Words and Relations

Remarking the importance of the social context and of intersubjectivity in learning has become common practice in the educational research literature, talk (and by extension culture) is treated as a tool that mediates between people. In other words, as a third thing it stands between two persons allowing an indirect connection. In this section, and different from the mediational approach just noted, we support the assertions that talking (a) is intra-intersubjective and (b) manifesting, producing, and managing a (social) relation—rather than the latter being its context or input.

In the fragment, one expression in turn 01 is treated as problematic (turn 02), and the fact that it indeed was meant to say something about protons is asserted in and through the pairing with turn 03. There follows what can be heard as an elaboration of turn 01, now including the term protons (turn 04). Matt’s hand movement towards himself (turn 04, g) visibly shares features with Phil’s right hand movement in the same direction when he says “subfluous electrons.” Matt, however, offers the word “proton” instead, which comes to be accepted in the next turn (“Yes, exactly”). That is, even though the adjective subfluous does not exist in German (or English) but instead is created here in situ and on the fly, it is no obstacle in the communication as Matt immediately offers a replacement term, protons (which are positively charged). Here, we do not see a “negotiation of meaning,” a “this for that” modeled on economic exchange—a notion that is theoretically problematic for describing classroom learning and development. Instead, at the level of the conversation, we see a development of the explanatory discourse. It occurs when an adjective that does not exist in the German language—which, together with the noun “electrons” was used to name some entity—is replaced by a noun that not only exists in German but also in the more narrow discourse of physics. We could also say that there is one irreducible conversation, where different voices constitute interdependent parts rather than independent parts that have been added together. This development in the living discourse that can be observed is a form of thinking that occurs in public. This public exchange is the real genetic origin of any inner speech and verbal thinking of individuals. In the following sections, we examine how, in and through the materials that the conversation offers, the participants produce all they need to jointly arrive at an intelligible account of the experimental phenomenon.

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