Semiotic Development 2012:
In alphabetical order:
- Andrén, Mats
- Brinck, Ingar
- Cárdenas, Karina & Yuste, Noemí
- Dimitrova, Nevena
- Frank, Bodo (Cancelled)
- Lüdtke, Ulrike M. (Cancelled)
- Moreno, Ana & Sosa, Noelia
- Moro, Christiane (Keynote)
- Müller Mirza, Nathalie
- Nelson, Katherine (Keynote)
- Rodríguez, Cintia (Keynote)
- Sinha, Chris
- Sonesson, Göran
- Trevarthen, Colwyn (Keynote)
- Valsiner, Jaan (Keynote)
- van Dorsten, Theisje
- von Tetzchner, Stephen (Keynote)
- Zlatev, Jordan
Making Sense with Private Speech
A basic question in understanding the relation between thought and language in development was addressed by Piaget and Vygotsky: what is the relation of private speech to social speech and thinking in development? Recent work in developmental psychology has addressed some issues of private speech, typically in relation to executive function in the context of problem solving tasks. A reconsideration of recordings of private speech used by one 2-year-old alone prior to sleep suggests that private speech serves a number of other different functions in the developmental transition from social speech to semiotic cognition.
I propose that “making sense” is the primary purpose served by such speech. This comports with the idea of the “experiencing child” (Nelson, 2007) and with the important problems that the child faces in coming to terms with the semiotic world. These problems include: (a) the basic task of understanding what others are saying/meaning; (b) making sense of the adult’s view in addition to the child’s experiential view and keeping these sources separate in mind; (c) entering the cultural world of abstractions and narratives (the “Community of Minds”). Each of these problems is evident in Emily’s nighttime monologues (Narratives from the Crib, 1989), and examples will be presented and discussed.
In conclusion I propose that private speech by both children and adults may be viewed as a form of external representation, a major function of language and other semiotic systems that aid in the comprehension, construction and reconstruction of knowledge.
The semiotics of aided language development
Some children fail to develop speech due to motor impairments, and have to use graphic symbols on communication aids to express themselves. Young aided communicators typically hear and produce different language forms, and adults' child-directed language has a different form and their expansions tend to contain many linguistic elements that the children are unable to construct and produce. Reading and writing typically develop late, and sometimes remain limited. The children's small graphic vocabularies imply that they often have to rely on unusual and untaught ways of constructing meaning. The semiotics of their expressive communication appears to be a blend between the spoken language they hear, the representations of the graphic system they use, and the strategies they use to construct the expressions. Young aided communicators may show significant achievements, even when the language environment gives poor constructive support. This atypical form of language development may shed light on the children's language situation and on language and semiotics in general.
I will elaborate on sign-construction processes that escalate in real time. The phenomenological examples of such processes include instant impression formation of pleromatic kind (of landscapes, people, architectural or art objects—Valsiner, 2006) as well as panic attacks. As pleromatization feeds into schematization (and vice versa) it is the rapid semiosis that sets the stage for instant meaning generalization that captivates the whole subjective sense-sphere of the person. Signs with infinite borders (SWIB) make such generalization possible. Ontogenetically we may observe the roots of SWIB in rapid changes of activation state in infancy. The phenomenon of bursting out crying at unexpected situations could be the main exercise ground for establishment of rapid semiotic mechanisms. Microgenetically one can observe the phenomena of “fear of strangers” in the second half of the first year of life. The physiological bases for the emergence of SWIB can be found in the processes of generalization of associative reflexes (as known from the experimental work of the research tradition of Vladimir Bekhterev in the beginning of the 20th century). The emergence of SWIB can be explained through a synthetic look at C.S. Peirce’s “thirdness”.
