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SEMIOTIC MEDIATION AND MENTAL DEVELOPMENT IN PLURALISTIC SOCIETIES



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Hasan Semiotic Mediation SEMIOTIC MEDIATION AND MENTAL DEVELOPMENT IN PLURALISTIC SOCIETIES SOME IMPLICATIONS FOR TOMORROW S SCHOOLING Ruqaiya Hasan That children s learning begins long before they attend school is the starting point of this discussion Any learning a child encounters in school has a previous history Vygotsky 1978 84 The enormous reach of Vygotsky s theoretical approach to mental development derives from the very concept of semiotic mediation What makes the concept so powerful is the fact that it establishes connections across some of the most important areas of human social existence More specifically it foregrounds a fundamental relationship between mental functions and discourse within the context of social cultural activity This in turn invites us to explore the relations between the disciplines of psychology semiotics and sociology Reflection on these interconnections suggests that if we wish to fully understand the implications of Vygotsky s claims about the sociogenesis of human mind then on the one hand we must be willing to ignore the conventionally accepted boundaries erected in the name of specialisation across these and many other disciplines and on the other hand we must be prepared to probe deeper into the significance of the claims made by this powerful theory It is well recognised Vygotsky 1962 Wertsch 1985 that in putting forward the concept of semiotic mediation Vygotsky attached greater importance to language than he did to other modalities of meaning We need then to ask why language has been granted this special status in Vygotsky s theory what it is that language enables us to do which other semiotic r March 2001 1 Hasan Semiotic Mediation modalities do not or at least not to the same extent or with the same facility Similarly in identifying social cultural activity as the essential site for the operation of semiotic mediation the theory opens up interesting questions such as the relation between cultural activities and language



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