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Re: [xmca] Word Meaning and Concept


I've been listening in on this conversation from the sidelines, and I have a perspective on the role of inner speech in conversation that might be of use to you.

Perhaps what's missing here is a distinction between *developed* speaking and listening in the mature adult, and the *development* of speaking and listening in the immature child.

In conversation between adults, both the movement from external to internal (i.e., listening) and the reverse movement from internal to external (i.e., speaking) involve the use of inner speech. In the case of listening, inner speech is needed to analyze and interpret the speech of others; in the case of speaking, inner speech is needed to plan one's utterances and adapt them to particular audiences. To be a competent speaker implies also being a competent listener insofar as speakers take the perspective of their listeners into account when they formulate utterances.

But young children, who have yet to master the many pragmatic rules that competent speakers must master, first must construct the verbal tool of inner speech to help them analyze and plan speech. It begins as private speech, and its initial functions are to give voice to *existing* thought. That is, young children use this tool to put their thoughts into words. Then gradually, children re-shape their private speech into a tool for consciously regulating their activity and *directing* their thought. That is, children learn to use speech to *create* new thoughts out of words--you might say that they put words into thoughts. Paradoxically, when children first use private speech, they voice the listener role (i.e., they predicate), but as they transform private speech into a tool for self-regulation, they then use it to voice the speaker role (i.e., they topicalize).    

What I am suggesting is that inner speech is available to competent adult speakers as a tool for both listening and speaking, whereas for young children, inner speech initially develops only as a means for thinking (listening); only later does it also become a tool for speaking.

My two cents--for what they're worth.


From:        David Kellogg <vaughndogblack@yahoo.com>
To:        Culture ActivityeXtended Mind <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Date:        06/14/2011 12:18 AM
Subject:        Re: [xmca] Word Meaning and Concept
Sent by:        xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu

I want to try to use your distinction between time-bearing utterances and timeless thoughts to clear up a problem I have with Chapter Seven of Thinking and Speech.
Your nudge explains almost perfectly why Volosinov says that "theme" (that is, sense) is an aspect of an utterance, but "meaning" (that is, signification) belongs only to individual words. "Dog" has meaning, but not theme. "Look! There's a dog! (and it's about to bite you!" has theme, but not (taken as a whole utterance) meaning.
Now, I know from Chapter Seven that inner speech is mostly theme/sense. That explains why it is reduced to predication (just like the external speech utterance "Look!"). But...Is INNER SPEECH a definite stage in the transition from thinking to speaking, or is it really ONLY a distinct moment in the transition from listening (to another person speaking) to understanding?
On the one hand, Vygotsky says, at the very end of Section Two:"Thinking printes the mark of a logical accent (that is, utterance stress--DK) on one of the words of a sentence, putting in relief in this way the psychological predicate, without which the whole sentence is incomprehensible. Speaking, therefore, implies a passage from the internal plane to the external plane, and understanding supposes the inverse movement, from the external plane of speech to the inner one."
On the other hand, Vygotsky says this, in the tenth paragraph of Section Three:
"External speech is a process of transforming thinking into words, of its materialization, its objectiization. Inner speech is a process in the opposite direction, which goes from the exterior to the interior, a process of volatilization of speech into thinking. And it is from this that we get everything which distinguishes it from the structure of external speech."
THAT makes it sound like inner speech is part of comprehension and not part of production! But that cannot be right.

David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

--- On Mon, 6/13/11, Huw Lloyd <huw.softdesigns@gmail.com> wrote:

From: Huw Lloyd <huw.softdesigns@gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Word Meaning and Concept
To: lchcmike@gmail.com, "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Date: Monday, June 13, 2011, 8:21 AM

On 13 June 2011 04:42, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:

> That is to compacted and complicated for me to be able to gloss to myself,
> David.
> I am struggling with the polysemy of both "meaning" and "concept" in this
> discussion to make sense of their relationship very well. Ditto sign and
> symbol, although Huw's
> note about signs and shadows nudged me along. I noted that Anton referred
> in
> a recent note to "tool and sign/symbol" and wondered what he meant, but was
> too preoccupied to ruminate.
> Here is a thought I had while ruminating. Might it be appropriate to say
> that meaning is a tool of human processes of concept formation ?
Yes, I think so.

