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Cultural-Historical Psychology

Publisher: Moscow State University of Psychology and Education

ISSN (printed version): 1816-5435

ISSN (online): 2224-8935


License: CC BY-NC 4.0

Started in 2005

Published quarterly

Free of fees
Open Access Journal

Affiliated ISCAR


Speech and practical intellectual activity of a child

Bozhovich L.I.
PhD in Psychology, Russia

Keywords: meaning, generalization, transfer, practical intellect, thinking, speech

Column: Archive

A Part of Article

Judging from the preliminary comment of I. Korepanova, published in three successive issues (№ 1—3, 2006) in early 1960-s L.Bozhovich’s work was passed by A.V. Zaporozhets to V. Zinchenko to be used in their coauthored chapter “Development of thinking” as a part of a book “Psychology of preschool children”.(M., Prosveshcheniye,1964). Another and a very similar copy is in the archives of L.Bozhovich belonging to her relatives.

The manuscript copy contains the exact date of its originating and the purpose for which it was written. At the beginning of the text the date 1929 is mentioned as the year of the beginning of an experiment. It also states that the work lasted for three years, i.e. at the time when L. Vygotsky was alive yet. As far as the content of the text bears similarity to findings described by L. Vygotsky in his work “A tool and a sign” it is easy to suppose that the manuscript describes the study carried out under Vygotsky’s supervision. Numerous citations from his texts part of which have references to the text of “Thinking and speech” testify in favor of this supposition.

In any case we can suppose that the study mentioned above was conducted in course of the program elaborated by Vygotsky which was aimed at the development of cultural-historic concept and its results were discussed with Vygotsky more than once. It is well known that one part of this program concerns the experimental examination of the hypothesis about the dynamic link between speech and thinking in ontogenesis. (R. Levina, A.V. Zaporozhets, L. Bozhovich).

Bozhovich herself reported that the study on the problem of thinking and speech was conducted by L. Vygotsky and his co — researchers both in Moscow and in Kharkov at the Ukrainian Psychoneurological Academy (its Psychology department). The results obtained allowed not only to come to some new conclusions related to the problem under study but also to elaboration of some new general psychological principles. Thus the study fell to some stages differing from each other both in their basic principles and the methods of study. That is way we preferred the path of history narration giving a possibility to present the development of practical intellectual activity of a child within the accepted concept of psychic development to a usual systematic report of experimental data.

From the above mentioned assumption the material of the article is subdivided into three parts:

1. Investigation of speech functions in development of practical intellectual operations.

2. Investigation of speech following the task solving connected with mechanical ties and relations.

3. Development of generalization and practical intellectual activity in children.

See below the theoretical conclusions of the study.

The hypothesis of the primary experiments stated that practical intellectual operations and speech are internally interrelating at a certain stage of their development. Later this hypothesis was substituted by a new theoretical approach to human thinking and speech as rooting from one basis. This new hypothesis was a starting point for itemization of problems concerning some experimental sessions that were carried out.

Study of thinking and speech in those complex interrelations they displayed in our early experiments showed that it is at a relatively late stage of development that the child appears capable of verbalizing the nearest goals in speech. Further study of these very practical intellectual operations helped to formulate the statement that even the pre-speech intellectual actions of a child are different from those of higher animals, at that the difference is connected with specific and typically human traits of child generalizations. They are actually the generalizations having speech origin provided by words as their material bearers. The fact of “convergence” of thinking and speech is the initial point of development of both child’s speech and thinking.

Emergence of thinking as an activity representing object-related reality is inevitably connected with a development of child’s human, i.e. social relation to the surroundings and the last makes a foundation for his/her development of object-related, meaningful and thus actually human speech. In order to become meaningful the word should attain the generalized quality. The subject’s activity underlying generalization and especially the one implementing child’s practical relation to reality and his/her communication (“spiritual relations” to other people) are initially interconnected.

Speech and activity development are two sides of a general process and they intertwine with each other even when the process falls into two parts. The correlation of speech and practical intellect which we detected in our first experimental sessions expresses not the beginning of their crossing but a later divergence of already detached forms of an initially indivisible activity and establishing new interrelations on their basis. The thing we regarded as a display of abstract interrelations between intellectual activity and speech is to be understood differently and more specifically: it is a relation of intellectual activity in a form of a practical activity and intellectual activity in a form of speech thinking activity, i.e. discursive or theoretical activity.

The development of this theoretical activity of speech thinking reveals not only its dependence on practical activity development, but at a certain stage of development lagging behind. “The happening” of a thought in speech appears at this stage of child psychological development decelerating from its fulfillment in practice. Only at higher stages of development (in our experiments only in senior subjects) this correlation changes: discursive, speech thinking becomes prominent. But this stage the stage of discursive thinking lies outside our present investigation.

The study of development presupposes understanding of its internal driving force and exposure of its necessity. That is why we tried to direct our efforts at investigation of conditions of development and changes in generalizations that uncover themselves in child’s practical intellectual acts. The study of development presupposes understanding of its internal driving force and exposure of its necessity. That is why we tried to direct our efforts at investigation of conditions of development and changes in generalizations that uncover themselves in child’s practical intellectual acts. The carried out study of practical task solving transfer showed that it is determined to a great degree at this stage of development by that practical intellectual activity of which it is an inner part. Only now it is to be taken not as a system of operations, not as an abstract form, but as having specific relations determining it. In other words we need to understand the need and conditions of emergence of such operations as both providing the development of child’s relations to reality and as a child’s activity in its integrity and specificity.

By describing the latest experiments of ours which have brought us closer to this task we rather broke off than finished our investigation planned as a broad one. The reason of it is rather internal than external and it is connected with a logic of investigation and its development. The main conclusion we have drawn transports the task of our investigation into an absolutely different area, namely into the area of the so called practical intellectual operations as a specific form of child’s sensible activity putting into practice his/her relation to material things and developing his/her communication. So our further investigation should have been the beginning of a new study opening an absolutely new frame of psychological problems. Their experimental working out is a relevant task of other series of investigations which will be the subject of further discussion.

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