Vygotsky. History of the Development of the Higher Mental Functions. 1931
The development of speech is probably the most convenient phenomenon for tracing the mechanism of the formation of behavior and comparing the approach to this development, typical for studying conditioned reflexes, with the psychological approach to it. First of all, the development of speech presents a history of the formation of one of the most important functions of cultural behavior of the child which lies at the base of his accumulating cultural experience. Precisely because this subject has such a central, essential significance, we use it to begin a consideration of concrete aspects of the development of child behavior.
The first steps of the development of speech are accomplished exactly as the theory of the conditioned reflex indicates with respect to the development of any new form of behavior.
On the one hand, a basis for a child’s speech is innate reaction, hereditary reflex, which we term unconditioned. It is the base for subsequent development of absolutely all conditioned reflexes. The reflex of a cry, a vocal reaction of the child, is this kind of unconditioned reflex, this kind of hereditary base from which the speech of the adult human develops. We know that it can be observed even in a newborn.
At the present state of our knowledge of unconditioned reflexes, it is difficult to say how many innate reactions there are besides the cry reflex, but recent work indicates that there is no doubt that the vocal reactions of the newborn involve not just one reflex, but perhaps a series of closely connected unconditioned reflexes. However, in the first weeks of life, a modification occurs that is proper to every conditioned reflex. Repeated in certain situations, combined in these situations with conditioned stimuli and entering into the composition of these situations, vocal reactions of the child very early, even in the first weeks of life, begin to be converted into conditioned vocal reflexes. They are elicited not only by various unconditioned internal stimuli, but also by conditioned stimuli that are linked to various innate reactions of the child.
C. Bühler, having first set a goal of recording the development of speech monographically step by step, observed more than 40 children systematically and demonstrated all stages of the development of speech in its sequence. The researcher demonstrated specifically that, linked with the appearance of vocal reaction, reactions of social contact established with the help of speech are exhibited by the child.
If we were to specify in detail how a child’s vocal reaction develops, we would sec that he is inclined to repeat the way that has been experimentally established in laboratory studies of the formation of the conditioned reflex. Initially, the conditioned reaction is in a generalized stage that appears as a response not just to any specific signal, but also to a number of signals that are somewhat complex and have something in common with the given signal. Later, the reaction begins to be differentiated. This happens if one of the signals occurs more frequently than another in the given situation. In due course, the reaction begins to occur only in response to the selected stimulus.
One example of such a generalized reaction is the appearance of a vocal reaction by a child at the sight of his mother or the wet-nurse. At first, the vocal reaction appears at the sight of any person, then it becomes differentiated and appears only at the sight of the mother or her outfit for feeding. For example, C. Bühler was able to observe the vocal reaction of a child if anyone else put on the dressing gown that the mother usually wore for the feeding.
Another very important point about the vocal reaction of the very young child is the following: this reaction does not develop in isolation, but always is an organic part of a whole group of reactions. A child never develops only a single vocal reaction, but always there is a series of movements within which the vocal reaction is only one part or one element. Even here the development proceeds along the path that is well known from studies of conditioned reflexes.
Since the vocal reaction is connected with certain external impressions, from the unorganized whole of which it is a part, an independent vocal reaction gradually develops. In the first years of the child’s life, its development proceeds as follows: a differentiated vocal reaction is isolated from a multitude of unorganized movements of which the vocal reaction is a part. Specifically, this reaction begins to acquire a central significance. Some of the movements are eliminated and what remains is only the mimicry of the face, shoulders, and hands directly related to the vocal reaction. Finally, the vocal reaction begins to appear only against a background of the remaining reactions and is precisely isolated from a series of other reactions.
