Addressivity and the Intra-intersubjective Nature of Talk

The social relation the students produce and to which they are subject is apparent in other ways as well. Rather than just listing features, contents or ideas in the public arena, each participant is talking for the other and for the teacher in order to move the task ahead; each is addressing the other, talking to be heard. Addressivity, the fact that “man lives in a world of senses and affects, addressed to himself and addressed to him by others” (Mikhailov 2006: 39) is an important idea that in general has not been taken up, according to Mikhailov, by Vygotsky advocates. We can see that students are talking for the teacher, when Phil or others physically orient or look to him. They are talking for each other as well, in the process of evolving an account, a written summary of which would constitute their report. That is, if a statement were not assumed to be inherently intersubjective, already a reality for two, then it would not be reasonable to make it at all. A sound-word is a reality for two (and, thereby, a possibility for all members of a culture) or it is not a word at all. Even the “meaning” researchers tend to infer from words are not those of individuals but always already collectively possible ways of using words. Thus, subjectivity always exists in the {intrasubjectivity I intersubjectivity} unit. This is consistent with a theoretical approach according to which higher psychological functions — including forms of subjectivity and forms of “meanings”—initially are social relations. The social relation does not exist independently of or as preceding the individual, but includes the individual as one of its aspects. Its intersubjective character is not external, but internal (therefore the “intra” in the “intra-intersubjectivity”) to the individual, because individual and situation intermesh. It is an individual-in- and-for-a-social-relation, indivisible from the social relation. As suggested in Chap. 4, we represent part of the transcription in a way that takes into account the active listening on the part of the recipients, here exemplified by Matt:

Fragment 12.2

This form of presenting the transcription makes apparent that the statement “So the protons?” resonates not only in Matt’s speech organs that produce the sound but also in the ears of Phil. When seen/heard as part of the longer sequence of conversation, the sound-word belongs to both at the same time—it is a sociological phenomenon. If it were not so, then there would not be a relation with others—and even if Matt were talking to himself, it would be as if he were to talk to the Other within himself. Thus, in contrast to Piaget, who emphasized the autism of the child that manifests itself in egocentric speech, Vygotsky emphasizes that egocentric speech has its origin in social speech. In the excerpt, there is a psychological dimension as well, which progresses in the horizontal dimension of, for example, turn 03. In the active attention to the words, a hearing unfolds and shapes the reply. The response therefore exists not in the words “Yes exactly” alone, but across the heard and spoken parts of turn 03. The function of the response is not contained in another (spiritual, mental) realm, but exists in and as—indeed extends across—the one substance that the social relation constitutes. The spoken part “Yes exactly” is but a one-sided manifestation of the whole response, which consists of active listening and replying.

This description of communicative exchanges is not unlike that of other material exchanges, for example, those material exchanges that make an economy. The commodity, the material thing exchanged, lies, in the exchange, in the hands of both; its value simultaneously is use-value and exchange-value. Perhaps fortuitously, the Russian word znacenie, generally translated by “meaning” or “signification,” also has the dictionary sense of “value.” The “value” (or function) of the word in the exchange may be different for the participants just as it is in the case of commodities. It is different not because of the participants’ subjective interpretations but because of an inner difference that allows the sound-word to manifest itself differently, a situation that is depicted in Fragment 12.2.

Despite the obvious orientation of the participant to address each other in conversation, that addressivity generally is not taken up in the literature. This can be seen in interview studies, which tend to disregard the fact that the participants address the researcher (research assistant) rather than empty their mind into the public sphere. But what participants say and how they say it takes into account both context and recipient. In a strong sense, what is said therefore cannot be attributed—in content or form—to the speaker. It is a societal-cultural and historical phenomenon. If either Matt or Phil was perceived as speaking to himself, there would be no relation; and this absence of a social relation with others would manifest itself in the lack of a take up by other members to the setting. Because the sound-words are cultural features that become part of a child’s while she participates in relations with others (i.e. in her environment), even the person talking to herself would relate to herself as to another. The revised transcription shows that the psychological and sociological dimensions are inextricably interwoven, like the warp and weft of a fabric. The two, the sociological and the psychological are simply different manifestations or attributes of the same phenomenon: situated communicative exchange.

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