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[xmca] Discussion of T&S
That's a good approach. I'd also be happy to. Perhaps others will
Your overview nicely touches on many essential points in T&S.
On the "equation" question, you seem to be saying that you don't think
Vygotsky was drawing an identity or equation between word meaning and
the concept. I will ponder that a little. I think we should return
to that line of questioning - what did Vygotsky mean by the terms word
meaning, concept and generalization - and what did he mean by some of
his statements that suggest these three terms are "synonymous"?
I have another area of questions we might look at. First, a list, and
then a couple three questions about it.
This list derives from an important aspect of T&S that is both very
different from the "equation" question - but is also closely related
to it, because it involves Vygotsky's core methodological approach,
analysis into units. As has been discussed many times, LSV
alternatively refers to word meaning as a unit, a unity, and in the CW
Vol 1 translation (Minick), a "unit of analysis."
An interesting aside: Holbrook Mahn argues that the specific term
"unit of analysis" does not appear in the original Russian. The term
only appears twice in the Minick translation, as far as I can tell.
This term is used to refer to word meaning on p 47 and the sound in
linguistics on p 49.
Here are some examples I've found of units, unities and units of
analysis pertaining to word meaning that Vygotsky discusses in T&S:
Word meaning is:
a unit of verbal thinking p 47, 244
a unit (of thinking and social interaction mediated by a sign system)
a unit of thinking p 48
a unity of generalization and social interaction p 49
a unity of thinking and communication p 49
a unity of thinking and speech p 49, 244
a unity of word and thought p 244
a unit of analysis (of thinking and speech) p 47
Some other examples:
the word is:
a unit of sound and meaning p 46
the phoneme is:
the basic unit of speech p 49-50 (sound and meaning)
One question to ask: What is Vygotsky's distinction between the
meanings of the terms "unit" and "unity"?
A second question: In these various descriptions of the unity-pairs
that compose word meaning, was it Vygotsky's intention to suggest that
they are essentially synonymous, that is, are they referring to
essentially the same processes?
(Social interaction, communication, speech, word ... thought,
generalization, thinking ...)
A third question: This one relates to the discussion of the
"psychological aspects" of word meaning. In each of these unities,
there appears to be both a material and ideal aspect, or more roughly,
both an external and internal aspect, or put still another way, both a
social and a psychological aspect. Was this Vygotsky's intention?
On Apr 22, 2011, at 10:41 AM, Martin Packer wrote:
I'm happy to debate this further; the text is by no means
transparent, and what I am most concerned to do is arrive at a
coherent reading, putting to one side for the time being whether one
agrees or disagrees with the position we reconstruct as Vygotsky's.
Here's my thinking. In T&S LSV was exploring the relationship
between thinking and speaking, between thought and word. He points
out more than once that two phenomena cannot be said to have a
relationship if they are completely independent, nor if they are
identical. I infer from this that thought and word cannot be the
same thing, but nor are they completely different.
LSV was intent on providing an explanation of how a child comes to
be able to think individually, especially how they become able to
think conceptually. Evidently the explanation will have the general
form that the child is first able to do interpersonally what they
can later do intrapersonally. The word, as something interpersonal,
is an important part of the explanation. In particular, the inner
form of the word. But to *equate* the word, or word-meaning, with
the concept, to say that these two are identical, would be to short-
circuit both the explanation and the ontogenetic process.
To put it another way, the infant is surrounded by, living in, a
social world in which speech is ubiquitous. The sounds the infant
hears are words with 'inner form,' they have meaning - a phenomenon
that linguists can study. But for the infant they are not even
words. To recognize that the sounds are words, that the words are
distinct from the objects they seem to be associated with, that
these words involve a unity of sound and meaning, that the meaning
can be used to generalize, and that generalization can be conceptual
- all these are later developments.