Valsiner, J. (2006). The overwhelming world: Functions of pleromatization in creating diversity in cultural and natural constructions. Keynote lecture at International School of Semiotic and Structural Studies, Imatra, Finland, June, 12. « Click to download reference as PDF
From neonatal semiosis to protolanguage:
How innate imaginative impulses become shared meanings
How innate imaginative impulses become shared meanings
I will present evidence that human prospective motor control is adapted, from before birth, to generate and regulate thoughtful, self-sensing, propositional movements, sensitive for social use and the sharing and remembering of narratives. These, by age-related transformations in motive processes and emotional regulations of the infant, with intimate co-adaptations of parental play behaviour, prepare the way for learning language. Infant semiotic abilities have been obscure to a psychology that has failed to pay attention to the timing and serial ordering of gestural movements and vocal expressions of feeling from within the developing child, and their immediate sympathy for motives and convivial feelings signalled by other individuals. Important evidence comes from application of musical acoustic research to the vocal exchanges between infants and parents, leading to a theory of 'communicative musicality' which attempts to explain the skilled participation of infants in dialogues and in rituals of action games and songs. Humorous engagements practice improvisation of new projects and set the foundations for the syntactic and semantic functions of language.
I hope this gives an idea of how I will argue for a theory of innate semiosis as well as innate intersubjectivity. They appear to have the same explanation in the special adaptations of the generators of human body movements as motives for organising and transmitting complex imaginative plans, for learning conventions and for storing meaningful memories.
An attempt to reach cultural development in infancy
through the material object
An attempt to reach cultural development in infancy
through the material object
When we consider the period preceding language acquisition, how can we account for infants’ entry in one of the first semiotic systems of culture, i.e. the system of objects and their conventional uses? In an alternative approach of the construction of the object in early infancy called « Object pragmatics » (e.g. Moro, 2011; Moro & Rodriguez, 2005), we highlight that there is a semiotic mediated mind before language through culture.
In « official psychology » (Bruner, 1990), as far as infancy and early development are concerned, the material object hasn’t been considered as a product of culture. The object has been theorized in isolation from the cultural and social world and it has been characterized by a number of scholars only in its mere physical, logical and syntactical properties (e.g. Piaget, 1936/1977 ; and more recently Baillargeon et al., 1985). Some scholars have pointed to the question of the object’s meaning through the concept of “affordances” (Gibson, 1979) (see Tomasello, 1999) or through a computationnalist position (e.g. Leslie, 1987) but without linking object’s meaning to culture. A common feature of these approaches is the focus on the solipsist and inside-out phenomenon.
The present lecture will suggest that approaching cultural development as early as in infancy involves going beyond the boundaries of official psychology. To do so, I here suggest making a switch from the classical inside-out position to an outside-in perspective while reconsidering the status and role of the object in infancy and early childhood. Relying on observational data, in my talk I will discuss how through their uses, material objects considered as cultural artifacts belonging to a material culture become a source of psychological development in early infancy. This process is possible through the appropriation of the objects’ public meaning within child-object-adult triadic interactions.
Relying on the approach of Object pragmatics seeing communication and cognition as intertwined, I will suggest that there is a possibility to reconsider some of the core child’s early communicative and cognitive competencies such as the development of executive functions and joint attention as a semiotic development rooted in culture.
First, I will present the approach of Object pragmatics, which argues for an alternative semiotic perspective for early cognitive development grounded in the 2nd historico-cultural developmental theory of Vygotsky (1934/1997) as well as in Peirce’s semiotics. Illustrations will exemplify that between 7 and 13 months of age the appropriation of the first conventional uses of objects (from which knowledge of the objects results) is closely related to communication and culture. Secondly, I will present how we suggest revisiting executive functions and joint attention through the approach of Object pragmatics.
Baillargeon, R., Spelke, E.S. & Wasserman, S. (1985). Object Permanence in Five-Month-Old Infants. Cognition, 20, 191-208.
Bruner, J.S. (1990). Acts of Meaning. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.
Leslie, A. (1987). A « Language of Thought ». Approach to Early Pretense. In J. Montangero, A. Tryphon & S. Dionnet (Eds.). Symbolism and Knowledge (pp. 133-144). Genève: Cahiers des Archives Jean Piaget, No. 8.
Gibson, J.J. (1979). The Theory of Affordances. In An Ecological Approach to Visual Perception (pp. 127-143). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Moro, C. (2011). Material Culture, Semiotics and Early Childhood Development. In M. Kontopodis, C. Wulf & B. Fichtner (Eds.) Children, Development and Education. Cultural, Historical, Anthropological Perspectives (pp. 57-70). London, New York: Springer Verlag.
Moro, C. & Rodríguez, C. (2005). L’objet et la construction de son usage chez le bébé. Une approche sémiotique du développement préverbal. Berne: Peter Lang, 446p.