It is important to note the uniqueness of the role that the vocal reaction plays in the first six months of the child’s life. Physiology and psychology, however, agree that we can ascribe two basic functions to the vocal reaction which have a clear physiological basis nevertheless. The first function consists of what the old psychologists called expressive movement. This is an unconditioned, instinctive reaction that arises as an external expression of emotional states of the organism. Thus, the child in pain gives a reflexive cry but with dissatisfaction he gives a different kind of cry. If we were to answer the question in the language of psychology as to what the expressive movement represents, we would have to say that the vocal reaction is a symptom of a general emotional reaction that expresses the presence or disturbance of the child’s equilibrium with the environment. Who does not know from simple observation that a hungry child does not cry in the same way as a satisfied child? A change occurs of the whole state of the organism and this causes a change in the emotional reactions; the vocal reaction also changes in this case.
This indicates that the first function of the vocal reaction is emotional.
The second function, which appears only when the vocal reaction becomes a conditioned reflex, is the function of social contact. At one month, a special, that is, a trained vocal conditioned reflex appears as a response to vocal reaction originating from the people around the child. The trained vocal conditioned reflex together with the emotional reaction, or in place of it, begins to fill the same role with respect to expressing the organic state of the child as it does with respect to his social contact with the people around him. The child’s voice becomes his speech or tool substituting for speech in its most elementary forms.
Thus, we see that in prehistory, that is, during the first year of life, children’s speech is based wholly on a system of unconditioned reactions, predominantly instinctive and emotional, from which a more or less independent conditional vocal reaction is developed by differentiation. Due to this, there is a change in the function itself of the reaction: if before, the function was a part of a general organic mid emotional reaction exhibited by the child, now it begins to fulfill the function of social contact.
However, the vocal reactions of the child are still not speech in the full sense of the word. Here we approach the manifestation of articulated speech, the most difficult instance for correct understanding of the development of children’s speech, that is, its cultural development. Let us remember that we spoke in the beginning of the difference between the physiological and psychological points of view of one and the same process.
In order to approach this instance in the development of speech, we must add one essential provision: we see that the vocal reaction of the child develops at the very beginning completely independently from thinking. Least of all can we ascribe to the 18-month-old child full-fledged, formed consciousness or thought. If the child cries, least of all can we assume that he already knows from experience what the connection is between the cry and subsequent actions of those around him and that his cry can be compared with our purposeful actions or communication when we speak to affect someone.
Thus, there is no doubt that the first phase in the development of children’s speech is not related at all to the development of children’s thinking; it is not connected with the development of the intellectual processes in the child. Actually, in observations of idiots and retarded children, we see that idiots also pass through this stage of development. Edinger succeeded in observing the vocal reactions of a child born without the cerebrum.
As research has shown, speech is not alone in an initial development independent of thinking; thinking develops independently of speech as well. Köhler and other psychologists set up experiments with a monkey and with children. When the researchers placed the child in a situation in which the monkey used very simple tools and simple ways of getting an object, the child age 9-11 months exhibited simple reactions similar to those of the monkey. Like the monkey, children use a string or a stick, use various objects to move an object, and use indirect ways with their arms and with objects. In other words, at this age, the child exhibits simple reactions regardless of his speech capability.
As we have said, K. Bühler calls the age from 9 to 12 months the chimpanzee-like age, wanting to indicate that at this age, the child exhibits the first use of tools that can be observed with a chimpanzee.
In this way, we come to two points. On the one hand, speech development occurs at first independently of the development of thinking, and at the first stages, it occurs more or less similarly in both the severely retarded and in children with a normal brain. The character of speech development in the first period wholly confirms the picture we have of the formation of the conditioned reflex, passing through all the corresponding stages. This indicates that all the first forms of speech appear independently of thinking. On the other hand, at 9-12 months of age, the child exhibits simple use of tools which develops when speech has not yet taken shape. The impression is that thinking develops along its own path and speech along its own. This is a very important point that can be formulated relative to the development of speech at an early age.
At a certain point, these lines – the development of speech and the development of thinking – which proceeded along different paths, seem to cross or meet, and an intersection of the two lines of development occurs here. Speech becomes intellectual, connected with thinking, thinking becomes verbal and connected with speech. An elucidation of this central instance on which all future fate of the cultural behavior of the child depends is the basic task of the next chapter.
