The Relevance of Husserl's Theory to Language Socialization


Dept of Anthropology
341 Haines Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1553


This article suggests that the theory of language socialization could benefit from adopting some key concepts originally introduced by the philosopher Edmund Husserl in the first part of the twentieth century. In particular, it focuses on Husserl's notion of “(phenomenological) modification,” to be understood as a change in “the natural attitude” that humans have toward the phenomenal world, their own actions included. After providing examples of different kinds of modifications in interpreting language and listening to music, Husserl's notion of “theoretical attitude” (a modification of “the natural attitude”) is introduced and shown to be common in adult conversations as well as in interactions between adults and young children. A reanalysis of an exchange previously examined by Platt (1986) between a Samoan mother and her son is provided to show the benefits of an integration of phenomenological and interactional perspectives on adult-child discourse. Finally, it is suggested that the failure sometimes experienced by children and adults to adopt new ways of being may be due to the accumulated effects of modifications experienced earlier in life which make it difficult if not impossible to retrieve earlier, premodificational ways of being. [language socialization, phenomenology, jazz aesthetics, Samoan child language]