Review of Speech: Its Function and Development by Grace De Laguna and The Symbolic Process and Its Integration in Children by John Markey.
Charles W. Morris
Speech: Its Function and Development. By GRACE ANDRUS DE LAGUNA. New Haven, Yale University Press, 1927. Pp. xii, 364. The Symbolic Process and Its Integration in Children. A Study in Social Psychology. By JOHN F. MARKEY. New York, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1928. Pp. xii, 192.
Both Mrs. de Laguna's Speech and Mr. Markey's The Symbolic Process are valuable books, and deal with complementary phases of the language process. Both are written from a point of view that may be called a social behaviorism, a view which aims to keep the methodological approach of the behaviorist without developing a subcutaneous theory of mental or linguistic processes by withdrawing the individual from the social situation in which the ‘complete act' takes place. Both writers unite in opposing the view that vocal language was preceded by a stage of gestural language, and in supporting the social-vocal origin of language. The main difference in treatment, and the difference which gives rise to the complementary character of the two volumes, is found in the fact that the study of speech stresses the general social origin and function of language, while the volume an the symbolic process emphasizes the details by which the individual child attains the stage of language behavior,
According to the volume on Speech, language develops in the human race out of the animal cry as a means of coördinating the behavior of the members of the social group. The animal cry both proclaims the presence of a certain situation and commands a response to this situation, It is suggested that the descent from the trees by the ancestors of primitive man gave rise to a new need of social organization, and that the differentiation of the proclamatory and imperative aspects of the animal cry allowed speech to serve as the means of attaining this social organization. The original sentence-words, appearing as the result of the use of the same sounds in different situations, can only function in situations where the perceptual referent is present, but as the perceptual context is finally itself replaced by a sentence-word, the complete sentence, which thus arises, not only permits a more detailed
( 613) analysis of the situation, but frees speech from the slavish dependence upon the presence of the original perceptual situation. In this way, while never completely losing its perceptual orientation, language becomes more and more autonomous, increasingly able to deal with the remote in time and space.
Through conversation the group is able to prepare for concerted action. Such social coördination is the basic function of speech. Social conversation gets to be internalized in the individual, and this internalization furnishes the clue to the development of the higher intellectual powers of the individual. Thought, belief, and memory are thus regarded as impossible without the originally objective process of conversation. Through this internalization the individual is better able to control his behavior by the anticipation of the goals and results of this behavior. While anticipation may be carried on by images, which, following Washburn, are conceived as due to the stimulation of the sensory centers connected with tentative movements whose discharge is blocked, such anticipation reinforcing the dominant action system, with the appearance of speech the end of behavior may become an end-in-view, the anticipatory verbal response taking the place of other implicit behavior, This refinement of individual behavior which the social phenomenon of language makes possible contributes in turn to a richer social coöperation and determination of group action.
Many subsidiary topics of the volume can only be mentioned : the discussion of the relation of tools to language; the comparison of the position taken with the Gestalt psychology; the defense of a methodological rather than a metaphysical behaviorism; and the interesting discussion as to how the objective impersonal physical environment arises in the field of psychological experience through the development of a technique of dealing with things indirectly by means of other things, so that there is knowledge of the relation of things to each other and not merely of the relation to the organism.
One contention may be mentioned more fully. Throughout the volume there runs the theme that actions once directly useful come in time to be ends in themselves and to gain a functional independence. Language, gradually freeing itself from the direct perceptual context, becomes increasingly autonomous, and the realm of discourse may diverge rather sharply from the realm of direct action. While the statement that pragmatism has not sufficiently recognized the "essentially social character of thinking" (p, 354) is untrue unless James alone is considered, the statement that pragmatists have often over-emphasized the directness of the relation of thought to action seems
( 614) justified. Language may turn back upon itself and rise to higher and higher degrees of indirectness of reference, and the origin of universals and of the formal studies of logic and mathematics is to be explained in terms of this process.
The position of Mrs. de Laguna in the present volume is illuminating and seems on the whole to be sound. Nor does the failure of the author to mention the close relation of her methodological position to the social behaviorism of Mr. Dewey, and the early and frequent use by Mr. Mead of the doctrine that thinking is an internalization of the objective phenomena of conversation, minimize the fact that she has given a remarkably rich, systematic, and novel contribution to a subject of major importance. Mr. Markey's volume is undoubtedly the most important single volume on the symbolic process. In his treatment the concept of the symbol becomes the central concept for the explanation of the problems of mind, thought, meaning, consciousness, and knowledge. His thought follows, or is in harmony with, the positions of Mr. Mead and Mr. Dewey, and like most recent discussions of language makes use of the principle of the conditioned circular response which Smith and Gunthrie, and Allport, have stressed. The central claim is that originally symbols arise from the social-vocal situation. Given circularly conditioned vocal-auditory responses, the voice of the mother, repeating the sound of the child, tends to call out the utterance of the sound by the child. By a process of substitution, the presence of the mother, and objects near her, become substitutes for the mother's voice. Finally, the vocal response of the child comes to stimulate the child as the previous presence of the situation in which the mother appeared, and such a vocal response, performing the stimulating role of another person, but differentiated from the other person's voice by the child's original response to his own voice, is a symbol. " The symbol involves the use by the organism of some act or sign which is differentiated from, but at the same time is a substitute for, an act or object" (p. 115). By this mechanism, which involves the distinction of the symbol from the bare substitute stimulus, the symbol " presents absent situations, past events, possible future events" (p. 138).
No critical discussion of this concept of the symbol is possible here, but while it must be admitted that the main symbols are socially determined vocal acts, it may be wandered whether all symbols are either socially or vocally derived. There are many reasons for not regarding this question as closed. On Mr. Markey's position, Mr. Hunter's use of the concept of the symbol in the interpretation of the results of the
( 615) delayed-reaction experiment is rejected, and the symbolic process (and so mind and thought) is restricted to human beings. Even if the question as to the use of the word 'symbol ' is in large part verbal, philosophers, at least, should be aware that there is nothing mare important than the wise use of words.
The argument in both volumes gives a real meaning to the communication which language makes possible. In following Berkeley rather than Locke in the question as to whether the sole use of language is the "communication of ideas ", same theories of language, forgetting that Locke meant by the term `idea' much that the term ‘experience' means to-day, seem to deny any real meaning to communication. Genuine communication requires that by the use of symbols the experience meant can be aroused at other organic centers, and both of the present theories can explain the process. As Mrs. de Laguna says, "the proclamation acts within certain limits as a substitute for the actual perception of what is proclaimed; or it leads to an expectation of, and a preparation for what the speaker announces to be present"(p. 265). This emphasis upon the proclamatory aspect of language is a necessary corrective to all attempts to reduce language to implicit responses or to find the whole story of language in the effect of sounds upon the behavior of other organisms. Whatever its origin, it must not be forgotten that language is a vehicle of truths about the experienced world as well as an instrument of social co-ordination.
These volumes on Speech and on The Symbolic Process help to lift the discussion of language to a new level. They should not be neglected. Both are worthy of that rumination which according to Nietzsche is characteristic of cows and philosophers.
CHARLES W. MORRIS.
THE RICE INSTITUTE.