But first, we will present certain cursory observations apropos to this. The first theory for explaining the features of the development of thinking and speech were proposed by W. Stern, who presented a valuable monograph on the development of children’s speech. Stern maintains that at a certain age (presumably at the age of one and a half to two years), thinking and speech meet. In other words, there is a break after which the development of both begins to follow a completely new line. Stern calls this moment the greatest discovery that the child makes in the course of his whole life. In the words of Stern, the child discovers that every thing has a name, that for every object there is a corresponding word that signifies the given object.
How does Stern know that a child age one and a half to two years makes such a discovery? Stern establishes this on the basis of three basic objective symptoms.
The first symptom. The child in whom the break connected with an intersection of the lines of thinking and speech has occurred begins to enlarge his vocabulary by leaps. If the vocabulary of the first stages is limited to one or two dozen words, now it begins to grow and sometimes in the course of two or three months, increases eightfold. The first sign is the burgeoning increase in vocabulary.
The second symptom. The child exhibits the so-called period of first questions: the child in seeing some object asks in one form or another what it is called, or what it is. The child behaves as if he knows that the thing must have a name although adults have not called the object by name.
The third symptom is connected with the first two and is a radical change that is characteristic for human speech but is absent in animals. This change gave Stern a new reason to assume that a decisive transition takes place here from the conditioned reflex form in the development of speech to other forms. It is well known that animals are also capable of acquiring words of human speech, but there are definite limits to their acquisitions. Animals acquire as many words as people around them teach them. Never has any animal used any word except those that people taught them and never has an animal named an object that the people present did not name. Thus, the method that animals and small children use for acquiring words represents a passive extension of vocabulary. A child’s use of a new word occurs as a conditioned reflex: when the child hears a word spoken by the people around him, he must connect it with an object and only then does he pronounce it. If one counts the number of words acquired by a small child, one can see that he acquires as many words as the people around him use. At one and a half to two years of age, a decisive break occurs: the child himself asks what an object is called and himself seeks words he does not know and begins actively to extend his vocabulary.
Thus we have three points: (1) a burgeoning increase in vocabulary; (2) the period of the child’s questions (the appearance of the question, “What do you call this?”); and (3) the transition to an active extension of the child’s vocabulary. The third point places a boundary between the stages of psychological development of the child; according to the third point, we might say that a break in the development of the given child occurred or it did not.
How can we interpret these three points? What is happening with speech here, what specifically is manifested in the third symptom?
W. Stern, who first established these points, develops the following theory: the child behaves as if he understands that every thing has its own name. With respect to his language, the child behaves as we behave with respect to a foreign language. Let us imagine that we find ourselves in a foreign country and know a few words.
Seeing a new object, without fail, we ask: “What is this called? What is it?” Stern assumes that the child actually makes a discovery or an invention and that this discovery in a retarded child occurs later and in idiots, it does not occur at all.
Thus, Stern classifies this discovery as a development of thinking in the child and hypothesizes that in this case, this is something other than a simple conditioned reflex. As he says, what is taking place is a consciousness of the connection and of the relation between the sign and its meaning. In his opinion, the child discovers the meaning of the sign. This interpretation is based on the external phenotypic similarity of the objects. The child behaves as if he had discovered the meaning of the object; the assumption that this is actually a discovery is based on this. But on the basis of a correct genotypic study we know that the phenotypic similarity of any processes or phenomena having the same appearance does not yet mean that they are the same. A whale is similar to a fish, but research has established that the whale is a mammal. Something of the same sort occurs with the child’s so-called discovery.
Most of all, it is improbable that a child of one and a half to two years, when his thinking is at an extremely primitive stage, is capable of making a discovery that requires colossal intellectual effort. For this reason, it is doubtful that a small child would have the complex psychological experience that would enable him to understand the relation between the sign and its meaning. As experiments have shown, often even older children and adults over the course of all their lives never make this discovery; neither do they understand the conditioned meaning of words nor the relation between the sign and its meaning.
