoint, both because the analogy is coarse and because it is functionalist, but his method of criticism is to adopt it
then see where it leads.

b) This “ideation” is the NECESSARY AND SUFFICIENT criterion for
human-like speech, because the main purpose of speech is to imagine solutions to problems as workplans and carry them out. Again, Vygotsky
criticized this idea of a single genetic root for speech (and an
one at that) but his method of criticism is to adopt it and then see
it leads.

c) If, Vygotsky says, an ALTERNATIVE explanation for the apparently intelligent and imaginative behavior of the ape can be found, that is,
explanation which does NOT involve mental representations, then the
put forward by Yerkes will entirely lose its single foundation, which
that ideation exists in the ape and ideation is necessary and sufficient
speech. If an alternative explanation for the apparently intelligent and imaginative behavior does not include ideation, then even if a) and b)
true (which is very doubtful) there may be no human like speech in apes.

d) Alas, this alternative explanation DOES exist: it is in Kohler’s observation that a good deal of the ape’s practical intelligence is a
immediate, verbal intelligence, and it only operates when the solution
the problem are both present in the visual field. It's pretty clear (at least to me) how this might apply to teaching children: we are dealing
two very different systems when we talk about perceptual meaning and
when we
talk about semantic meaning, and the link between the two must be first
formed outside the child and only later internalized.

Of course, the experimentum crucis remains to be done. The experimentum crucis is, as Vygotsky says, to teach the chimpanzee a form of speech
does not involve vocal imitation, but which does involve ideation.

Today, this experiment HAS been done, and the result turns out to be rather more interesting than even Vygotsky expected: chimpanzees DO
speech, including quite complex grammar (e.g. “Take the orange outside
give it an injection with a syringe and then place it in the potty.”)

But they do NOT do this in the wild, and they don’t even do it in
experiments dedicated to the direct teaching of language. They do it
they are raised in an “zone of proximal development” in proximity with

Now, of course, one way to look at this result (Savage- Rumbaugh) is to
that it refutes what Vygotsky has claimed about ideation in the ape.
Apes do
have ideation, and the experimentum crucis shows this.

But there is another way to consider Savage-Rumbaugh’s result.
main contention is not that the ape can never acquire speech under any conditions at all, and in fact he at several points suggests that this
indeed happen although it has not happened yet. Vygotsky’s MAIN
is that there is a distinction between cultural and natural lines of

The key result of the experimentum crucis, then, is this: human language is always and everywhere linked to human culture. But human culture is
necessarily confined to man.

David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

--- On Tue, 7/20/10, Bella Kotik-Friedgut <bella.kotik@gmail.com>

From: Bella Kotik-Friedgut <bella.kotik@gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [xmca] The Genetic Belly Button and the Functional Belly
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Date: Tuesday, July 20, 2010, 5:29 AM

Just to remind of the role of the RH in speech perception and production
(prosody) - so all our verbal communication is a result of
Bella Kotik
On Tue, Jul 20, 2010 at 12:32 AM, Joseph Gilbert <


Do we acknowledge that we are affected by the sounds of the human

voice? Do the sounds of the phonemes cause reactions in our body-mind?
are, and if they do, then do our reactions to the sounds of our voice
our perceptions of the things to which we verbally refer? If so, what
nature of that effect?  What say ye?

              Joseph Gilbert

On Jul 19, 2010, at 2:23 PM, David Kellogg wrote:

We have a problem here in Korea. In order to teach children polite

language, which is what they need to communicate with adult strangers,
teachers tend to use the polite register in class. That is, instead of

T: What is this?

They tend to say things like:

T: Can you tell me what this is?

Now this is quite puzzling from a learner's point of view. First of
it seems otious, almost fatuous, in its complexity (which is, of
form of discourse complexity because it suggests a complex discourse sequence, where the questioner first ascertains whether the hearer can
answer and then attempts to find the answer).

Secondly, the intonation, which is often the learner's best clue as to
speaker's intention, is not the normal way in which we ask for
using a wh-question in English. Wh-questions normally come DOWN,
are asking for old informatoin ("What did you say this was?").

Thirdly, the word order seems wrong and if the learner attempts to
the sentence into usable bits, it will produce wrong question forms
this is?"). As we say in Korean, the belly button of genetic origins
overpowering the belly of functional use.

Carol remarked that chimps seem to be unable to deal with hypotaxis,
of course we can easily imagine that chimps might be puzzled in
way without drawing any conclusions about the language learning
the chimp as opposed to that of the (equally puzzled) Korean child.

But her remark raises the interesting question of WHY, in English, wh-questions are bi-functional in precisely this way: they serve on
hand to mark intra-mental relations by showing how discourse sequences
collapse into grammatical ones:

T: Is this hat red?
S: Yes, it is.
T: Is it yours?
S: Yes.
T: So the had that is red is yours?
S: Yes, the hat that is red is mine.

(This is the very sentence that Chomsky used as evidence that
dependency could not be learned!)

T: Can you tell me about this?
S: Yes.
T: What is it?
S: It's an apple.
T: So you can tell me what this is?

I think the answer to this question is easily found in Tomasello, who found it in Vygotsky. Every human function, including complex grammar, appears in the course of human development twice, the first time as
tragedy of complex discouse, and the second time as the comedy of

So, to let the cat out of the bag: hypotaxis is indeed more
than parataxis as a speech form, in much the same way that
more scientific than "six". But this is merely because as a thinking
form it
is reconstrues an IDENTICAL intellectual content in a more
internally complex, and system-related form.

David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

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Sincerely yours Bella Kotik-Friedgut
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