[[ Download Prime ]] Мышление и речьAuthor Lev S. Vygotsky – Memovende.co

What an amazing read! Every page, every paragraph, every sentence is thought provoking. I read the whole, 246 pages of the online PDF version, called 'Thinking and Speech'. It's free. :) I could tell you that I am done reading this, but as an education student, I will never be done reading this. This is a foundational text, and deserves to be so. Vygotsky is to Piaget as Wittgenstein is to St. Augustine.

Puzzle over that one, why don't you?

What is taken for granted in any system of thought is often the thing most in need of explanation. Piaget talked about the development of language, but took for granted many of the substructures that set the stage for language learning. Vygotsky effectively said of Piaget's work, "Yes, of course that's what children do... but how are they doing it?"

St. Augustine, meanwhile, espoused a view of language that was (and is) emblematic of what Ludwig Wittgenstein would centuries later call, "the picture that holds us captive." St. Augustine talked about language as being a simple case of reference and referent: the word "chair" points to the thing "chair." But this view of languagelike Piaget's view of childhood language learningmisses the point that a huge rulefollowing substructure is necessary. And that substructure represents everything that's really difficult, and really exciting, in the endeavor to understand how we actually use words.

And now you are all enlightened. Thank you, thank you. Please, you're too kind. This was one of the first books I read about linguistics. Little did I know when I first started reading it, Thought and Language, was to start a lifelong passion for the subject. When I was teaching young children, every day was a chance to be in a linguistics lab This book is a wonderful way for anyone to start learning about theories of linguistics. I came back to this after attempting it over a decade earlier, and though it's still a bit of a challenge it's well worth it. Vygotsky's perspective is truly distinct, even in his era and area (the Soviet Union in the 20's and 30's) and the approach he developed clearly demonstrates the influence of a particularly Soviet socialist approach to psychology: such perceptive observations on the fundamental role of others in shaping supposedly individual actions in thought and speech could only have come from a society undergoing a revolutionary upheaval, in my view.

This is a really fascinating work that synthesises not just social, political and psychological themes without weakening any component, but also uses artistic and literary themes to give his psychology direction, relevance and insight. In this work Vygotsky cites Tolstoy, Goethe and Stanislavsky as much as his own experimental research, drawing on the work done in the arts to understand human behaviour as much as the work done in science. It shows a real humility and willingness to employ every angle to investigate an issue, and a surrendering of the scientific monopoly on access to the truth. This is a viewpoint you don't really get today in psychology, and it makes the work all the more interesting and valuable.

That said it's a tough nut to crack. Part of what makes it so is Vygotsky's writing, which is allusive and makes its meaning clear on the scale of pages and chapters, rather than sentences and paragraphs. You'll be having to chew on it a lot before you can digest it, so it benefits from being read in large quantities. The author was very seriously interested in the psychological capacity to abstract from current circumstances with acts of thought and symbolism, and this is reflected in his discussions of thought and speaking which can themselves be abstract. This isn't to say Vygotsky doesn't reference his scientific work and experimentation, just that he isn't guided purely empirically. He has confidence in his theory and it makes a refreshing change from more modern western psychological writing.

The other issue making the work difficult is revealed in Yasnitsky's Revisionist Revolution in Vygotsky Studies. From a western perspective, Thought and Language is one of the most widelyread works of Vygotsky, but contributors to Yasnitsky's collection show not only that Vygotsky and his contemporaries felt their most important work was in other texts, but that Thought and Language itself is made of several different texts, lectures and articles stitched together across a profound crisis in Vygotsky's thinking and published after he died. The book isn't obviously incoherent but I think it contributes to the abstrusity, and encourages psychologists to take what they can find from the book, rather than the complex whole he was attempting to develop. Dense. Hard to read. But, the theory behind it seems good. I'll definitely have to reread after I learn more about psychology. While Vygotsky’s thoughts about language and thought are incredible contributions to the fields of psychology and education, it feels like he glories in the disproving of other theorists, particularly Piaget. It seems that Vygotsky took nearly 300 pages to say what might have been expressed in around 100. This is up there as one of those must read early childhood education books. I'm not going to get into it here other just say, do yourself a favour. It's not long and bulky, it's short and sharp. If you take early childhood education seriously, you should read this book. At a conference I attended recently someone asked a rhetorical question – where is the next education theory that will replace Dewey or Vygotsky? I wonder how many people outside of education know that these two utterly dominate education theory? And, amusingly enough, the person most people know about as a child and educational psychologist, Piaget, didn’t even rate a mention…

Thought and Language is regarded as Vygotsky’s most important work, and with good reason. This really is a fascinating book. What is probably his bestknown idea – that of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) – is developed here. But this comes in the middle of a fascinating argument and, now that I’ve read this book, I find pulling the ZPD out of this makes it seem a little out of place. The other ideas around the ZPD seem equally important and I wonder why these are never really stressed. Vygotsky spends a lot of time in this book discussing Piaget and other theorists from the start of the 20th century. To be honest, you could probably get away with just reading the last chapter of this book called Thought and Word – as he begins this chapter with a thumbnail rehearsal of the rest of the book. This book, in the main, is available here http://www.marxists.org/archive/vygot....

