Processing Image And Thought In Speech Production


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A description of the process second language acquisition and production as found in Thought and Language by Lev Vygotsky

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Processing Image And Thought In Speech Production

  1. 1. Processing Image and Thought in Speech Production Lev Vygotsky’s Theory And How it May be Implemented Presented by Dr. Gary Carkin, Ph.D. The Institute for Language Education Southern New Hampshire University Manchester, NH At the Northern New England TESOL Conference November 11, 2006
  2. 2. Processing Image and Thought in Speech Production I. Theory The summary of this presentation in your leaflets is a bit of a misrepresentation, as I also submitted this proposal to the TESOL Conference in Seattle under the aegis of the SPLIS – or the Speech, Pronunciation, and Listening Interest Section and thus, wanted to emphasize the speech pronunciation aspect. Actually, this presentation will be much more inclusive, because it will address all areas of language acquisition – drawing, as it does, from the theoretical works of Lev Semenovich Vygotsky, the Belo-Russian psycholinguist whose whose pioneering work in the 1920s and 1930s has only recently won recognition in the West. The reason for that was th long time suppression of his work during the Soviet era. Today, we are gaining full access to his work through good translations of his papers and books. And what a treasure trove they are! Most interesting to me are his ideas about how language and, more specifically, a second language acquisition, is acquired and how his theoretical position supports the use of drama in language teaching. Two concepts of Vygotsky’s have received the most attention – and both pf these concern the way second language acquisition occurs. His most well- known concept is the “Zone of Proximal Development”. The zone of proximal development – as stated by Vygotsky in his Mind and Society (1978) is “the distance between the actual development level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers. This concept has come to be labled as “the interactive approach” to language learning as it emphasizes, not the individual learning process only, but how the learning process occurs with others – in collaboration. In practical terms, in the language classroom, the learner not only learns through the teacher and the materials provided, but also – and more importantly – through peers as they interact, communicate, and feed vocabulary and grammar to one another. This means that the stronger learners, or higher level students, play a part in helping the less linguistically sophisticated students as they work together on projects – of whatever nature. Of course, one can see how drama
  3. 3. can support such interactive process as the very nature of drama demands negotiation, planning, communication for building the project – not only in terms of subject matter – but in terms of function. Many of you are very familiar with this process – the process of building a play and/or nurturing role plays in your classrooms. However, it is Vygotsky’s next major contribution to language acquisition theory that remains glossed over – and into which I want to delve today. For a long time, I have been working with scripted drama in my language classes – well aware that the ESL/EFL world to a great extent negated the value of scripted works. It was all well and good to use role plays and scenarios in which negotiation for effective communication occurred, but not so scripted drama – because –“people were only memorizing.” Thus, it was inferred, this was a mechanical process through which no language acquisition actually occurred! A waste of time. I knew, intuitively, and by experience, that his was not true. But how to debunk this outdated concept? And, how did people arrive at this concept anyway!? A study of Vygotsky provides the answer. The elaboration and sophistication of Vygotsky’s thought you will have to delve into on your own through his seminal work, Thought and Language (1986) and his earlier mentioned work, Mind in Society. Today, because of time restrictions and the nature of this presentation, I will cut to the chase: briefly, Vygotsky’s model of how language acquisition occurs. I am excerpting liberally from Vygotsky’s work in a cryptic and synoptic fashion. I urge you to to read his works yourself to get a vital linkage. I can only give you a grossly simplified – but I hope, accurate – rendition. Vygotsky saw that “ego-centered speech” – that speech that we all use and know so well, commonly directed to the duties we must perform (“gotta go to bed now, wash the dishes next, sign this letter) “stems from the insufficient individualization of primary social speech…It’s culmination lies in the future…It develops into inner speech…Ego-centric speech represents a transition from speech for others to speech for oneself. It already has the function of inner speech (Thought and Language, p 235). The rule of inner speech is abbreviation of syntax, as we have seen above. “In another way, it is like writing a first draft. We have a mental draft before the written one. This is inner speech. Predication is the natural form of inner speech; psychologically it consists of predicates only…Inner speech is
  4. 4. speech almost without words…Inner speech works with semantics, not phonetics” (Ibid. pp. 236--244). These are the peculiarities of inner speech. “The first and and basic (peculiarity) is the preponderance of sense of a word over its meaning -- the sum of all the psychological events aroused in our consciousness by the word. A word acquires a sense from the context in which it appears; in different contexts, it changes its sense. This enrichment of words by the sense they gain from the context is the fundamental law of the dynamics of word meanings. A word in a context means both more and less than the same word in isolation.”…In inner speech, this prevalence of sense over meaning, of sentence over word, and of context over sentence is the rule” (Ibid. p. 245). “In inner speech, a single word is so saturated with sense that the title, Dead Souls, becomes a concentrate of sense. To enfold it into overt speech, one would need a multitude of words” (Ibid. p. 247). Vygotsky goes on to say, “We can confidently regard (inner speech) as a distinct plane of verbal thought…It is evident that the transition from inner speech to external speech is not a simple translation from one language into another. It cannot be achieved by merely vocalizing silent speech. It is a complex, dynamic process involving the transformation of the predicative, idiomatic, structure of inner speech into syntactically articulated speech intelligible to others” (Ibid. pp. 248-249). In other words, form the sense experienced in language one to articulate(d) communication in language two. “In inner speech, words die as they bring forth thought. Inner speech is to a large extent thinking in pure meanings…Every thought creates a connection