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Subject: RE: [xmca] concepts for LSV and us
Date: Thu, 28 Apr 2011 17:29:53 +0200
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Dear Jay, Martin and Anna and others

I would like to thank you so very much for this very interesting debate =
that has served to be very useful for my work at the moment.

My kindest regards

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] =
On Behalf Of Jay Lemke
Sent: mercredi 27 avril 2011 08:59
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] concepts for LSV and us

Martin and all,

I too have been puzzling over various things LSV says about what his =
translators call word-meaning. I think my view is pretty close to =
Martin's (below), but maybe not exactly the same, and my Russian is too =
moribund to help me. I may engage Mike in some conversation about a few =
key points when he gets back to San Diego and the lab.

I am also very sympathetic to Anna's position on many points. So I don't =
see quite the polarization of views that some others do.

I think it is a problem that the translators have not figured out nearly =
as well as we've been trying to do, just what LSV meant in some key =
passages, and as a result the translations may be more misleading than =
any translation inevitably is.

Znachenie slov, for instance, sure doesn't strike me as "word-meaning". =
Shouldn't it be something more like "a word as a meaningful sign"? But =
beyond that, it's a unit in "inner speech", which I take to be =
"inner-directed speech" or "self-directed speech" and it is also =
sometimes called the "inward-facing meaning of the word". Functionally, =
in the larger picture LSV seems to be painting, SOMETHING is a unity or =
fusion of what makes for speech (outer-directed, other-directed, =
communicative word-meanings-in-use) and what makes for thought/thinking =
(inner-directed, self-directed, =

That SOMETHING I take to be what LSV means (at least some of the time) =
by "concept". If so, it is not much like what almost anybody else means =
by "concept" and certainly not like what mainstream psychology and a lot =
of philosophy has meant by it. It is, however, in my opinion, a far =
better notion for most purposes than the standard view/usage. And as  in =
this view a "concept" is a unity between two aspects, BOTH of which are =
realized and can exist ONLY in and through linguistic-word meaning, =
there is no room for a separate, idealist realm of mental realia, at =
least not at the level of conceptual thinking.

I would also note that apparently Anna is also using concept in =
something pretty close to what I take LSV's meaning for it to be, though =
I'm not totally clear from what she's said so far that she, like LSV, =
emphasizes the dynamic struggle-and-juggle between the inward-facing and =
outward-facing aspects of the unity. But I would think she probably =
does, because her context of action and research is how kids learn math =
"concepts" in processes of communication. Indeed her coinage =
"commognition" (which unfortunately I think has little chance of =
catching on) tries to speak a fusion of communication (outer-directed =
word/sign-mediated meaning-making) and cognition (inner-directed =
word/sign-mediated meaning-making).

If all this makes sense, it still leaves open the major question of just =
what's going on within/between these two aspects of meaning-making. =
Socially-historically, I'd agree with Martin's formulation, not really =
very different from Halliday's or many functional linguists who look at =
language change, that (official pronouncements in dictionaries, etc. =
aside) usage patterns from events and text accumulate over relatively =
long timescales to produce changes in the typical meanings in different =
contexts that people learning to use a word use it to make. It's already =
clear from how I said that that that process is just the long-timescale, =
community-level aspect of what's going on developmentally in learning a =
language (first language in particular), minus the details of what's =
happening in interaction-communication and its effects on individuals' =
usage. What is a lot less clear is just those details, which I think LSV =
was trying to describe, or at least pointing us toward what needs to be =
better studied and described: what is the relationship between =
inner-speech and outer-speech, over time, not just in initial child =
development (where LSV focuses on the key threshhold of fusion of =
inner/thinking and outer/speech) but for the rest of the lifespan as =

What needs to be described when we move beyond meanings made =
word-by-word to meanings made with complex, extended texts/arguments? =
Again, between the outward-facing aspect and the inward one? What =
happens when we add to what was known in LSV's time what has been =
learned since about the structure of informal conversational language, =
which in many ways looks a lot more like "inner speech" than it does =
like any analysis of communicative speech/writing known in LSV's time, =
particularly for adults?

