LINGUIST List 11.58

Sat Jan 15 2000

Review: Spolsky: Encycl. of Educational Linguistics

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  1. Joyce.Milambiling, Review of Spolsky encyclopedia

Message 1: Review of Spolsky encyclopedia

Date: Fri, 14 Jan 2000 17:07:38 -0600 (CST)
From: Joyce.Milambiling <>
Subject: Review of Spolsky encyclopedia

Spolsky, Bernard (Ed.), (1999), Concise Encyclopedia of Educational
Linguistics. Elsevier Science Ltd. (Pergamon), Oxford, UK. 877 pages, $230.

Joyce Milambiling, University of Northern Iowa

Overview: The Concise Encyclopedia of Educational Linguistics (CEEL), edited 
by Bernard Spolsky, is a substantial, one-volume book that defines and
presents many aspects of the field of educational linguistics. Spolsky rejects
the notion that applied linguistics or educational linguistics can simply
and directly "tell teachers how to teach" (p.1), but rather he and the
contributors draw a picture of educational linguistics as comprising ways in
which knowledge that is gleaned from linguistics can be used directly or
indirectly in the teaching and learning of languages and content by both 
children and adults. This knowledge comes from many sub-fields that do not
often appear in the same place--for example, language policy and second
language acquisition. I find that it is very useful to have material on so 
many different aspects of language and education in one place, as well as to
have access to bibliographies that have been compiled by these authors who
come from such disparate disciplines.

Synopsis: The 232 entries are arranged under the major headings of "Intro-
duction to the Field," "The Social Context," "The Individual Learner," "The
School Context," "Teaching Language," "Teaching Additional Languages," and "The
Profession." The editor has devoted five articles (two of which were written
by him) to introducing the field, including such entries as "Applied
Linguistics" and "Ethics in Educational Linguistics." The remaining six
sections cast a wide net and each contains subdivisions which are designed to
guide the reader into the possibilities of each larger heading. The entries
vary in length and depth, as would be expected in a volume that contains work
by so many different individual authors. Many of the contributors are inter-
nationally known for writing on their chosen topic; for example, Grosjean on
"individual bilingualism" and Skuttnab-Kangas and Phillipson on "linguicide."
Each entry is followed by its own bibliography for those who wish to read 
further or know where to find source material. The majority of the contrib-
utors come from countries that make up what Kachru (1985) calls "the inner
circle" of English speakers; namely, the United States, Australia, Canada,
the United Kingdom and New Zealand, although some of the authors also come 
from Japan, India, South Africa, Hong Kong and Singapore, among others.

Two sections worth commenting on in detail are the fourth section (as
numbered on the back of the encyclopedia) entitled "Teaching Language," and
the following one, "Teaching Additional Languages." Although not explicitly
stated in the title, the entries included in "Teaching Language" deal with
mother tongue teaching; this is evident when reading some of the titles of 
the entries included in this section. Some specific cases are included, such 
as "English Teaching in Canada," as are more general topics such as
"Literature Teaching" and "Writing Instruction." The following section 
distinguishes itself from the previous one by dealing with the subject of
"Teaching Additional Languages." The sub-topics included here are: "Second
and Foreign Language Learning," "Second Language Acquisition," "Second and
Foreign Language Pedagogy" and "Testing." Some of the entries in this section
are largely predictable given the headings and sub-headings; for example,
"Contrastive and Error Analysis" and "Second Language Acquisition: History
and Theories," but there are also others in this section on the teaching of 
additional languages that are less commonly included; two examples are "Ulpan"
and "Native Speaker."

Overall: As a researcher and teacher in the field of educational linguistics,
I am pleased that such a volume has been published and have already read
some of the articles for my own teaching and writing. It fulfills the
mission of an encyclopedia in that the contents are a comprehensive treat-
ment of a particular branch of knowledge and go beyond merely defining the
topics and sub-topics. It is indeed "concise" in comparison with Wodak and
Corson's eight volume Encyclopedia of Language and Education (1997). The
publishers of CEEL say that the book's audience is language educators,
students and educational policy makers. My opinion is that the entries in 
CEEL are mostly geared toward those not familiar with the subjects contained
therein; either students or teachers or other practitioners who need an
extended definition, historical background of a concept or movement or a
definitive bibliography on a topic (or at least the beginnings of such). As a
concrete example, I recently read an M.A. research paper on the subject of
miscue analysis. I eventually went to books and articles on the topic to
become more familiar with it, but the entry by Arnold on miscue analysis in 
CEEL would have been a good place to start. I will also point my students in
the direction of CEEL when they are studying for their comprehensive examin-
ations in TESOL, getting ideas for research papers or looking for a prelimin-
ary bibliography on a topic. Those individuals who are already knowledgeable
about a certain topic (for example, bilingualism) might turn to the CEEL for 
a succinct summary or introduction to the topic in question, but I'm not
sure that those who are well-versed in a particular subject would find much
new in many of the entries. An important exception are those articles in the
encyclopedia that bring the reader up to a recent date on a subject (for 
example, Lambert on "National Language Policy and Education.")