What is the relationship between thinking and speaking? To what extent can we think outside of language? It is pretty clear, of course, that we can think outside of language – if you doubt this perhaps you haven’t listened to Mozart lately or looked at a painting by Turner or even used an iPhone. However, Vygotsky claims that there is a clear relationship between thought and language and that language is practical thought. But language is interesting in many, many ways. Firstly, he is not talking just about words – as if words were somehow fixed in stone. What he is interested in is word meanings – and for Vygotsky word meaning change as we grow from children into adults.

For the child word meanings tend to be what Vygotsky called ‘complexes’. To adults word meanings tend to be much more generalisations than mere complexes – that is, they tend to be associated with concepts. Now, we can’t really go on without getting a better idea of the difference between complexes and concepts. And the problem here is that these are remarkably similar things, and they operate in very similar ways, but their differences is the key insight from which Vygotsky builds the rest of his system. Take the word ‘brother’. A child has a remarkable amount of lived experience of a word like that. The child either has a brother or knows other children who have brothers. But the richness of this lived experience is what Vygotsky refers to as a complex. Why? Well, the child’s understanding of what ‘brother’ means is entirely tied up in their practical experience of that word. They don’t actually get the concept behind this word. And how do we know that? Well, by how easy it is to confuse the child when asking them questions about brothers. You know, ask a young enough child about the ‘brother of someone’s brother’ and they will be quite baffled. Because adults have the concept – a brother is a person’s male sibling – that is, because we have the word meaning that is generalizable into a concept – talk of a brother’s brother presents us with no problem at all. But for a child who is dealing in the mess of practicalities, such a concept is utterly beyond them. A brother’s brother is a concept with very little practical reality. I mean, a brother’s brother is also a brother, and such a phrase only makes sense at a level of abstraction that is simply unnecessary to most children. The point is that you have to get the concept – based on the essential relationship that makes a brother a brother – for a related concept like ‘brother’s brother’ to make sense.

There is a lovely experiment in this where they taught young children foreign words for various items of furniture – table, chair, cabinet and so on– and the children had no real difficulty in learning these words. However, when they tried to teach the young children the foreign word for furniture itself – that is, an abstract word which generalises these various items – the children had much more trouble in learning this word. His point was that the word, as a sound, should have been no harder to learn – but because the concept was beyond the children they simply could not learn that sound. They had hooks they could use to learn the words for chair or cabinet, but no hooks to learn ‘furniture’.

His point is that all words are generalisations and therefore are related to concepts. However, children learn – and become adults – by moving their thinking from complexes to concepts. But because these two things are remarkably similar – when you speak of a brother and your child speaks of a brother, you are, superficially at least, speaking about the same thing – this similarity hides the profound difference in what you are both actually talking about. Essentially, Vygotsky is saying that word meanings develop and change through the lifehistory of the child and that this development is linked to the child’s ability to think in increasingly more general ways about the world in which they live.

So, there is development and there is instruction. For Vygotsky development is not automatic. Instruction plays an essential role here. In fact, Vygotsky goes so far as to say that instruction leads development. This is an essential point and the key to understanding Vygotsky – this is also where his Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) comes in. So, you’ve got two 8 year olds and you give them an IQ test and they come out with an IQ of 100 – that is, they are perfectly average 8 year olds. But now you go further and you give them some maths problems to solve that are clearly above their ability to solve on their own. But instead of leaving them to flounder on their own you offer them some little hints and some help about how they could go about solving those questions. One of these kids, you find, with a little assistance, is able to solve problems that an average 12 year old is able to solve. The other is only able to solve, with assistance, problems an average 10 year old is able to solve. Remember, we tested their IQ before and they both got the same score. But an IQ test is done without any assistance – this tests the knowledge that is completely developed in the child. This other test Vygotsky is proposing – one where students are given a bit of assistance to see what they can perform – shows not what students have already developed, but what they are now on the cusp of being able to learn. There is no question that although the two students have currently fully developed knowledge at an equal level, the child that is able to solve problems four years above their current age with assistance is in a much better place than the other kid who can only solve problems two years above their current age.

Vygotsky points out that we tend to think that imitation isn’t really learning – but his point is that we seek to imitate that which we can’t quite do right now by ourselves, but that we are now ‘ready’ to learn. And what does this mean for teaching? Well, there isn’t much point teaching kids what they already know. And there isn’t much point teaching them stuff that is so far beyond them that they can’t do it even with all the assistance in the world. But what they can do with assistance today, what is in there Zone of Proximal Development, they can do without assistance tomorrow – this is what learning means – and structuring their learning so that instruction is always that one or two steps beyond where they are currently at is what learning means. That is, instruction leads development.

Language is central here. What is most interesting is the relationship of the child’s language to learning. Vygotsky found that what Piaget had referred to as egocentric speech was quite literally children ‘thinking aloud’. He found that children would talk to themselves as they tried to solve problems and that they were more likely to do this selftalk the harder they found the problem. Apparently, this selftalk goes away as we get older (more proof I never properly grew up, it seems). Or rather, it changes and becomes internal. What is really interesting here is that our selftalk changes in very predictable and standard ways.