Re nudges, you might like to consider that analog phenomena occurs in
parallel (all at once), whilst the non-analogical aspects of speech and text
are sequential.  In other words, speech is a serialized description of a

Words, word meanings, predicates and propositions serve the function of
(sequential, serialized) description.  Describing is a particular kind of
action, or activity.  Concepts are used to regulate (coordinate) action.

In this context, I think it would be useful to distinguish word meanings
from sentence meanings, such as the child's utterance of "Dog!", i.e.
"There's a dog!"


> mike
> PS- There was a fascinating segment on the American Evening TV Program, 60
> minutes, this evening.. A controversy about "The N word" , the banning of
> Huck Finn, and the success of a book which substitutes the word "slave" for
> the word "nigger." One proponent of the argument for using slave was
> teacher
> who is shown in class discussing "the n word", asking her class, "why do we
> say the N word instead of 'n-i-g-g-e-r' spelling it out?"
> Now THERE is an example of the power of the book!! At least I am not alone
> in my
> confusions about such matters.  :-))
> On Sat, Jun 11, 2011 at 8:17 PM, David Kellogg <vaughndogblack@yahoo.com
> >wrote:
> >  This is Evald Ilyenkov, "The Concept of the Ideal', in "The Ideal in
> Human
> > Activity", Pacifica, CA: MIA, p. 268:
> >
> > "The meaning of the term 'ideal' in Marx and Hegel is the same, but the
> > concepts, i.e. the ways of understanding the 'same' meaning are
> profoundly
> > different. After all the word 'concept' in dialectically interpreted
> logic
> > is a synonym for understanding the essence of the' matter, the essence of
> > phenomena which are only outlined by a given term; it is by no means a
> > synonym for 'the meaning of the term' which may be formally interpreted
> as
> > the sum total of 'attributes' of the phenomena to which the term is
> > applied."
> >
> > Ilyenkov then goes on to discuss Marx's cuckoo-like propensity "not to
> > change the historically formed 'meanings of terms'" but to propose very
> > different understandings thereof, and thus to change the very concept.
> >
> > Three questions:
> >
> > a)  In addition to the ONTOGENETIC argument against the equation of
> meaning
> > and concept (viz. that if meaning were already equivalent to concept then
> > meaning could not develop into a concept), can't we make a SOCIOGENETIC
> one?
> > Doesn’t this sociogenetic argument explain both the cultural adaptation
> of
> > concepts over time (e.g. “quantity” into “operator” in math, “grammar”
> into
> > “discourse” in linguistics) and the cuckoo like exaptation of other
> people’s
> > terms to express quite different concepts by Marx and by Vygotsky (e.g.
> > "egocentric", "pseudoconcept", etc.)?
> >
> > b) Viewed sociogenetically, isn't this distinction between conceptual
> > essence and word meaning the same as the distinction between
> signification
> > value and sense value? That is, from the point of view of Johnson's
> > dictionary (or the Kangxi dictionary, or the Port Royal grammar, or any
> > other state codification of meaning) the state-ratified meaning of words
> is
> > their essence and the other, vernacular uses are simply senses, folk
> values,
> > the range of phenomena to which hoi polloi apply the words?
> >
> > b) Isn't the OPPOSITE true when we look at the matter microgenetically?
> > That is, from the point of view of interpersonal meaning making, the
> essence
> > of the phenomenon to which I apply the term in the given instance is the
> > self-legitimated, auto-ratified, individually-approved sense value and
> the
> > signification value is simply the range of conventional meanings, the
> range
> > of conventional phenomena to which the word is applied and misapplied by
> > others?
> >
> > David Kellogg
> > Seoul National University of Education
> >
> >
> > __________________________________________
> > _____
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> > xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
> >
> >
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