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Re: [xmca] activity and reification

Hi Anna,

I certainly think that historical change in word-meaning has been *related* to changes in the concepts that people develop. But I would not *equate* the two; they are not identical.

To pursue the economic analogy: I am sure that historical changes in the character of money - from barter to coins to credit to derivatives - has made it possible for people to develop new kinds of concept about money. But one does not automatically lead to the other, in my view (or in the reading of LSV that I'm trying to articulate), and certainly, I would argue, one does not *equal* the other. Language and language change can surely be validly described on a level that is quite distinct from that of cognition. (In fact, how many of actualy understand what derivatives are?!)

But then you go on to suggest that the lines of development of these two may not be identical, only that the mechanisms are the same, or similar. That is rather a different claim. And the very fact that two people can be "using the same words in different ways" points to a distinction between cognition and discourse, doesn't it? - though of course they are related. I wonder whether your notion of "commognition" does not elide some distinctions that LSV was correct to find important?

I completely agree with you, though, that one does not study only single words. When LSV uses the term "word" I take him to mean spoken language - that's to say, discourse. 

And that you for the example from Hebrew! I will add that to my notes.


On Apr 22, 2011, at 11:08 PM, anna sfard wrote:

> What is *historical change in word-meaning*, Martin, if not *development
> (historical) of a concept*? 
> For me, the two expressions are tantamount, and thus while describing
> etymology of manzana, you sounded to me as giving an account of the
> historical development of the word. And, of course, I agree with you that
> ontogenetic (in an individual)development of concepts does not have to
> follow the trajectory of its historical development. This doesn't mean that
> *mechanisms* that underlie these two types of development (e.g. saming,
> reification)are not the same, or at least similar. 
> Seems that we - you and I - are using the same words in different ways (I
> can see it all along). So, just to clarify, here are operational definitions
> (Jay, don't cringe! I'll explain what I mean by operational definition in my
> response to your posting)of our focal terms (concepts) as I use them:
> - concept = word and its uses in discourse
> - development of concept = a change, historical or ontogenetic, in the use
> of a word
> And I also believe, as explained in one of my former posts, that as a
> developmentalist, you cannot really follow a change in a single word (a
> development of a concept) - you need to look at the development of
> *discourse(s)* of which this word is a part. Which leads me to the next
> posting by Andy... (don't go anyway, more is coming!)
> anna
> PS. Just as an aside: To your story of manzana I could add the one of the
> Hebrew tapuah, which also originated in a kind of generic name for certain
> kind of fruit, to eventually differentiate into orange - tapuah zahav, apple
> - tapuah etz - and even potato - tapuah adama.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On
> Behalf Of Martin Packer
> Sent: Saturday, April 23, 2011 2:52 AM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: Re: [xmca] activity and reification
> Anna and Larry,
> I wasn't describing the development of a concept at all. The etymology of
> manzana was intended to be an example of the kind of historical change in
> word-meaning that LSV draws our attention to. None of my Spanish-speaking
> students is aware of this history, which illustrates his point that the
> inner form of the word can be lost or forgotten over time. Certainly it's
> not a part of these students' concept of [apple] - whatever that is!
> Martin 
> On Apr 22, 2011, at 4:05 PM, anna sfard wrote:
>> If I understood your question right, Larry, you are asking whether
>> development of concrete concepts, such as apple, as described by Martin,
> and
>> of more abstract concept, such as number, as described by me, have
> anything
>> in common. If this indeed is the question, I can only speak of my
>> impression, because I'm not sure whether I have a good grasp of Martin's
>> thinking. And the impression is: of course they do. There is reification
> of
>> processes involved in both of them. Except that the perceptual
> accessibility
>> of the apple, as opposed to that of number (which is a reification of
>> discursive rather than physical processes)makes a big difference in how
> the
>> concepts actually develop and, more specifically, in the role of physical
>> experience versus social interaction played in each of them. Hope this
>> answer matches your question, even if is not quite satisfactory.
>> anna  
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On
>> Behalf Of Larry Purss
>> Sent: Friday, April 22, 2011 5:42 PM
>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>> Subject: [xmca] activity and reification
>> Anna and Martin
>> Anna wrote
>> For kids, words do not partition the world in objects mainly, the way they
>> do for grownups. Not even nouns. For the little (and cute) ones, words
>> translate into routines - ways of doing things. One can see it with
>> particular clarity in math. To give just one basic example out of the
>> infinity of possibilities: Numbers begin their existence as procedures of
>> counting - something you can see when your repeated question "How many
>> cookies do I have here?" makes the child to repeat the counting rather
> than
>> prompting her to simply state the last word she has prfeviously uttered in
>> this process. It will take time till the reification/ objectification of
>> number words occurs. Just like "bottle" serves a baby as a trigger for the
>> routine of getting fed, so are the words such as "many", "more", etc. mere
>> prompts fos r counting. In this latter case, however, unlike in the
> former,
>> this procedure (counting) is a social game rather than anything that would
>> have any direct practical significance.
>> e difference is
>> Martin you described how thw terms "apple" and "pomme" [fruit of fruits]
> are
>> reifications of particular historical enactments which have lost their
>> historical grounding and must be re-discovered.
>> Anna or Martin
>> Do you see both what the child is developing as it turns an enactment into
> a
>> number and the adult developing the word pomme as equivalent processes of
>> enactments becoming reified?
>> Larry
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