The Thought Occurs

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Halliday On The Transformationalist And Behaviourist Models Of Language Learning

Halliday (Interviews with M A K Halliday p 50):
The broader point is that l think that, once you take the protolanguage seriously, the nativist point of view was only tenable in so far as you assume that the whole process begins with the mother tongue. But once you find that there is this protolinguistic stage, which has nothing whatever to do with grammar or any of the formal properties of human language, then the issue becomes rather meaningless. What I am much more concerned about is to say that what is really false — and it's common to the Transformationalist and behaviourist views, which are really variants the same thing in this respect — is that they are both individualist. They are both the products of extreme Western philosophical individualism. That is, the child is treated as an isolate bound by his skin and the rest of the world is out there. And his job is to go and get it. It's readymade. It's a construct. It exists in some sense. And the child has to, in some sense, acquire it. I don't believe this at all. I think that the child is in fact — if you like, you could use the word 'creating', but the word 'creating' has so many overtones in English. Let me use the term 'construing' rather, because it implies mental construction - the child is construing language, that is to say. But the child is not doing it as an individual. He is doing it as an intersubjective process together with the mother. And it is a process that cannot happen in the individual. It can happen only as a social interactive or inter-subjective process. And it's this that constitutes my main philosophical objection to both the Transformationalist and behaviourist models of language learning. And until people like Trevarthen (e.g. 1974) came along I didn't... I am not a psychologist, as you know, but I wasn't aware of psychological theories which seemed to me to be saying what I wanted. It seems to me that that kind of work does. He has the very much same idea, not about language but about the whole of what you call psychological acts. Now, l see that as being a very good model of language learning.