And what of what LSV calls at the end of T&S "the final Why?" about the =
meanings we actually make: their rootedness in desires, motivations, and =


PS. While there are a LOT more issues in our conversation, I just want =
to say that IF LSV meant that conceptual thinking happens ONLY through =
verbal signs, then I would disagree insofar as I believe it happens =
through more complex multi-modal sign resources, including not only =
language, but also visual signs, motor actions functioning as signs, =
emotional feelings functioning as signs, and pretty much anything =
functioning as a sign insofar as it can be "imagined", i.e. function in =
inner-directed meaning-making. (For outer-directed meaning-making actual =
physical objects / artifacts can also play a part in the total mix.)

Jay Lemke
Senior Research Scientist
Laboratory for Comparative Human Cognition
University of California - San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, California 92093-0506

Professor (Adjunct status 2009-11)
School of Education
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Professor Emeritus
City University of New York

On Apr 26, 2011, at 4:11 PM, Martin Packer wrote:

> My last few messages were knocked sideway by Andy, in his new-found =
role of intellectual running back. So I'd like to try again to explain =
the way I'm reading Thinking & Speech these days.
> It's not news that LSV highlights word-meaning, the meaning of the =
word. But what are we to take this to be? It seems to me that during the =
book LSV draws a series of distinctions between word-meaning and what we =
might think that it is, but it is not...