Firstly, we tend to drop the subjects of our sentences. If we are trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle, say, we are very unlikely to say something like, “I wonder where this piece of the jigsaw puzzle is most likely to go?” Rather, we are probably likely to think, “here or, what, maybe there?” We keep the predicates, but drop subjects because we know what we are talking about, it’s their properties that have become important. Interestingly, this selftalk is following the opposite process to that of our speech for others. That speech becomes increasingly clear as we grow older – whereas our selftalk becomes more and more individual and abstract, so much so that if it was possible to somehow literally record our thoughts no one else would probably be able to understand them. This is because our thoughts are ‘whole’. He has the wonderful metaphor of our conceptual thoughts being like a cloud and our words being like the rain that falls from the cloud. Lots of words, but in our minds the cloud is grasped as a single whole.

What is blindingly interesting, though, is his distinction between ‘scientific’ concepts and pseudoconcepts. Pseudoconcepts are those that are based on complexes – they look like concepts, but aren’t really. If you give kids objects to group they often get distracted. They might start grouping things with straight lines, so they will separate out the circles from the squares and triangles, but suddenly they might become interested in yellow things and so some circles will end up being grouped with their squares and then the blue triangles will get left out. Objects have a vast array of different properties and only a fully formed concept can assist us in grouping things like with like. Pseudoconcepts make sense of the world by our experience with certain words in the rough and tumble of life. But, as we have seen, this may not be a consistent way of categorising the world as it isn’t really based on a consistent organising concept.

However, children often do better with understanding scientific concepts. Vygotsky was living in the Soviet Union – so his definition of a scientific concept relates to exploiting capitalists and exploited workers and peasants – but we can update this to neoliberal concepts of free citizens given incentive through choice if that makes you feel more confortable.

Vygotsky’s point is that kids tend to be able to finish sentences about ‘scientific’ concepts much more ‘reasonably’ than they are able to do with pseudoconcepts. To explain that – Let’s say you try to get a child to finish this sentence: ‘The boy that fell off his bike broke his arm because…’ The child is likely to finish that sentence by saying something that would be part of their rich experience, but not actually related to the causal relationship ‘because’ is asking for. That is, the child is likely to finish the sentence by saying something like, ‘because he went to the hospital’. But if you said to the child, “Capitalists are rich, because…” they are likely to respond, “because they live off the sweat and blood of the exploited working classes”.

Vygotsky makes it clear that kids don’t really have a very strong idea of what this ‘scientific’ concept actually means – but that isn’t the point. The point is that they understand the causal relationship for this scientific concept in a way they really struggle to understand the causal relationship in the pseudoconcepts, even though they have much more ‘experience’ with these pseudo ones. In fact, it is the richness of their life experience that gets in the way of their being able to abstract out the causal relationships in their pseudoconcepts. So, scientific concepts, which they learn through instruction, give them a model they can then use to structure their pseudoconcepts and thereby move these towards being real concepts. But look. What they have lots of experience with needs to move from the concrete to the abstract. To understand what ‘furniture’ is a child first comes into contact with lots of bookcases and beds and chairs and desks – lots of concrete things – and only then are they able to move to the abstract idea of ‘furniture’. But with scientific concepts they move in the opposite direction. They have a vague idea of the abstract concept, but with virtually no concrete understanding and a depth of understanding of the abstract concept requires a concrete elaboration of this vague concept.

Pseudo and scientific concepts both work to help the child develop real concepts – but in opposite directions.

The problem, as mentioned before, is that neither the child nor the adult is aware that there is a difference between the child’s pseudo concepts and the adults rich concepts – as, when they talk to each other, they seem to be referring to the same things. And, as the child grows they are generally unaware that their pseudo concept has been replaced by a rich one, as this is a developmental process, and it seems to ‘just happen’. Except, it doesn’t just happen, but rather happens under instruction. The point is that education is about developing concepts – but if we don’t realise there is a difference between pseudo, scientific and rich concepts and that these are related to a developmental continuum related to the child’s current level of educational development, we are unlikely to be able to help the child along that path.

I can’t recommend this book too highly. It is actually much more clear than this review, I think. It is actually a remarkably clear book and a stunningly interesting one too.
Since It Was Introduced To The Englishspeaking World In , Lev Vygotsky's Highly Original Exploration Of Human Mental Development Has Become Recognized As A Classic Foundational Work Of Cognitive Science Vygotsky Analyzes The Relationship Between Words And Consciousness, Arguing That Speech Is Social In Its Origins And That Only As Children Develop Does It Become Internalized Verbal Thought

Now Alex Kozulin Has Created A New Edition Of The Original MIT Press Translation By Eugenia Hanfmann And Gertrude Vakar That Restores The Work's Complete Text And Adds Materials That Will Help Readers Better Understand Vygotsky's Meaning And Intentions Kozulin Has Also Contributed An Introductory Essay That Offers New Insight Into The Author's Life, Intellectual Milieu, And Research Methods