Please tell me what roles do physical objects and language play in explaining the social world?  Which theory would you use in contemporary sociological theory if you were explaining social...

Please tell me what roles do physical objects and language play in explaining the social world?  Which theory would you use in contemporary sociological theory if you were explaining social behavior through the use of language? why?

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Physical objects provide individuals with concrete points of reference and identification while language provides names for them, establishes relationships among objects, and allows for communication. The cognitive theories of Jean Piaget as well as the socio-cultural theories of Lev Vygotsky provide explanations of social behavior through the use of language.

According to Piaget, a child develops a schema of things from the physical world of objects and people with whom she comes into contact. If, for instance, she sees a man on a horse with a Stetson hat, she is told that he is a cowboy. Later, if she sees another man wearing this type of western hat, she may also identify him as a "cowboy" when he is not, and the parent must explain the difference. 

While Piaget focused upon the developmental stages of cognition and language acquisition, Lev Vygotsky took a social interactionist approach. According to Vygotsky, social interaction has an integral role in the learning process. He proposed what he called the "zone of proximal development" [ZPD], an area in which learners construct new language through social interaction that is mediated.  Accordingly, the child constructs a social world, which serves as the context within which the child develops language as she identifies those people and objects she recognizes. This theory of Vygotsky works well because it combines both behavioral theories with the linguistic position in language production. In addition, it emphasizes the communicative intent as primary and the semantic intent as secondary.

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tyler-k's profile pic

tyler-k | Student, Grade 12 | (Level 1) Salutatorian

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In today's society, physical or material objects are everything. They are the center of our universe, because we depend on them for everything. We use them to communicate and create in every aspect of our lives. Physical objects are what we depend on most. 

Language is what we use to communicate. Even when language barriers arise, we have many universal "languages" that can be used to get points across. Spoken word is in some ways even more important in the social world because society revolves around communication and speaking.

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