Peirce, C.S. (1931-1958). Collected Papers. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Piaget, J. (1936/1977). La naissance de l’intelligence chez l’enfant. Neuchâtel-Paris: Delachaux et Niestlé.
Tomasello, M. (1999). The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Vygotsky, L.S. (1934/1977). Pensée et langage. Paris: La Dispute.
Just to talk of “object manipulation” is not enough:
Some semiotic implications
Some semiotic implications
There is a very striking contrast between the status of ostensive gestures for semiotics, as the first instance of active signification where the object occupies a prominent place as an instrument of communication, and the status that developmental psychology traditionally assigns to the pointing gesture (without an object and produced by infants around twelve months of age) as the gesture that par excellence allows shared reference (Cyrulnik, 2002; Liszkowski, 2005). Pointing “is the quintessential example of nonverbal explicit reference” (Leavens et al., 2008, p. 187), “the basic form of gestural reference” (Pika, 2008, p. 165). The emphasis on pointing gestures as the prototype of shared reference is related, we think, to the difficulty that psychology has in accepting that objects can be instruments of communication and not simply the setting that surrounds the communicative niche.
In this presentation we stress that to define objects by their function and not only by their physical characteristics as “natural” products, means that they are situated within normative coordinates and rules (Moro & Rodríguez, 2005, Rodríguez & Moro, 1998; Sinha and Rodríguez, 2008). As a consequence, just to talk of “object manipulation” in early development is completely insufficient since infants give objects a great variety of functions as they develop during the first two years of life—noncanonical uses, rhythmic uses, premises to the canonical uses, canonical uses, symbolic uses, private uses, all of which have very different levels of semiotic and communicative complexity. All that have important implications for typical and atypical development.
Mimetic schemas and children’s gestures
Mimetic schemas have been defined as “dynamic, concrete and preverbal representations, involving the body image, accessible to consciousness and pre-reflectively shared in a community” (Zlatev 2005: 334), or as “fairly specific, cross-modal, consciously accessible representations based on imitation, and largely shared within a (sub)culture” (Zlatev 2007: 131). Together these properties constitute the necessary ingredients for a pre-linguistic semiotic system for communication, and a possible ground for children’s gestures.
To test this hypothesis, we conducted an empirical study of the early gestures of three Swedish and three Thai children, based on longitudinal naturalistic data, focusing on the ages 18, 22, and 26 months. The analysis showed that not only emblematic gestures such as NOD-HEAD and WAVE-BYE, and deictic gestures as INDEXFINGER-POINT constitute socially shared types, realized by recurrent instances in the children’s data, but also that the children’s iconic gestures to a large extent do likewise. It is such iconic gestures, especially when performed from a “character viewpoint” (McNeill 1992), or “first-person perspective” (Zlatev and Andrén 2009) that most clearly correspond to overt, communicatively used mimetic schemas. We also found that iconic gestures are less likely to be coordinated with spoken utterances than deictic and conventionalized gestures, which stands in contrast to the widespread idea that “co-speech gesture” (in adults) is mainly a matter of iconic gesture. The findings of the study have a few important theoretical implications, including the need to qualify the concept of mimetic schemas as previously characterized.
McNeill, D. (1992). Hand and mind: What gestures reveal about thought. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
Zlatev, J. (2005). What’s in a schema? Bodily mimesis and the grounding of language. In From Perception to Meaning: Image Schemas in Cognitive Linguistics, B. Hampe (ed.), 313-343. Berlin: Mouton.
Zlatev, J. (2007). Intersubjectivity, mimetic schemas and the emergence of language, Intellectica (46/47), 123-152.
Zlatev, J. and M. Andrén (2009). Stages and transitions in children’s semiotic development. In J. Zlatev, M. Andrén, C. Lundmark and M. Johansson Falck (Eds.) Studies in language and cognition, 380-401. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars.
