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Re: [xmca] activity (was concepts)

On Apr 21, 2011, at 2:41 AM, anna sfard wrote:

> * I'd be interested in the source for your claim that "concept" was his 
> unit of analysis for development.
> He created a whole theory of concept development, from the syncretic stage, through complexes, to pseudoconcepts, to concepts. Since he saw word meaning as the unity of thought and speech, this was his way to investigate the development of human thinking.

Hi Anna,

I agree that it can seem that although in Chapter 1 LSV defines his unit of analysis as word-meaning, by chapters 5 and 6 he has shifted his attention and is busy analyzing concepts. But I think a close reading shows that in these chapters too the analysis is focused on word meaning.

It is important to see that the block task simulates “a living situation of problem solving” in so far as it focuses on the functional aspects of concept formation. LSV insists that a concept “is always found within a living, more or less complex thinking process and it always fulfills either a communicative, an interpretative or a comprehending function, or attempts to solve a problem.” The child has to solve the problem of how it is that apparently different blocks have an identical name. The words are initially “non-sense,” meaningless, and the child has to construct their meaning. The researcher has assigned them a specific objective reference which the child has to discover, by making judgments of identity or equality which are then confirmed or disconfirmed, on the basis of features of the blocks. The reference is not arbitrary, but the features that turn out to be relevant are not perceptually salient but are a conjunction of relational properties (BOTH tallER and wideER), and LSV traces the child’s developing ability to abstract and combine such features, to create what he calls a concept. When the child is able to easily apply the nonsense words to new objects, such as candles or glasses, it is evident that the words now have meaning. Word meaning is still the focus, and the methodological tool used in this experiment. 

LSV is critical of research on children’s understanding of words that simply asks them for a definition, and equally of research that simply looks at the objects the word applies to. The former studies only the words, while the latter studies only the objective material. But both are important, and so one needs  a method that studies the “true, real meaning which corresponds to the word in the process of its living relationship with the objective reality which it signifies.” The child places word and objective material in a complex dynamic relationship. A concept has a material basis, but language is necessary for its establishment.  

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