This is why, IMHO, LSV wrote of word-meaning *from the psychological
aspect* as a concept. To use a word is unavoidably to generalize -
words refer to or signify or stand for a *class* of things, not a
particular thing. The young child using words is generalizing *for
others,* but not yet for self. The child is unconsciously using word-
meaning, but certainly is not using concepts. The adult, thinking
conceptually, is generalizing *for self,* and only when they
complete their thinking in words are they also generalizing for
On Apr 21, 2011, at 10:32 PM, Steve Gabosch wrote:
Martin, if I understand you, you are saying that according to
Vygotsky, word meaning, in its psychological sense, is not a
concept, and is not a generalization.
This isn't corresponding to my reading of T&S. You seem to be
making a distinction I am not seeing. Could you elaborate?
Btw, your reading of the quote from Vol 1 7.1 p 247 about Ach might
need revisiting. I think Vygotsky meant that if one believes, as
Ach did, that word meaning is fixed, then one cannot recognize
change and development in concept formation.
I don't believe Vygotsky was trying to say that it is a mistake to
identify word meaning ... in the sense of **Vygotsky's**
understanding of it, as changing and developing ... with the
concept. I think he was trying to say that it is a mistake to
identify word meaning ... in the sense of **Ach's** understanding
of it, as fixed and unchanging ... with the concept. See what you
Here are a couple more quotes from T&S that might be interesting to
"At any stage of its development, the concept is an **act of
generalization**. The most important finding of all research in
this field is that the concept -- represented psychologically as
word meaning -- develops." T&S, Vol 1, Ch 6.1, p 169-170 [emphasis
"Psychologically, the development of concepts and the development
of word meaning are one and the same process." Vol 1, T&S, Ch
6.1, p 180
On Apr 20, 2011, at 1:47 PM, Martin Packer wrote:
I don't know, I think LSV makes it pretty clear that word-meaning
is not the concept. He criticizes Ach, who:
"identifies concept and word meaning, and thus precludes any
possibility of change and development in concepts" (T&S chapter 6,
On Apr 21, 2011, at 9:31 AM, Martin Packer wrote:
On Apr 21, 2011, at 10:39 AM, Andy Blunden wrote:
Good ol' Lev is never that unambiguous is he, though? Consider
“This justifies the view that word meaning is an act of speech.
psychological terms, however, word meaning is nothing other than a
generalization, that is, a /concept/. In essence, generalization
word meaning are synonyms. Any generalization – any formation of
concept – is unquestionably a specific and true act of thought.
word meaning is also a phenomenon of thinking” (Vygotsky Volume
Andy, Let me offer this cleaner version of what you have found
(basically it's David K's 'triangulated' translation). From the
start of chapter 7. You highlight the word "concept." But notice
that the meaning of a word is a generalization *from the
psychological side.* Words are used, in acts of speech and in acts
of thought. When a word is used in an act of thought, it is to
generalize. But that doesn't mean that word meaning in itself is
an act of thought, or that word meaning itself is a concept.
"We found this unit, showing in simplest form a unity of thought
and speech, within the meaning of the word [значении
слова]. The meaning of the word, as we attempted to clarify
above, represents a further indecomposable unity of the two
processes, beyond which we can not say that it represents the
phenomenon of speech or the phenomenon of thinking. A word devoid
of meaning is not a word, it is an empty sound, hence meaning is a
required, constitutive feature of the word. It is the word itself,
viewed from the inside. Thus, we seem sufficiently entitled to
study it as a phenomenon of speech. But the meaning of the word
from the psychological side, as we have been repeatedly convinced
in this entire study, is nothing but a generalization, or concept.
Generalization [Обобщение] and meaning of the word are
synonymous. Any generalization, any formation of a concept
[образование понятия], is the most specific,
authentic, most obvious act of thought. Therefore, we have the
right to think of the meaning of the word as a phenomenon of
"The meaning of the word is both a spoken and an intellectual
phenomenon, and this does not mean a purely external participation
in two different mental lives. The meaning of the word is a
phenomenon of thought only in so far as the thought relates to the
word and is embodied in the word, and vice versa: it is a
phenomenon of speech only insofar as it relates to thought and is
illuminated by its light. It is a phenomenon of verbal thought, or
of meaningful words; it is the unity of speech and thought."
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