From the window to the movie by way of the mirror. A phenomenologically inspired approach to cognitive semiotics
The claim of cognitive semiotics to offer something new rests of the ambition to bring together the research traditions of semiotics and cognitive science. Our focus has been on using the empirical approach of cognitive science in investigating semiotic issues. At the same time, however, phenomenological description plays a major part in preparing the studies and integrating their results. In the case of the mirror, the integration of semiotics, cognitive science and phenomenology can be done in a very concrete way. Umberto Eco has always claimed that the mirror is no sign, without, however, offering any real definition of the sign. The present author, on the other hand, has claimed that once the notion of sign is specified, along the line of the combined Piaget- and Husserl-traditions, the mirror image is seen to be a perfect instance of a sign. In psychology and cognitive science, however, the Gallup test has been used to suggest that self-recognition in a mirror testifies to the emergence of a self. Phenomenologists, such as Dan Zahavi, have argued that this cannot be, since the self is really constituted much earlier. In contrast, mirror recognition, according to earlier accounts, emerges more or less at the same time as the sign. My talk will mostly be theoretical, but I will refer to an on-going empirical study, which compares live experience with mirror images, as well as with pre-recorded videos and directly relayed video images.
Sign, world and developmental niche dynamics
In this talk I will give an overview of the guiding theme that has informed my work over the past four decades. This can be summed up in the proposition that human development is profoundly social and profoundly semiotic. This proposition has consequences beyond the study of human ontogenetic development itself, since (like many of us) I also consider that human cognition, culture and language can only be fully comprehended by situating them in a developmental context, and specifically in the epigenetic processes that govern and realize the complex inter-relations between human evolution, individual development and biocultural niche construction (including niche reproduction and transformation). I will try to present extracts from my work in a way that links to the research of our keynote speakers, highlighting the semiotics of artefactual objects as signifiers (of function, and of contexts of shared action, communication and narrative practice), leading up to my more recent attempts to understand language as a biocultural niche and social institution, and to explicate the conclusions that we must draw from niche construction theory regarding the “human language capacity”.
Gestures that involve handling of objects:
How children handle the social world
How children handle the social world
This study is part of a larger endeavor to outline the class of actions that (a) has explicit gestural features of expressiveness (Kendon 2004:15), but (b) also involve handling of physical objects (Streeck 1996; Goodwin 2007), as they are carried out in the intersubjective space that Schutz (1945) called the world within reach and Mead (1932, 1938) called the manipulatory area. I will call these gestures Object Gestures (Andrén 2010; in press). They are "physical" in the sense that they involve handling of actual physical objects, as opposed to the handling of virtual objects in empty-handed gestures, but they are not "merely physical" in the sense of the distinction between matter and mind, or between natural and cultural (cf. Rodríguez & Moro 2008). Indeed, in many cases the cultural identity and the intersubjective treatment of the object(s) involved are crucial for the establishment of the meaning of an Object Gesture.
Object Gestures have been neglected in research on gesture (Andrén 2010), which, on the one hand, tends to embrace the idea of a continuum from action to gesture, but which, on the other hand, still tends to operate on the basis of a binary distinction between practical action and gesture. Object Gestures tend to fall between the chairs between the practical and the expressive. I propose that a more fine-grained conceptual scheme is needed to capture the fact that there are several different parameters involved — such as (1) levels of semiotic complexity, (2) levels of communicative explicitness, and (3) levels of conventionalization — which may vary relatively independently from each other, creating a multi-dimensional grid of intermediate forms between practical action and gesture. By employing such a conceptual scheme, we become able to see both similarities and differences between object gestures and empty-handed gestures.
Object Gestures are very common in the here-and-now oriented social lives children. To the extent these gestures have been studied before, they have usually been touched on in analyses of Symbolic Play, or early social actions like GIVE and SHOW. However, these are only a few of the many variants of Object Gestures that exist, and a more systematic and principled account of these gestures seems to be lacking.
In my presentation, I will systematically go through some of the principled forms Object Gestures can take: hence outlining their nature. By using examples drawn from a corpus of video recorded parent-child interaction, I will show how Object Gestures (in children) may take on all the basic roles of empty-handed gestures (dectic, iconic, conventionalized/symbolic) and how they may vary along all of the three scales mentioned above. As the coordination between (object) gestures and speech is often crucial for the overall meaning that results, the analysis also brings in the role of speech in the analysis.
Andrén, M. (2010). Children's Gestures from 18 to 30 months. PhD thesis. Lund University.
Andrén, M. (in press). The Social World Within Reach: Intersubjective Manifestations of Action Completion. Cognitive Semiotics, 7.
