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Re: [xmca] Word Meaning and Concept


I don't disagree with any of what you have proposed in this message or the preceding ones. I think it's a very plausible account of sign use. And I think it is very helpful to introduce such an account. But there seem to me to be two threads here that are mingling, and it would be helpful to keep them distinct. I have been trying to figure out what 'word meaning' meant to Vygotsky. It seems to me we have to understand what he wrote (that it, achieve a coherent and consistent interpretation of his texts) before we can critique it. You and others, on the other hand, are proposing an account of meaning that you find convincing. Both of these are valuable enterprises, for sure. The confusion comes when a Peircean account of meaning, for instance, is attributed to Vygotsky. It is very clear to me that LSV viewed word-meaning as objective. I could turn out to be mistaken, of course. But if anyone here wants to offer a different interpretation of LSV's notion of word meaning, it needs to be based on textual evidence, not on plausibility. I have never said that I find LSV's treatment of word meaning to be plausible, because I've not yet fully figured it out! Perhaps we will eventually decide that his account of words and concepts doesn't make sense. But we shouldn't turn this process around and try to decide first what is a plausible account of concepts and words, and then attribute this to Vygotsky. I'm not saying that this is what you are doing, Tony. But somewhere in the gaps between messages this seems to me to be what has been happening.


On Jun 15, 2011, at 10:52 AM, Tony Whitson wrote:

> Put most briefly, for anybody who is interested:
> Signs potentiate interpretation. That is what signs do. That's what semiosis (the activity of signs) is. This is the _semiosic_ activity of triadic sign relations. The meaning of a word consists of the interpretation that the word (qua sign) potentiates.
> Weights resist the muscular activity of lifting. This is dynamic physical action (not tradic semiosic activity). In this capacity, the weight is just a thing, and not a sign.
> Of course weights, beyond just in their dynamic resistance, can also participate in sign activity (as apparently they did in Congressman Weiner's weight-lifting in the Gongressional gym).
> On Wed, 15 Jun 2011, Huw Lloyd wrote:
>> On 15 June 2011 14:53, Tony Whitson <twhitson@udel.edu> wrote:
>>> The OED reflects the existing usage of words.
>>> Semiotics explores and attempts to account for the nature of signs and sign
>>> activity, including the nature of the meaning that signs do, and how signs
>>> do their meaning.
>>> Semiotics is not about deference to common usage, any more than is CHAT.
>> Which is why distinct terms are used.
>> If by "The meaning of a word is something the word does", you mean the
>> active system of mental representations in which the word meaning (a set of
>> relations) inheres and participates with other word meaning in particular
>> contexts, then we need to dig into this system to identify which aspects
>> relate to the defined word, and which relate to the system in which it
>> participates.  Care must be taken not to confuse the defined thing with the
>> system it participates in.  Words (like the weights of weight lifter) don't
>> (on their own) do anything, the system they participate in does the doing.
>> This is simply my opinion.  It's fairly self-evident to me, and it's not
>> something I'm deeply interested in pursing, relative to other interests.
>> So, hopefully, I've answered the question put to me, and can let you get on
>> with your ruminations.
>> Huw
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> Tony Whitson
> UD School of Education
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> twhitson@udel.edu
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