Thought and Language

By Lev S. Vygotsky

Translated by Eugenia Hanfmann and Gertrude Vakar





Jerome S. Bruner, in the biographic introduction to this volume, write,: This powerful... book... is a presentation of a highly original and thoughtful theory of intellectual development... which is at the same time, a theory of education.... One recognizes his power and ingenuity....”

Vygotsky's closely reasoned, highly readable analysis of the nature of verbal thought as based on word meaning marks a significant step forward in the growing effort to understand cognitive processes. Speech is, he argues, social in origins. It is learned from others and, at first, used entirely for affective and social functions. Only with time does it come to have self-directive properties that eventually result in internalized verbal thought. To Vygotsky, “a word is a microcosm of human consciousness.”

Theorists and educators, linguistic and psychology students will find illuminating insights in Vygotsky's description of the sequences stages in word-meaning development, the genesis and function of inner speech, the nature of written spreech, and the role of school instruction in the development of higher mental operations.

Vygotsky devised or adapted ingenious methods – many of the “double stimulation” type – to study the successive stages of mental growth. His theoretical discussions are based on a concept-formation study conducted by this method and on three other experimental investigations: studies of egocentric speech that substantially modify Piaget's conceptions; studies of the interaction of mental development and school instruction; and a study comparing development of the “scientific” concepts the child learns in school with his informally acquired “natural relents” concepts.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262220033 168 pp. |


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262720014 168 pp. |


Eugenia Hanfmann and Gertrude Vakar.


  • As I assign Thought and Language to each year's students, and re-read it myself to discuss with them, there are always new insights, even now after almost 25 years.

    Courtney Cazden

    Professor Harvard Graduate School

  • Vygotsky's pioneering work in the 1920s and 1930s has only recently won full recognition in the West. Nobody has taught us better how to balance the claims of the individual with those of society and culture in our thinking about psychology and linguistics. It is good to have a new edition of Thought and Language presented by one of the younger generation of scholars from the tradition of Vygotsky and Luria.

    Stephen Toulmin

    University of Chicago, Professor in the Committee on Social Thought