Goodwin, C. (2007). Environmentally coupled gestures. In S. D. Duncan, J. Cassell, & E. T. Levy (Eds.), Gesture and the Dynamic Dimension of Language (pp. 195–212). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Kendon, A. (2004). Gesture: Visible action as utterance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Mead, G. H. (1932). The Philosophy of the Present. LaSalle, IL: Open Court.
Mead, G. H. (1938). The Philosophy of the Act. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
Schutz, A. (1945). On multiple realities. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 5(4), 533–576.
Streeck, J. (1996). How to do things with things: Objets trouvès and symbolization. Human Studies, 19, 365–384.
Rodríguez, C. & Moro, C. (2008). Coming to agreement: Object use by infants and adults. In J. Zlatev, T. Racine, C. Sinha, & E. Itkonen (Eds.), The Shared Mind: Perspectives on intersubjectivity (pp. 89–114). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Cancelled: Supporting impulses for interpersonal life in the sociosphere of human knowledge, practice and language
Within the socio-philosophical construction of the concept of a lifeworld I am asking for the foundation of social meanings, the cultivation of motives and beliefs in a community of human minds. How does meaning and collaborative intentionality emerge in intimate human relationships of early childhood and how does it grow in society? This paper begins with an account of the origins of shared intentionality and intersubjective cooperation of feelings and ideas in infancy and early childhood based on the work of Colwyn Trevarthen. Then, the enquiry extends to the concepts of the social sciences, drawing ideas from the relational sociology of Pierre Bourdieu and the social philosophy of Jürgen Habermas. It attempts to elaborate the transition between the primary psychobiology of human sympathy, of proto-conversation and early intersubjective play and cooperation, and more abstract socio-philosophical concepts of the articulate and technically complex adult world. An important conclusion is that the same motives that make the creation and propagation of meaning possible in early childhood and the successful mastery of adult competence can be responsible for social marginalization or exclusion when the experiences of individuals or communities diverge from those of the larger society. I attempt to indicate how a recovery of the original intimate motives by sympathetic intervention can assist a deviant individual to gain a more meaningful place in the social group.
Mechanisms underlying the emergence of intentional referential communication in infancy
Until recently the most influential account of the underlying mechanisms of the emergence of referential communication is Bates and colleagues’ one relying on the mean-end differentiation suggested by Piaget (Bates et al. 1975; 1979). According to what they call social tool use, Bates et al. suggested that by their first gestures, infants use adults as means in order to achieve goals according to their needs or desire. However, influenced by theoretical accounts of the importance of common ground in communication (e.g. Clark 1996; Tomasello 2008), recent studies pointed out that early referential communication involves inferential processes possible through shared experience (Ganea & Saylor 2007; Liebal, Behne, Carpenter & Tomasello 2009; Moll, Richter, Carpenter & Tomasello 2007). In my presentation, I aim to discuss the roles, and the relation between, these two (possible) mechanisms underlying early referential communication. Through the presentation of some of the results from my ongoing thesis work on the relationship between shared conventions of object use and gesture production in infancy, I aim to provide support for the importance of shared meanings between the infant and the adult in early referential communication. My presentation relates to the theme of semiotic development through the concept of the construction of shared meaning as a required element for the "social meeting of minds" presupposed for successful communication.
Bates, E., Camaioni, L., & Volterra, V. (1975). Performatives prior to speech. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 21, 205– 226.
Bates, E., Benigni, L., Bretherton, I., Camaioni, L., & Volterra, V. (1979). The emergence of symbols: cognition and communication in infancy. New York: Academic Press. Psychology, Vol. 12 (pp. 121-156). New Jersey: Erlbaum.
Clark, H. H. (1996). Using language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ganea, P.A., & Saylor, M.M. (2007). Infants’ use of shared linguistic information to clarify ambiguous requests for objects. Child Development, 78(2), 493–502.
Liebal, K., Behne, T., Carpenter, M., & Tomasello, M. (2009). Infants use shared experience to interpret pointing gestures. Developmental Science, 12(2), 264–271.
Moll, H., Richter, N., Carpenter, M., & Tomasello, M. (2008). Fourteen-month-olds know what ‘we’ have shared in a special way. Infancy, 13, 90–101.
