nsidering the contributions to sociocultural theory to understanding thedevelopment of communication, Adamson and Chance (1998) argued that ...There are two particularly noteworthy aspects to a Vygotskian approachto social interactions. First, it is fundamentally cultural. Caregivers are agentsof culture (Trevarthen, 1988) who set an infants nascent actions within anintimate setting that is deeply informed by the caregivers cultural knowledge.Caregivers cannot help but view infants expressions as meaningful within thehuman sphere of their own culture. Infants, in complement, are quintessentialcultural apprentices who seek the guided participation of their elders (Rogoff,1990). Second, the notion of a zone of proximal development reveals a pattern ofdevelopmental change in which a phase of adult support precedes a phase ofindependent infant accomplishment. Each cycle begins with a newly displayedbehavior, such as a smile, a visually directed reach, or a babble. The adultsreaction and interpretations transform the infants emerging behavior into asocial act. In essence, the child induces the adult to recruit the act forcommunication (Bakeman, Adamson, Konner, & Barr, in press). After manyexperiences of supported expression, the child gradually masters an actionthat is qualified with cultural meaning. The act has passed through the zone ofproximal development during which the adult has educated the child in its use.(p. 21)Zone of proximal development"Zone of proximal development" (ZPD) is Vygotsky’s term for the range of tasks that a child cancomplete independently and those completed with the guidance and assistance of adults or more-skilled children. The lower limit of ZPD is the level of skill reached by the child workingindependently. The upper limit is the level of additional responsibility the child can accept with theassistance of an able instructor. The ZPD captures the child’s cognitive skills that are in theprocess of maturing and can be accomplished only with the assistance of a more-skilledperson. Scaffolding is a concept closely related to the idea of ZPD. Scaffolding is changing thelevel of support. Over the course of a teaching session, a more-skilled person adjusts the amountof guidance to fit the child’s current performance. Dialogue is an important tool of this process inthe zone of proximal development. In a dialog, a childs unsystematic, disorganized, andspontaneous concepts are met with the more systematic, logical and rational concepts of theskilled helperPsychology of playLess known is Vygotskys research on play, or childrens games, as a psychological phenomenon and its role inthe childs development. Through play the child develops abstract meaning separate from the objects in theworld, which is a critical feature in the development of higher mental functions. 
The famous example Vygotsky gives is of a child who wants to ride a horse but cannot. If the child were underthree, he would perhaps cry and be angry, but around the age of three the childs relationship with the worldchanges: "Henceforth play is such that the explanation for it must always be that it is the imaginary, illusoryrealization of unrealizable desires. Imagination is a new formation that is not present in the consciousness ofthe very raw young child, is totally absent in animals, and represents a specifically human form of consciousactivity. Like all functions of consciousness, it originally arises from action." (Vygotsky, 1978)The child wishes to ride a horse but cannot, so he picks up a stick and stands astride of it, thus pretending he isriding a horse. The stick is a pivot. "Action according to rules begins to be determined by ideas, not byobjects.... It is terribly difficult for a child to sever thought (the meaning of a word) from object. Play is atransitional stage in this direction. At that critical moment when a stick – i.e., an object – becomes a pivot forsevering the meaning of horse from a real horse, one of the basic psychological structures determining thechild‟s relationship to reality is radically altered".As children get older, their reliance on pivots such as sticks, dolls and other toys diminishes. Theyhave internalized these pivots as imagination and abstract concepts through which they can understand theworld. "The old adage that children‟s play is imagination in action can be reversed: we can say thatimagination in adolescents and schoolchildren is play without action" (Vygotsky, 1978).Another aspect of play that Vygotsky referred to was the development of social rules that develop, for example,when children play house and adopt the roles of different family members. Vygotsky cites an example of twosisters playing at being sisters. The rules of behavior between them that go unnoticed in daily life areconsciously acquired through play. As well as social rules, the child acquires what we now refer to as self-regulation. For example, when a child stands at the starting line of a running race, she may well desire to runimmediately so as to reach the finish line first, but her knowledge of the social rules surrounding the game andher desire to enjoy the game enable her to regulate her initial impulse and wait for the start signal.Thought and LanguagePerhaps Vygotskys most important contribution concerns the inter-relationship of language development andthought. This concept, explored in Vygotskys book Thought and Language, (alternative translation: Thinkingand Speaking) establishes the explicit and profound connection between speech (both silent inner speech andoral language), and the development of mental concepts and cognitive awareness. It should be noted thatVygotsky described inner speech as being qualitatively different from normal (external) speech. AlthoughVygotsky believed inner speech developed from external speech via a gradual process of internalization, withyounger children only really able to "think out loud," he claimed that in its mature form inner speech would beunintelligible to anyone except the thinker, and would not resemble spoken language as we know it (inparticular, being greatly compressed). Hence, thought itself develops socially.
