Language and Thought
Two claims about the impact of language on thinking:
1) Vygotsky: Once acquired, language alters the way that children think 2) Whorf: The particular language that children acquire alters the way that they think
Piaget (1923) ‘The Language and Thought of the Child’
• Piaget observed what he called ‘egocentric’ speech: young children speak out loud in the presence of others but do not direct their remarks to anyone in particular. • He emphasized that children only slowly learn to adjust their narratives or their explanations to the informational needs of their listeners. • He concluded that ‘egocentric’ speech was gradually outgrown and supplanted by socialized speech.
Vygotsky (1986/1934) ‘Thought and Language’
• Vygotsky took a different view. He claimed that children’s early language was directed at a listener from the start. • Egocentric speech does occur but it is better seen as thinking (or planning) aloud. • As the child gradually differentiates between talk-for-others (communication) and talk-for-self (i.e. thinking or planning aloud), talk-for-self increasingly goes underground, i.e., it is not spoken aloud.
Evidence for Vygotsky’s alternative position
• When young children were placed in a room with peers who were speaking a foreign language or who were deaf-mutes, children’s egocentric speech virtually disappeared altogether. By implication, egocentric speech was aimed at communication - contrary to Piaget’s claim. Winsler & Naglieri (2003)
• Overt speech declines with age
• Inaudible speech remains roughly constant with age
• Reported inner speech increases dramatically with age
• Consistent with his general orientation, Vygotsky assumed - unlike Piaget - that the young child is socially adapted. • Most of the evidence supports his claim that egocentric speech does not cease or get replaced by communicative speech. Instead, it goes ‘underground’ where it serves as a mental medium for...
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