Tomasello, M. (2008). Origins of Human Communication. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Symbolic development in children with Down syndrome
in triadic interaction contexts
in triadic interaction contexts
To operate with symbols is essential for children’s psychological development (Piaget, 1936/2006). Knowing how children operate with absent meanings is essential in order to act effectively and to promote progress in their development. This is especially important when they present a disability, as is the case in children with Down syndrome.
From pragmatic of object (Rodríguez, 2006) symbolic productions are supported, one way or another, on rules of conventional use of objects, that is, public rules are roots of the symbolic meanings. The conventional and symbolic meanings can not be built outside the use of objects. So that, objects can become conventional objects in everyday life with which to communicate with others, the presence of adults or more experienced subjects and its educational is needed. The same applies to the symbolic uses, for the child to appropriate them, require semiotic mediation provided by the adult and its action on the material world.
We carry out a longitudinal study, to explore symbolic development in triadic interaction contexts (child-adult-object) of 6 children with Down syndrome. We observe each child — between 12-21 months of chronological age — interacting with her mother and different objects. We used semiotic categories from previous studies (Rodríguez 1998, Palacios, 2009; Palacios & Rodríguez, submitted). We analyzed emergence of symbolic productions, characteristics of symbolic uses of objects and how symbols change as children grow up. Partial results indicate that children in triadic interaction contexts show symbolic uses with both different complexity and objects. Mostly symbolic uses are performed with the objects. There are individual differences between children in relation to age which emerged first symbolic production.
Rhythm, sonority and musicality in triadic interactions:
First semiotic systems?
First semiotic systems?
Some studies have been developed from a semiotic and pragmatic perspective at the pre-linguistic stage — from the second half of the first year of life to the second year — about the children´s entry in the different uses of objects. Rodríguez & Moro (1998) claim that signs constitute a protagonist role in adult-infant communication. In daily situations adults provide children with the objects and its conditions of use, to which the child access into interaction with the others, to then use them for himself. Moreover, studies performed in hospital contexts (Del Olmo, Rodríguez & Ruza, 2010) highlight the importance of rhythmic-sonorous components and the benefits of music when it acts like a semiotic mediator between the baby and the adult who interacts with him, justifying the close connection between body, emotion and rhythm.
Based on this works, a longitudinal and observational study was performed with three dyads mother/father-infant — videotaped at 2, 4 and 6-months-old —, in order to analyze the triadic interaction situations adult-baby-object. The main objective was to observe which semiotic systems are occurring when subjects are communicating each other amongst and with the objects, and how the first agreements between adult and child related to the objects’ uses take place.
The results obtained show that ostensive gestures are the tool of choice in the adult-infant interaction, even more if they’re produced accompanied by rhythmic, sonorous and musical components, which the adults used to help themselves to organize the interaction. Thus, at 2-months-old the communication between adult-baby is facilitated by a series of vocalizations’, facials expressions’ and body movements’ exchanges; and also a frequent eye-contact. This favors an emotional attunement between both participants. Afterwards, at 4-months-old, infants are already able to grab the object, so the adult doesn’t only show it, but also gives it. This allows the emergence of the first premises to the objects’ canonical uses. Finally, at 6-months-old, adults gradually reduce their interventions, leading the child to become more active, who moves from the attention –to the adult, and to what he presents to the child– to the action.
In conclusion, this study shows how the adult becomes the object as the baby attention’s center, adjusting his action to the child. He returns to the baby a rhythmic action coherent with the child’s movements, placing the baby in a multimodal stimulation context that not only has to do with the senses, but involves the emotions also. Rhythm dyes interactions, either alone or accompanied by sonority and/or melody. This allows that, at 6-months-old, children explore object’s sonority, which means some kind of entry in the objects’ first canonical uses.