K. Bühler, who studied deaf-mute children, found that they make this discovery later, at the age of six. Subsequent research showed that in deaf-mute children who learn to speak, the discovery occurs less dramatically than Stern assumes. Here the matter is less that the child “discovers” something but is a matter of the question of what language really is. Something much more complex takes place here.
The French researcher, H. Wallon, who studied the initial period of a child’s development, also considered it improbable that a child should make such a “discovery,” because subsequent development of children’s words is completely of the conditioned reflex type.
A simple example: Darwin’s grandson calls a duck, “quack”; he then extends “quack” to all birds. Later this word is extended to liquid since a duck swims in water; and the child even calls milk and medicine “quack.” It develops that milk and the fowl have the same name while initially it belonged only to the duck swimming in the water. Further, the child sees a coin which bears the image of an eagle and the coin is also given the designation “quack.”
Thus, we often have a long chain consisting of many changes in which words transfer from one conditioned stimulus to a conditioned stimulus of a completely different order. Such an extension of meaning factually refutes Stern’s position. If a child had discovered that every object has a name and guessed that milk has its own name, and water, its own, then it would be impossible that a coin, a metallic button, and a fowl would be named with the same word since these objects play functionally different roles for the child.
These data show that Stem’s hypothesis is improbable. We must not say that in his hypothesis, based on development of children’s speech from the generally idealistic tradition, Stern wants to emphasize the more active role the inner source plays in the child’s consciousness. According to Stern’s expression, together with the material and social roots of speech, he also wants to confirm its inner aspect. This is the source of the hypothesis that the child “invents” something. But such explorations by a child beginning to make sounds seem improbable. All experiments on memory connected with the first manifestations of language and conducted with children age one and a half to two years show how unlikely this kind of discovery is at such an early age.
So Stern’s hypothesis collapses. Another hypothesis remains: the child does not discover the meaning of words, at a crucial moment he does not make those active explorations that Stern is inclined to see, but the child simply masters the external structure of the meaning of words, he masters the fact that each thing is named by its own word, he masters the structure that can unite the word and the thing in such a way that the word standing for the thing becomes as if the property of the thing itself.
If we move on to the history of the word, we see that speech in an adult develops in the same way. In order to trace how the natural formation of the sign, which is not at all an intellectual discovery, develops in the child, we must deal with how speech in general is formed.
Speech and the meaning of words develop naturally, and the history of how the meaning of a word developed psychologically helps to cast light to a certain degree on how signs develop, how the first sign appears naturally in a child, how mastery of the mechanism of signification occurs on the basis of a conditioned reflex, how from this mechanism a new phenomenon arises that extends as if beyond the boundaries of the conditioned reflex.
We know that our words are not invented. However, if we ask any person, as children ask, why a given object is called by a certain word, for example, why a window is called a window, a door, a door, then most of us cannot answer. Moreover, we are right in assuming that a window might have been called by the sound complex “door” and vice versa. The whole thing is arbitrary. We know, however, that language developed not from arbitrarily made up words and not because people agreed to call a window a window. Language developed naturally in such a way that psychologically it totally crossed the line of the development of the conditioned reflex which tolerated the word “quack” transferred from the duck to water to a coin.
Let us consider a simple example. Psychologists-linguists state that in contemporary language two groups of words can be identified, one of which can be distinguished visually. Let us consider the words used by A. A. Potebnya (petukh [rooster], voron [raven], and golub’ [pigeon]). It would seem that we can tell why a pigeon is called a pigeon and a raven, a raven. But could it not be the other way around? But if we take such words as goluboi [blue] or voronoi [black], prigolubit’ [to caress], provoronit’ [to yawn for a long time], or petushit’sya [to be cocky], we can see how the words differ psychologically and we can ascertain the presence of an exceptionally important characteristic in each of these words. We still may not understand why the words “raven” and “pigeon” refer to these birds, but with the words voronoi [black] and goluboi [blue] this is quite clear because voronoi means black and goluboi means light blue. Here we cannot let voronoi [black] be blue and goluboi [blue] be black.
