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Marchand, Trevor H.J. (2007) 'Crafting Knowledge: the role of 'parsing and production' in the communication of skill-based knowledge among masons.' In: Harris, Mark, (ed.), Ways of Knowing. Oxford: Berghahn, pp. 173-193.

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Following a brief introduction to the problem, the chapter introduces two recently emerging theories that I believe provide an appropriate framework for advancing anthropological studies of skill-based performance and practice, such as those of the masons whom I worked with in Djenné, Mali. The first, mirror neuron theory, issues from the neurosciences and, in brief, demonstrates that a specialised system of neurons in the human mind fire while both observing and physically engaging in manual activities. Among the many possibilities that this suggests, it offers a novel way of exploring and explaining the teaching-learning processes of skilled performance. The second, dynamic syntax theory (DS) of language provides a ground-breaking semantic-based model for understanding the way that interpretation is constructed in both parsing and producing utterances in dialogue. It is proposed that both parsing and production rely on the same parsing routine, thereby yielding the same structured representations of semantic content and dialogue context. The swapping of speaker and hearer roles in dialogue, as well as the phenomenon of shared utterance, can be explained in a straightforward manner by the DS model. In the final section, I use dynamic syntax and motor neuron theory to better understand the nature of parsing and generating skills, and the way that physical activities, such as building, are successfully coordinated between interacting practitioners on site.

Item Type: Book Chapters
Keywords: communication, cognition, motor mirror neuron theory, dynamic sytax, Mali, masons
SOAS Departments & Centres: Legacy Departments > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of Anthropology and Sociology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
ISBN: 9781845453640
Date Deposited: 09 Jun 2008 10:27

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