Vygotsky (1962). The Problem and the Approach. (Thought and Language.)

Vygotsky, L. S. (1962). The Problem and the Approach. In Thought and Language (pp. 1–11). Cambridge: M.I.T. Press, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Methods of research were developed and perfected with a view to studying separate functions, while their interdependence and their organization in the structure of consciousness as a whole remained outside the field of investigation.” (p 1)

“… speculation of psychological linguistics that thought is ‘speech minus sound’ …” (p 2)

“Those who identify thought with speech simply close the door on the problem.” (p 3)

“… inner speech is considered to be an important factor in the transition from thought to external speech.” (p 3)

“… a sign of contemporary Gestalt psychology. In the word we recognized only its external side. Yet it is in the inter- [page break] nal aspect, in word meaning, that thought and speech unite into verbal thought.” (p 5-6)

“The primary function of speech is communication, social intercourse. When language was studied through analysis [page break] into elements, this function, too, was dissociated from the intellectual function of speech. The two were treated as though they were separate, if parallel, functions, without attention to their structural and developmental interrelation. … Communication by means of expressive movements, observed mainly among animals, is not so much communication as a spread of affect. A frightened goose suddenly aware of danger and rousing the whole flock with its cries does not tell the others what it has seen but rather contaminates them with its fear.” (p 6-7)

“The rational, intentional conveyance of experience and thought to others requires a mediating system, the prototype of which is human speech born of the need of communication during work.” (p 7)

“… real communication requires meaning — that is, generalization — as much as signs. in order to convey one’s experience or thought, it is imperative to refer them to some known class or group of phenomena.” (p 7)

“‘The world of our experience must be enormously simplified and generalized before it is possible to make a symbolic inventory of all our experiences of things and relations, and this inventory is imperative before we can convey ideas. The elements of language, the symbols that ticket off experience, must therefore be associated with whole groups, delimited classes, of experience rather than with the single experiences themselves. Only so is communication possible, for the single experience lodges in an individual consciousness and is, strictly speaking, incommunicable’ (Sapir, 1971 , p. 12).” (p 8)

“Such generalization would refer my experience to the class of phenomena known to my interlocutor. That is why certain thoughts cannot be communicated to children even if they are familiar with the necessary words.” (p 8)

“… intellect and affect.3 Their separation as subjects of study is a major weakness of traditional psychology, since it makes the thought process appear as an autonomous flow of ‘thoughts thinking themselves,’ segregated from the fullness of life, from the personal needs and interests, the inclinations and impulses, of the thinker.” (p 10)

Selected Notes & References

  • Sapir, E., Language, London: Ruppert Hart Davis, 1971.
  • 3. The problem of the interrelation between affect and intellect became a subject of Vygotsky’s last, unfinished work, Uchenie ob emotsiiakh [A Study of Emotions] (1933), published in volume 6 of Sobranie sochinenii [Collected Papers].
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