If we say provoronit’ [to yawn for a long time] or prigolubit’ [to caress], then besides the common meaning, these words in themselves combine a certain group of sounds with a certain meaning. For this reason, in words such as voron [raven], psychologists distinguish two points: on the one hand, the sound form of the word (sounds v+o+r+o+n) and on the other, the meaning which names a certain bird.
If we take a word like provoronit’, we have three points: first, the complex of sounds; second, the meaning (provoronit’ means to yawn for a long time); third, the word is linked to a certain image so that in the word, provoronit’ there is a certain internal image (a raven does this when it opens its mouth). A certain internal comparison is made, an internal picture or pictogram of conditioned sounds connected with the internal image. When we say petushit’sya, then a certain image appears for which no word is adequate; we are comparing a person with a rooster; when we say goluboe nebo [blue sky], a comparison of the color of the sky with the wing of a pigeon is clear to all; when we say voronoi kon’ [black horse], the word voronoi is linked to the wing of a raven [voron]. In all cases, a picture is generated that ties the meaning to the sign.
In modern language, we have two groups of words: words in one group form an image and in the other, they do not. Comparing the word “cabbage” with the word “snowdrop,” Potebnya notes that these words seem to belong to two different classes because a definite image is linked with the word “snowdrop” (a flower that grows under the snow which opens up after a thaw), but the word “cabbage” seems arbitrary. But this holds only phenotypically; genetic studies have shown that every word has its image, but the image is frequently concealed although every word can be restored etymologically. The word “cabbage” is connected with the Latin word caput, which means head. A cabbage has an external similarity to a head, but we have forgotten or do not know about this connecting link. For psychologists, a connecting link is very important because without it, we could not understand why, specifically, the complex of sounds “c-a-b-b-a-g-e” signifies a plant. Actually, the history of almost every word shows that in its origin, it was connected with a certain image. Then, according to the laws of psychological development, other words were generated from these words. Thus, words are not invented and do not appear as a result of external conditions or arbitrary agreement, but come into being or are derived from other words. Sometimes new words appear as a result of transferring an old meaning to new objects.
Let us trace the history of some simple words. From the etymology of the Russian word vrach [doctor], we know that the Slavic words vrati, vorchat [to lie, to grumble] are related words, but the initial meaning of the word vrach is vru.ihchi [casting a spell], zagovarivayushchii bolezn’ [casting a spell on an illness]. We: see that here we can trace the graphic link between the sound and the meaning. At times the connecting link may be so distant that it is difficult for modern man to trace psychologically how this link led to a connection with the image of a given word.
Let us take the word sutki [twenty-four hours]. What does it mean? If we say that according to the interpretations of some dialectologists, it initially mean! the front corner in a room, it would be very difficult without special analysis for us to see how this word began to mean “twenty-four hours” as we understand it. Twenty- four hours is a day and a night; comparative analysis of a number of words shows that it was formed from the word stuknut’ [to knock]. If we take the prefix su- (or so-) [with] and tknut’ [to poke or prod], we get sotknut’ (sotykat’) [adjoin, i.e., day joined to night]. In some provinces, sutki means sumerki, the time when day and night meet. Then day and night together began to be called sutki.
In some words, it is very easy to find the root, but difficult to disclose the origin of the word. For example, who knows that okun’ [perch] is derived from the word oko [eye], that is, “the fish with large eyes?”
The history of other words is even more complex. For example, who would have thought that the words razluka [separation] and lukavyi [crafty, cunning] are connected with the image of a bowstring? If a bowstring broke when pulled at the bow [Russian: luk], this was termed a separation [razluka]. Since luk is simply a curve, lines were distinguished as being straight [pryamaya] or curved [lukavaya]. Thus, almost every word has its history; at its base lies an initial representation or image, and a connecting link led to the formation of our word. I ‘his means that it is necessary to do a special analysis to disclose the history of this formation.
In Russian speech, nearly always there is a process of a reverse order. Potebnya elucidates this process.
