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ERIC Number: EJ834006
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2005-Jan
Pages: 18
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 28
ISSN: ISSN-1074-9039
Discourse in Flux
Sfard, Anna
Mind, Culture, and Activity, v12 n3-4 p233-250 Jan 2005
More than 2 decades have passed since Geoffrey Saxe's first visit to Papua New Guinea, when he began his inquiry into the highly idiosyncratic counting system of Oksapmin's people. As evidenced by his account, a quarter of a century is a period long enough to make historical shifts visible. The point of departure for this commentary on "Cognition in Flux" (CiF) is that what is true about the discourse under investigation may also be true about the discourse of the investigator: Over the years, the researcher's talk might have undergone noticeable transformation as well. Because the recursive exercise of researching the discourse of research may be an experience not any less instructive than following changes in indigenous Oksapmin arithmetic, the author decided to devote her critical appraisal of Saxe's 25-year-old project to the analysis of shifts in his uses of the keyword "development". In doing this, she follows the example of Saxe's own study, presented in this issue, in which he epitomized the development of Oksapmin numerical thinking in the story of a single word--"fu". In this commentary, the author tries to answer a question not unlike the one Saxe and Esmonde have asked with respect to Oksapmin numerical discourse: How do changes in the ways of talking result from, and impinge on, what people ask, do, and notice? To elicit the principles on which the word "development" functions in Saxe's writings, the author first revisits research reports from his first Oksapmin studies and then takes an analytic look at CiF. To paint a picture of Saxe's past and present discourses on development, the author is asking, with respect to each of them, the following three questions: (1) Within this discourse, what is this thing that is said to be changing in the course of development? (2) What is the implied mechanism of the developmental change? and (3) What is new in this discourse in comparison to the discourse on development of the recent past? In these analyses, the author's leading assumption is that human discourses are always, and inevitably, in the process of change. This change is propelled by the discourses' mutual infiltration, on one hand, and by their inherent incompleteness, on the other. Based on this conviction, the author finishes with yet another round of answers to the prior three queries, except that this time they are asked with respect to a certain variation on Saxe's discourse, one that may be useful in addressing questions about development that CiF left open. (Contains 15 footnotes.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Papua New Guinea