Language for the Other: Constructing Cultural-Historical Psycholinguistics



Cultural-historical psycholinguistics addresses language activity in its social as well as in its psychological function with corresponding verbal forms. Language is thus situated within the life activity of situated and positioned, mutually oriented societal individuals, it is not abstractable from these individuals, nor from their activity. This notion of language is at the core of the proposed ‘psycholinguistics of alterity’ (Bertau 2011), constructed firstly through a historical and conceptual analysis, secondly in a theoretical way involving empirical results from diverse fields of language investigation. The aim of our contribution is to introduce the main elements of this construction, we will hence follow the same rationale. In a first step, Humboldt’s language philosophy and its reception by Russian linguists is addressed. Dialogicality of language and thought processes is the core notion which is taken up and developed in Russia and in the Soviet Union by several thinkers. Vygotsky’s specific language psychology is seen within this context of ideas, constituting the framework for considering the relation between language and thought. Building on Humboldt’s philosophy of language, Russian dialogical linguistics and cultural-historical psychology as formulated by Vygotsky, the theoretical system addressing language as activity of socially organized and self-other positioned individuals is presented in a second step.

General Information

Keywords: Addressivity, Alterity, Dialogue, Form, Psycholinguistics, Voice.

Article type: scientific article

For citation: Bertau M. Language for the Other: Constructing Cultural-Historical Psycholinguistics [Elektronnyi resurs]. Tätigkeitstheorie: E-Journal for Activity Theoretical Research in Germany, 2011. no. 5, pp. 13–49.


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Information About the Authors

Marie-Cécile Bertau, PhD, Private Associate Professor, Doctor, Institute of Phonetics and Speech Processing, Institute of Phonetics and Speech Processing, Munich, Germany, e-mail:



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