An infant learns the meaning of signs through interaction with its main care-givers, e.g., pointing, cries, andgurgles can express what is wanted. How verbal sounds can be used to conduct social interaction is learnedthrough this activity, and the child begins to utilize, build, and develop this faculty, e.g., using names for objects,etc.Language starts as a tool external to the child used for social interaction. The child guides personal behavior byusing this tool in a kind of self-talk or "thinking out loud." Initially, self-talk is very much a tool of socialinteraction and it tapers to negligible levels when the child is alone or with deaf children. Gradually self-talk isused more as a tool for self-directed and self-regulating behavior. Then, because speaking has beenappropriated and internalized, self-talk is no longer present around the time the child starts school. Self-talk"develops along a rising not a declining, curve; it goes through an evolution, not an involution. In the end, itbecomes inner speech" (Vygotsky, 1987, pg 57). Inner speech develops through its differentiation from socialspeech.Speaking has thus developed along two lines, the line of social communication and the line of inner speech, bywhich the child mediates and regulates their activity through their thoughts which in turn are mediated bythe semiotics (the meaningful signs) of inner speech. This is not to say that thinking cannot take place withoutlanguage, but rather that it is mediated by it and thus develops to a much higher level of sophistication. Just asthe birthday cake as a sign provides much deeper meaning than its physical properties allow, inner speech assigns provides much deeper meaning than the lower psychological functions would otherwise allow. Inner speech is not comparable in form to external speech. External speech is the process of turning thoughtinto words. Inner speech is the opposite; it is the conversion of speech into inward thought. Inner speech forexample contains predicates only. Subjects are superfluous. Words too are used much more economically.One word in inner speech may be so replete with sense to the individual that it would take many words toexpress it in external speech.Vygotsky focused on the child-in-context acting in a situation or event as the smallest unit of study. Vygotskydefined “context” as a child‟s culture and how they express their culture. Further, the child is continually actingin social interactions with other people. Vygotsky argued that looking at child development without culturalcontext distorts our view of development, and often causes us to look at causes of behavior as residing withinthe child, rather than in their culture.Miller (2002) defined culture as, “shared beliefs, values, knowledge, skills, structured relationships, ways ofdoing things (customs), socialization practices, and symbol systems (such as spoken and written language)” (p.374). Culture is communicated through home and societal routines. Vygotsky also included physical andhistorical influences in the concept of culture. For example, culture can be influence by a people‟s response toa physical terrain, natural disasters, or war.
Mediation of Intellectual Functioning by Cultural Tools Adults and children also collaborate through helpingchildren learn how to utilize their culture‟s psychological and technical tools. Examples of psychological toolsthat inform intellectual functioning include language and counting systems, writing, maps, memorizing, andattending. Physical tools that inform intellectual development include computers or electronic games. Bothpsychological and physical tools help a child navigate their environment. Children learn to use the tools mostvalued by their society.Vygotsky viewed language as the most critical psychological tool. Thinking, comprehending, and producinglanguage are all processes that affect individual perceptions of their social worlds. Language also has aninfluence on how children use physical tools. As language develops and becomes re-organized, it influencesnew modes of problem solving.For example, examine the effects of not using the language of mental health disorders to describehomosexuality. Taking homosexuality out of the DSM and shifting from talking about it as a disorder ratherthan innate or biological created a huge shift in society, as evidenced by historical changes in attitudestowards and greater advocacy with LGBT populations.The transmission of cultural tools most often happens in the home and through schooling. However, one shouldnot assume that all schooling systems are addressing the needs of each child in a culture (e.g., see commentsin diversity section on diversity in educational systems). The modes of teaching/schooling are intricately tied towhat a culture values as „knowledge‟