> First, and easily, word-meaning is not the sound of the word. Some =
people reduce words to their mere sounds, but LSV won't let us do that.
> Second, word-meaning is not to be confused with the objective =
reference, the object referred to. This too is a common mistake that LSV =
wants us to avoid. LSV turns to Frege to draw this distinction. But his =
word-meaning is not the same as Frege's 'sense,' because the latter is =
supposed to be objective and unchanging (though how Frege considered the =
sense of the 'The victor at Jena' to be timeless I really don't know! =
What status did it have before 1806? There's actually a literature on =
this very issue.)
> For LSV word-meaning is not timeless. It changes over time; he didn't =
study philology for nothing! But it is, however, objective. (This is =
what blows Andy's socks off. Take a deep breath, my friend.)=20
> Yes, word-meaning is objective. Or if you prefer, intersubjective. I =
tried to explain briefly in a previous message that German romanticism =
was a rejection of the way the early Enlightenment had disenchanted the =
world by placing all value, meaning, truth and beauty in the individual =
mind. No!, exclaimed the angry Germans (Prussians?)! There is truth and =
meaning and beauty and value in the world! How? Because the world is =
mind, spirit, Geist. The whole darn cosmos. Each individual mind is just =
a budding off of the cosmic mind.
> And Marx, while drawing the line at such a wacky view of the cosmos, =
accepted the proposal that there is objective value in the world. A =
commodity has value (two types of it, no less) by virtue of its =
constitution in social practices, quite independently of whether anyone =
knows this or not. The dollar bill in my pocket has value not because I =
believe this, but because it moves in a complex network of =
social-economic practices. (That's why derivatives crashed despite the =
fact that everyone *thought* they had value; because objectively they =
did not.)
> (I think one can actually push this line of argument down into =
biological functioning. A toxic mushroom is just *bad* for me to eat, =
objectively bad, whether I know it is poisonous or not, by virtue of its =
relationship to my biological functioning. I thinks that's where =
pragmatism heads. But that's an additional wrinkle that we needn't get =
in to today.)
> In the same way as a commodity has objective value, LSV wants to =
convince us that language has objective meaning that is independent of =
individual consciousness. Let me give two examples. The infant who cries =
out "pancakes" simply by virtue of hearing the sounds repeatedly is =
taken by others to have said something meaningful, though it was =
certainly not what she intended. Or, sometimes when I'm teaching in =
Spanish I make an error of pronunciation or grammar, and say something I =
didn't intend. My students hear and understand it, and laugh into their =
sleeves, but I have no idea what I said.
> So, the meaning of a word is *not* only what we put into it. Language =
is a shared, social, objective system. The kind of 'word-meaning' that =
LSV is keen to introduce to us is *in* the language. It is inner, =
internal, inside 'the word' (where 'the word' can signify an individual =
word or extended discourse or...).
> But let's get back to LSV clarifying word-meaning by differentiating =
it from what we might confuse it with. T&S continues with two chapters =
devoted to demolishing two appealing theories of development: early =
Piaget's proposal that development is socialization (enculturation?), =
and Stern's proposal that development is simply a matter of putting new =
content into the symbolic (conceptual) form that a child develops as =
soon as they start to use words to name things, about 24 months. That =
all seems rather unrelated to word-meaning, except that LSV is =
developing his own proposals about inner speech, which is all about how =
'the word' gets "inside" an individual consciousness. And this will turn =
to be crucially important in the last chapter. (It's also interesting =
that LSV doesn't reject Stern's appeal to Brentano's "intentionality" as =
a characteristic of infant language. He reinterprets it as affective and =
volitional rather than intellectual. So our relationship to the world, =
which will with time become intellectual, is fundamentally emotional and =
grounded in practice. It turns out LSV was siding here with Wundt and =
against Husserl, but that too is another story.)=20
> And then (gulp) we get to the chapters in concept formation. I believe =
I can line up a selection of textual evidence to show that LSV is also =
drawing a distinction between word-meaning and concept, though evidently =
I haven't convinced too many people yet. (I may have convinced Andy that =
I am an idiot, but that's another matter.) For example, why is there a =
struggle to put our thoughts into words, if the concepts we think with =
are the same as the words we speak with? Why would thought be =
"completed," or even "incarnated," in words, if words and concepts are =
the same? Or, why does LSV propose that concepts are always part of a =
system of generalization in which each involves two components - an =
attitude to some portion of the world and a way of grasping that portion =
- all without mentioning word-meaning once? But there's no space to go =
into this in more detail here. More later, if anyone wants it.
> We have to make one additional distinction here, one that LSV is not =
too clear about. He wants word-meaning to be relatively stable, changing =
over historical periods of time, not from day to day. At the same time, =
word-meaning develops *for the child,* ontogenetically. =20
> And finally, in chapter 7, LSV builds on Paulhan to draw a distinction =
between word-meaning - relatively stable, again - and sense, which =
varies with context and even from moment to moment. In the movement =
inwards from word to thought there are two external planes in the word =
(sound and inner form), then the plane of inner speech (with its =
abbreviation and functional variation), then the plane of thought =
itself. On this plane, thinking has largely left words behind (but =
surely not concepts?), with the "volatization of speech," and it deals =
not with meaning but with sense. LSV emphasizes that sense can be =
disconnected from words, where word-meaning cannot.
> David K and I have been mulling over the final sentence of the book: =
"The meaningful word is a microcosm of human consciousness." Here, =
surprisingly and importantly, the term LSV uses for "meaningful word" is =
=D0=9E=D1=81=D0=BC=D1=8B=D1=81=D0=BB=D0=B5=D0=BD=D0=BD=D0=BE=D0=B5 =
=D1=81=D0=BB=D0=BE=D0=B2=D0=BE, whereas for the whole of the book =
word-meaning has been "=D0=B7=D0=BD=D0=B0=D1=87=D0=B5=D0=BD=D0=B8=D0=B9 =
=D1=81=D0=BB=D0=BE=D0=B2." =
(=D0=9E=D1=81=D0=BC=D1=8B=D1=81=D0=BB=D0=B5=D0=BD=D0=BD=D0=BE=D0=B5 only =
occurs five times in the entire book.) It really should be translated as =
"sensible word." Why? Because here LSV is writing *not* about the =
objective meaning of words, but about the personal, motivated, =
action-related sense a word has when someone speaks it. As thinking =
moves outward to speech, in the "materialization and objectification" of =
a thought, sense has to be "reconstituted" in words.  "The base units of =
thinking and those of speech do not coincide," so this requires a =
structural reorganization, a creative process that is not simply a =
matter of lining up ready-made units of meaning.=20
> And this explains, in fact, why word-meaning is indeed not fixed and =
unchanging, because each time someone speaks, the 'inner form' of the =
word is nudged a little in one direction or another, worked on and =
worked over, spiced with new connotations. Language is, of course, not =
completely independent of what people actually say and do. As our =
thoughts change, so our language will slowly change too.=20
> Touch down!  Cheerleaders go crazy!
> Martin
> __________________________________________
> _____
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