Thought and Language

Thought and Language

by Lev S. Vygotsky

The study of thought and language as it pertains to psychology

  • Language: English
  • Category: Psychology
  • Rating: 4.20
  • Pages: 344
  • Publish Date: August 28th 1986 by MIT Press
  • Isbn10: 0262720108
  • Isbn13: 9780262720106

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And, amusingly enough, the person most people know about as a child and educational psychologist, Piaget, didnt even rate a mention Thought and Language is regarded as Vygotskys most important work, and with good reason. 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. A child has a remarkable amount of lived experience of a word like that. Well, the childs understanding of what brother means is entirely tied up in their practical experience of that word. Because adults have the concept a brother is a persons male sibling that is, because we have the word meaning that is generalizable into a concept talk of a brothers brother presents us with no problem at all. 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 brothers brother to make sense. 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. 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 life-history of the child and that this development is linked to the childs ability to think in increasingly more general ways about the world in which they live. This is an essential point and the key to understanding Vygotsky this is also where his Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) comes in. 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. What is most interesting is the relationship of the childs language to learning. Pseudo-concepts make sense of the world by our experience with certain words in the rough and tumble of life. Vygotskys point is that kids tend to be able to finish sentences about scientific concepts much more reasonably than they are able to do with pseudo-concepts. Vygotsky makes it clear that kids dont really have a very strong idea of what this scientific concept actually means but that isnt the point. 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 pseudo-concepts. 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 childs pseudo concepts and the adults rich concepts as, when they talk to each other, they seem to be referring to the same things. The point is that education is about developing concepts but if we dont realise there is a difference between pseudo, scientific and rich concepts and that these are related to a developmental continuum related to the childs current level of educational development, we are unlikely to be able to help the child along that path.

Piaget talked about the development of language, but took for granted many of the substructures that set the stage for language learning. 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 language -- like Piaget's view of childhood language learning -- misses the point that a huge rule-following substructure is necessary.

Pero una notable excepción fue este libro, junto con algunos textos de Piaget y quizás los de la Educación para la Comprensión que fueron notablemente útiles en mi área de enseñanza.