Thus, certain literary words are perverted in colloquial speech: instead of pal- isadnik [front garden], people say, polusadnik [half garden]. The word acquires a certain image with this perversion. Instead of trotuar [pavement], people say, plituar [slab]. The perversion makes it possible to ascribe an image to the word which connects the sound with a meaning that is contained in the word. A. A. Shakhmatov cites a more recent perversion: semisezonnoe [seven-seasonal] (instead of de- misezonnoe [demiseasonal]) coat. Demisezonnoe is converted to semisezonnoe not because it is easier to pronounce, but because then the word becomes understood as a coat for all seasons.
The same explanation can be given for one of the first words of the revolution: people say prizhim [pressure] instead of rezhim [regime]. They say, “the old prizhim” because it is connected with a certain image. In the same way, the word, spinzhak [back jacket], published in the work of V I. Dal’, arose because this piece of clothing is put on the back first. The word, having acquired the form spinzhak, acquires a sensible meaning.
Unfortunately, we can only produce a very limited number of examples of similar conversions in children’s speech: the well-known children’s words mokress [nonsense word; the root mok- means wet] (for kompress), mazelin [nonsense word, the root maz means “smear"] (for Vaseline). These perversions are understandable: compress is connected with a representation of something damp and Vaseline is rubbed on. With this kind of perversion, a connecting link is made between the sound composition and the meaning of the words.
A. A. Potebnya, analyzing a simple sentence that has logical sense, established what it means in the literal sense of the word. It developed that every sentence of this kind now has unperceived links. For example, using certain words in a figurative sense, we depend on a certain image. Thus, if we say, “We stand on the ground of ‘facts,'” in the literal sense this means “to stand confidently” or “to be confident” because at the base of the confidence we have something positive in the form of determined facts. The sentence contains a seemingly senseless combination of words, but from the point of view of our direct speech, it has a figurative meaning. Of course, when we say that we are standing on the ground of facts, then we are least ready to see ourselves as standing on the earth and even less as standing on soil. We used the expression in a figurative sense. But when a man says that he stands on the ground of facts, we involuntarily compare the position of the man supported by facts with the position of a man standing on the ground, on the earth, standing firmly and not hanging in the air.
In this way all our sentences and all of our speech has a figurative sense. If we return now to the development of children’s speech, we shall see that in clinical experiments we can establish the same thing that we have in the development of words. Precisely as in the development of our speech, words do not arise arbitrarily, but always arise in the form of a natural sign connected with some image or with some operation, and in children’s speech, signs do not appear from what the child himself invents; the child obtains signs from those around him and only later realizes or discovers the functions of these signs.
Undoubtedly, the same thing occurred with humanity when man acquired any tools. In order for a tool to become a tool, it had to have some necessary physical properties to be used in u given situation. Let us consider the stick as a tool. The stick had to have physical properties appropriate to the given situation.
In the same way, in order for a stimulus to become a psychological sign, it had to have certain psychological properties. In the most general form, we can say: a stimulus becomes a natural sign, a natural symbol for the child when the child perceives one and the same structure and all the elements with which it is connected.
We can ask, where in the child is the figurative speech of which we spoke? Where is that connection in the development of speech of the child that serves as a link between sign and meaning that might be seen in the process of extending meaning as a conditioned reflex or as a transfer of the reflex from one order to another? Of course, it is not present in the child. When the child acquires words, he acquires them in an external way. We have only to explain why we have forgotten certain meanings and why we must recall that the word sutki [twenty-four hours] represented sumerki [twilight], or even earlier, styk dvukh sten [the coming together of two walls]. Other words appear in exactly the same way, and their origin now seems incomprehensible. On the basis of the law of the conditioned reflex, the intermediate links are discarded. Let us recall that we spoke of the selection reaction. It occurs in the child in such a way that gradually the intermediate links are eliminated and a merging of the seam type occurs. Our speech represents an infinite number of merges of the seam type in which the intermediate links are eliminated since they become unnecessary for the meaning of the modem word.
