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Thought and Language by Lev S. Vygotsky

Thought and Language (1962)

by Lev S. Vygotsky

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Good book about children concept creation. ( )
  hugons | Nov 26, 2008 |
While a bit dated, Vygotsky's work is still heavily cited by current pedagogical theorists like Marcia Baxter-Magolda and her collaborators. It was through reading Baxter-Magolda's work that I was first led to Vygotsky, and having seen his name just about everywhere I've since dug into the study of teaching and learning, I thought it high time I got back to the source.

This translation is a readable, and as indicated in the book's preface, it's more than a translation, but also a rearrangement: as Vygotksy's organization suffered during his tubercular convalescence, the original Russian manuscript of his work was often redundant and difficult to read. Hanfmann and Vakar have eliminated much of the redundancy and have streamlined Vygotsky's arguments, making the resulting test more readable.

Seeking to better understand the organic and functional relationships between language and thought, Vygotsky begins by critiquing theories of language and thought development that were in vogue at the time of writing (early 1930s). Specifically, he points to Jean Piaget and to William Stern, indicating difficulties in their theories. Piaget's development from egocentric thought and speech to society-driven thought and speech is criticized for assuming the existence of bonds between speech and thought that do not necessarily exist. His chief problem with Stern's theory of language development has to do with its insistence on "intentionality" as a root cause of vocalization, and rather than an aspect of it. (It should be noted to Piaget's later work, though suffering from a number of weaknesses that would be pointed out by others [for instance, Carol Gilligan], would later respond to some of Vygotsky's criticisms.)

Vygotsky then moves to better understand the genetic roots of thought and speech in his fourth chapter, indicating how data support no clear-cut linear relationships between the development of thought and speech. This chapter is devoted to a deeper analysis of what he calls the "pre-intellectual elements of speech" and the "prelinguistic elements of thought."

This is as far as I've read to date.

So far the text is dense but accessible, and I'm finding many of the philosophical discussions fascinating. I'm particularly interested to continue reading the next chapters, which promise to discuss "concept formation" in children, and the roots of scientific learning. Ultimately my hope is to better understand the way that social forces (and in particular society-driven communication through speech and writing) purport to serve the development of scientific (and therefore mathematical) thinking. ( )
1 vote TurtleBoy | Jun 4, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0262720108, Paperback)

Since it was introduced to the English-speaking world in 1962, 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.Lev S. Vygotsky (1896-1934) studied at Moscow University and acquired in his brief lifespan a nearly encyclopedic knowledge of the social sciences, psychology, philosophy, linguistics, literature, and the arts. He began his systematic work in psychology at the age of 28, and within a few years formulated his theory of the development of specifically human higher mental functions. He died of tuberculosis ten years later, and Thought and Language was published posthumously in 1934.Alex Kozulin studied at the Moscow Institute of Medicine and the Moscow Institute of Psychology, where he began his investigation of Vygotsky and the history of Soviet psychology. He emigrated in 1979 and is now Associate Professor of Psychiatry (Psychology) at Boston University. He is the author of Psychology in Utopia: Toward a Social History of Soviet Psychology (MIT Press 1984).

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:15 -0400)

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