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Re: [xmca] Word Meaning and Concept

Martin, before I devote another day to "cherry picking" for this one, can I try to clarify what I am gathering textual evidence for, please?

You say "It is very clear to me that LSV viewed word-meaning as objective." This is of course true, but it is equally true that Vygotsky regarded word meaning as something subjective; word meaning develops, it has an inner and an outer aspect. So, am I right that I need to gather quotes which evidence that Vygotsky distinguished between what Tony called the "potentiality" of a word, and its inner, or pshycological form?

Is that right?

Martin Packer wrote:

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.

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Tony Whitson
UD School of Education
NEWARK  DE  19716


"those who fail to reread
are obliged to read the same story everywhere"
                 -- Roland Barthes, S/Z (1970)
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*Andy Blunden*
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