Cancelled: Relational emotions in semiotic and linguistic development: Towards an intersubjective theory of language acquisition
This paper explores the crucial role of relational emotions in children’s language learning and argues for an intersubjective theory of language acquisition. To demonstrate the need for this approach, first a review of different classical theories of language acquisition as well as of more recent emergentist approaches is given. From this it is obvious that in all discussions about the opposition or the interplay between nature, nurture and culture and therefore the primary motives for children’s language development, no prominent theory explicitly focuses on the importance of emotions in language or in prelinguistic and linguistic development. Only in the interactionist and psychoanalytic models do we find implicit concepts about affective influences on language constitution. In response to this lack, evidence is given for the semiogenetic power of emotions from recent semiolinguistic and neuropsychological research, both of which employ the concept of ‘intersubjectivity’. The findings from these two fields of investigation are summarized in an application to children’s semiolinguistic development. Four major milestones of affect and meaning attunement in the child’s trajectory from emotional regulation of interpersonal contact and cooperation to cognitive mastery of experience in the intersubjective construction of signs are described. The paper concludes with an outline of the concept of ‘Relational Language Therapy – a therapeutic approach to language learning, which views as central the emotion based influence of a ‘Significant Other’ in both parental and professional support of children’s semiolinguistic development. Finally as a vision for future theorizing, these paradigm shifts are taken to pave the way for fully incorporating the concept of intersubjectivity into linguistic theory and its various fields of application.
On the development of norms: Making sense of rules and games
In a series of studies, Hannes Rakoczy and his colleagues have tested young children’s understanding of norms in pretend play (Rakoczy 2007; Rakoczy 2008; Rakoczy, Warneken & Tomasello, 2008; Wyman, Rakoczy & Tomasello, 2009). The aim of the studies has been to determine whether young children appreciate the basic normative structure of rule games and games of pretence and examine their awareness of the context-relativity of normative rules (Rakozcy et al 2009; Wyman et al., 2009). Relying on Searle’s (1995) theory about human social reality as a construction of objective, institutional facts, Rakoczy et al. (2009) maintain that the normative structure of rule games and games of pretence underlies the whole of institutional reality and is central to human forms of life. The kind of normativity that is specific to human cultural practices, they hold, is based in the understanding of constitutive rules and how such rules are used to create status functions. They argue that because previous experimental paradigms investigated regulative rules, specifically human normativity has not been examined properly.
In my talk I will discuss what the experiments show about young children’s understanding of norms. I will question that the experiments capture the essence of human normativity, and argue that norms are dynamic and heterogeneous. I will also consider whether it might be more fruitful to think of norms as resulting from processes such as participatory sense-making (De Jaegher & Di Paolo 2007) or participatory engagement (Sinha & Rodriguez 2008) than from declarative speech acts — at least in a developmental context.
Artifacts, semiotics and personal experiences in educational contexts
One of the central and well-known ideas in Vygotskian theory is that human development is cultural, mediated by human artifacts, created and transformed through socio-historical practices. These artifacts are simultaneously material and semiotic or ideal as they involve (more or less) shared rules of usage, conventions, and values. Artifacts uses, according to Vygotsky, mediate the subject’s relation to the physical world, to her own or others’ minds, and are constitutive of developmental processes. In this perspective, the unit of analysis is not (anymore) the mind to be studied independently of the context but subject in interaction with others mediated by cultural artifacts.
Educational contexts are inhabited by many kinds of material artifacts (books, black board, images, pictures, etc.), and their use, through various semiotic modalities, constitutes both the means and the goal of learning. Adopting a sociocultural perspective, this paper focuses on how a given cultural artifact, namely a set of pictures, function as objects of interpretative and communication processes. The data (video and audio recordings of lessons) were collected in the frame of a research project studying intercultural education practices in 12 classrooms (6 in primary schools and 6 in lower-secondary schools), situated in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. The analysis takes into account the main dimensions of the instrumental unit of analysis, namely the students’ and the teacher’s co-construction of meanings in their interactions mediated by the artifact, the set of pictures.
The results show that the artifact reconfigures the teacher-students interactions according to the teaching objectives and that its uses are oriented towards the elements of the world re-presented by the pictures or towards the students’ minds, for instance in the case where the students are invited to work on their own processes of interpretation and perspective on reality, or on their personal experiences. Several examples of these processes of “semiotisation of personal experiences”, mediated by the pictures, will be analysed. In conclusion, we will discuss two main points: the idea that an artifact acquires meanings (which is re-negotiated and transformed in the dynamics of interaction) in the activity in which it is incorporated, and the processes of transformation of an artifact into a psychological tool.
Culture in the Mirror: Towards an integrated curriculum for cultural education (2009-2013)