There is a bookstore in Paris which played a much more
important role in
my education than the university I nominally attended (from
graduated). The name of the bookstore is Joseph Gilbert.
This entirely defines the way I mentally pronounce your name:
pronounced the French way, stress on the last syllable, and the
rhymes with pear and ends in a Parisian growl; I can’t really
in any other way.
Now, this personal reaction is probably wrong, and more
probably on this list entirely idiosyncratic; it is part of
than “meaning”, of “sense” rather than “signification”, and
than “znachenie”. It is easy to trivialize it, and in fact
that when he remarks, in the paper “Qu’est-ce que la
mots?” which so influenced Vygotsky, that he has a friend whose
him of scrambled eggs, but this cannot be said to be the
What I want to argue is that acts of thinking, including the
concepts to children, are precisely idiosyncratic in this
“thinking” part of word meaning, the generalizing part, the
part, is precisely theme, not meaning, sense rather than
smysl rather than znachenie.
My professor (because after I dropped out of university my
taken in hand by people like Henry Widdowson and not simply
Joseph Gilbert) would say it is pragmatic and not semantic
of meanng that must be endless compared with the world and
renegotiated, and not the part you look up in dictionaries and
And it is from billions of such pragmatic acts that semantic
arises and is codified sometime in the eighteenth century: not
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
the case that kids are somehow “more concrete” or “more
adults. If anything, kids tend to be MORE abstract, because
vocabularies (e.g. the verb “like”) and this constantly pushes
metonymy, metaphor, and polysemy. However, they are more
and remember what I called (in an off-list letter to Carol) the
aspects of communication, including the idiosyncratic elements of
pronunciation, facial expression, gesture, and contextual
this, with respect to the context-embeddedness of chimpanzees,
and Chapter Four of Thinking and Speech.
The second point is that the way in which sense is going to be
physically, sensually stored in the brain (as opposed to the
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
in which information is stored on a hard drive in a computer
the defragmenter than the models we’ve been working with, which
that the brain is something like a suitcase or a large company:
in last out, or first in first out. I think I might go even
Professor Kotik-Friedgut (though of course I lack her cred on
even sure that the right hemisphere is always implicated in all
In the first section of Chapter Four in Thinking and Speech,
responding the work of Yerkes. Yerkes was a very nasty piece of
involved in research which led to the Army learning proficiency
determined the recruits who were most suitable for clearing
racial IQ, and so on, and so it is with some unease we look at
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
thereafter—von Glasersfeld and Savage-Rumbaugh, who eventually
particular nut, named their first chimp language—Yerkish—after
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
solve problems using simple tools and detours, ergo (reasons
can imagine solutions as workplans and carry them out. Vygotsky
this purely functional viewpoint, both because the analogy is
because it is functionalist, but his method of criticism is to
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
solutions to problems as workplans and carry them out. Again,
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
c) If, Vygotsky says, an ALTERNATIVE explanation for the
intelligent and imaginative behavior of the ape can be found,
explanation which does NOT involve mental representations, then
put forward by Yerkes will entirely lose its single foundation,
that ideation exists in the ape and ideation is necessary and
speech. If an alternative explanation for the apparently
imaginative behavior does not include ideation, then even if a)
true (which is very doubtful) there may be no human like speech
d) Alas, this alternative explanation DOES exist: it is in
observation that a good deal of the ape’s practical
intelligence is a
immediate, verbal intelligence, and it only operates when the
the problem are both present in the visual field. It's pretty
least to me) how this might apply to teaching children: we are
two very different systems when we talk about perceptual
talk about semantic meaning, and the link between the two must
formed outside the child and only later internalized.
Of course, the experimentum crucis remains to be done. The
crucis is, as Vygotsky says, to teach the chimpanzee a form of
does not involve vocal imitation, but which does involve ideation.
Today, this experiment HAS been done, and the result turns out
rather more interesting than even Vygotsky expected:
speech, including quite complex grammar (e.g. “Take the orange
give it an injection with a syringe and then place it in the
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
they are raised in an “zone of proximal development” in
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
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
conditions at all, and in fact he at several points suggests
indeed happen although it has not happened yet. Vygotsky’s MAIN
is that there is a distinction between cultural and natural
The key result of the experimentum crucis, then, is this: human
is always and everywhere linked to human culture. But human
necessarily confined to man.
Seoul National University of Education
--- On Tue, 7/20/10, Bella Kotik-Friedgut <firstname.lastname@example.org>
From: Bella Kotik-Friedgut <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: [xmca] The Genetic Belly Button and the Functional
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Tuesday, July 20, 2010, 5:29 AM
Just to remind of the role of the RH in speech perception and
(prosody) - so all our verbal communication is a result of
On Tue, Jul 20, 2010 at 12:32 AM, Joseph Gilbert <
Do we acknowledge that we are affected by the sounds of
voice? Do the sounds of the phonemes cause reactions in our
are, and if they do, then do our reactions to the sounds of
our perceptions of the things to which we verbally refer? If
nature of that effect? What say ye?
On Jul 19, 2010, at 2:23 PM, David Kellogg wrote:
We have a problem here in Korea. In order to teach children
language, which is what they need to communicate with adult
teachers tend to use the polite register in class. That is,
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.
it seems otious, almost fatuous, in its complexity (which is, of
form of discourse complexity because it suggests a complex
sequence, where the questioner first ascertains whether the
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
the sentence into usable bits, it will produce wrong question
this is?"). As we say in Korean, the belly button of genetic
overpowering the belly of functional use.
Carol remarked that chimps seem to be unable to deal with
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
But her remark raises the interesting question of WHY, in
wh-questions are bi-functional in precisely this way: they
hand to mark intra-mental relations by showing how discourse
collapse into grammatical ones:
T: Is this hat red?
S: Yes, it is.
T: Is it yours?
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?
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
found it in Vygotsky. Every human function, including complex
appears in the course of human development twice, the first
tragedy of complex discouse, and the second time as the
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
is reconstrues an IDENTICAL intellectual content in a more
internally complex, and system-related form.
Seoul National University of Education
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Sincerely yours Bella Kotik-Friedgut
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