Let us consider the word chemila [ink]. We know what this word signifies because the word chemyi [black] from which chemila is derived is fresh in our language. But does it mean that ink must always be black? Inks can be red and green. Evidently, naming according to the color and the image it generates contradicts some properties of the object. In this case, some of the old properties are rejected and a conflict develops between the old narrow meaning of the word and the differentiated new meaning, a conflict between the narrow and nonessential or partial meaning and a more essential and general meaning. What was the origin of the initial word chemila'! Of course, the first thing that meets the eye, the first trait is that this is something black. A simple transfer of meaning occurs of the conditioned reflex type from chemyi to chemila [ink]. But the essential thing about ink is that it is a liquid. Is it essential that a liquid be black? Of course not. This means that the trait “black” is nonessential. Finally, the word chemila is connected with a certain reaction: it is something with which one can write; what is more, this means that it is not so important that ink be black as that one can write with ink. The whole history of the development of language shows that this is how it happens.
In all European languages, our word korova [cow] etymologically signifies ro- gataya [horned]. In Latin, this word meant goat, and in French, deer.
For the child, who gets every concrete word from us, a direct knot (or connection) is formed between a given word and the corresponding object. This connection, or conditioned reflex, appears in the child in a natural way since the child makes no discovery of a new sign and because he uses the word as a sign for the object. But if we try to observe clinically how the child acquires a sign independently or to formulate it experimentally, we see that in the experiment, the appearance of signs passes through the same stages through which language passed by way of connecting links.
In experiments, we place the child in this situation: in play, the child quite willingly names any object with the word for any other object. For example, for children playing, a plate or a clock can fulfill any function. So we can agree that, let us say, a knife is a doctor, an ink bottle cap is a cab, a clock is a pharmacy, and any other object is medicine, etc. Then we carry out a series of simple actions with these objects and the child remembers very well their symbolic meaning. The child can easily tell an appropriate story, for example, about how a doctor got in a cab, rode to a patient, examined him, prescribed medicine, and then someone went to the pharmacy for the medicine. Sometimes the child tells even more complex stories. It is interesting to note that the child remembers very well that the clock is the pharmacy, etc.; what is essential is that a child does not make a mistake in his play.
After several experiments, a child of five begins to gradually identify primary traits that are the connecting link. Place a clock before a child and tell him that it is a pharmacy. No matter what we do with the clock subsequently, the child translates these actions to the word pharmacy. Thus, he begins to compare the numbers on the clock with medicines. “Pharmacy” is the first stimulus that is identified and serves as a connecting link between the sign and the meaning.
In other words, the child himself creates a sign in exactly the same way that the sign is created in general in the development of our speech. In an experiment, when a child unites two things directly, say the pharmacy with the clock, the child isolates one of the traits, say the face of the clock, and through this trait connects the pharmacy with the clock. In the same way, when a book that means “forest” is placed before a younger child, the child says that it is a forest because the book has a black binding. For a five-year-old child, the book can no longer be a forest; the child already isolates one stimulus from a number of stimuli, say the black color, and this trait begins to play the role of a connecting link between sign and meaning.
We will try to summarize what has been said. The prehistory of children’s speech shows that speech develops in the same way as any conditioned reflex, that the development passes through all the stages known from laboratory studies of the conditioned reflex. Specifically, it is essential that the development of speech occurs independently of thinking and thinking develops independently of the development of children’s speech, but at a certain instant, both meet. At approximately the age of two, the child experiences a burgeoning of his vocabulary, its active extension, after which there is a phase of questions: “What is this? What do you call this?”
On the basis of what we know, we must reject the hypothesis of Stern that at the moment of crossing of speech and thinking the child discovers the meaning of the word. Genetic analysis shows that it is difficult to speak of discovery. Evidently, the child at first masters not the internal relation between sign and meaning, but the external connection between the word and the object, and this occurs according to the laws of the development of the conditioned reflex due to simple contact between two stimuli. Specifically for this reason it is difficult to believe that discovery or recognition of the object occurs first and its function is recognized later. Actually, direct assimilation of function occurs and only on the basis of this assimilation does recognition of the object occur later. Thus, the instant of discovery of which Stern speaks is pushed ever farther away.