Content: The articles in the CEEL taken as a whole give the reader information
on subjects that are often not found in the same book. In addition, infor-
mation on resources such as the World Wide Web and the publications
and professional organizations that are important to those doing work in
educational linguistics are also included in this encyclopedia, which makes
it not only valuable but also timely.

For this review I read many but not all of the 233 entries of the CEEL. The
pattern is for the author to give a definition or definitions on the topic
in question, historical background and the current state of the issue, doc-
umenting all of this with references and credit to those who have contributed
to the current knowledge on the subject. I read articles on topics that were
familiar to me and articles on topics that I knew little or nothing about.
In general, I found the articles informative, well-written and edited and
supported with a bibliography. There is, however, no comprehensive biblio-
graphy for this encyclopedia; it might have been valuable to have one, 
especially in those cases where different work by one author was listed in
different articles.

I will review two individual articles here as an indication of the content
and breadth of the entries in the CEEL. These articles seemed to be 
representative of what the book has to offer the reader.

First of all, in "National Languages" by Eastman, the author defines
"national language" in the first paragraph in a way that would not admit
some of the articles included in CEEL's section called: "National Policy:
Language Education Policy and Education" since the section includes articles
on policies in individual countries as well as regions of the world (such as 
Africa and Asia). Eastman's definition of "national language" is "a lang-
uage which serves the entire area of a nation rather than a regional or
ethnic subdivision" (p.147). The author touches on standardization, media
of instruction in schools, official languages, language legislation and 
language rights, referring to many of the scholars who are considered 
authorities on language status planning. The examples the author uses are
from various countries and regions of the globe and would be a good intro-
duction to the subject of what "national language" means in the literature
as well as how decisions are made regarding giving a language national or
official status. I noticed that the author did not cite any references past
1989, which may be a disadvantage for a reference work that is advertised
as containing "state-of-the-art" descriptions of topics.

The article on "Grammar Teaching (Foreign Language)" by Larsen-Freeman
gives what the author calls "...a fairly conventional view of grammar
pedagogy" in which she cites sources ranging from the mid-1970's up until
1999. She presents for the reader the linguistic foundations of grammar
pedagogy, talking about the formation, structure and use of a grammar form 
(illustrated with a figure which is familiar to those who have read her 
other articles on the subject). She also refers to "psycholinguistic consid-
erations" on the subject, talking about how individual learners cope with
the learning of different grammatical structures and why grammar teachers
need to be concerned about the selection and sequencing of particular
structures. She gives examples of specific pedagogical techniques and features;
for example, the kind of feedback teachers give their students in the
teaching of grammar. The author concludes by raising three issues for future
investigation of grammar teaching: 1) connecting pedagogy with what is known
about the process of second language acquisition; 2) the interrelationship
between vocabulary learning and grammar learning; and 3) the need for a 
better understanding of whether "chunks" of language that are learned early
on in the learning of a language persist as unanalyzed wholes or whether
they are later dismantled and analyzed by the learner. The article is in
many ways a review of the topic of grammar teaching (as promised), but the
author has also succeeded in updating the topic with recent references and
offers what she calls "three proposals which could have a significant impact 
in the future on the way second language grammar is taught," something for
both a newcomer to the subject and for the more experienced reader to think

Organization: The pre-publication notice for CEEL from Elsevier/Pergamon
maps out, on two facing pages, the contents of this substantial nearly 900
page book. On this brochure, the major headings are given in all capital 
letters, followed by sub-headings in upper and lower case letters, all of
which were in a different color than the titles and authors' names. Quotes
were given that praised the parent volume, The Encyclopedia of Language and
Linguistics, and two of the other spin-off volumes, also concise encyclo-
pedias. When I had the chance to review the CEEL I dug in eagerly, figuring
that because it was an encyclopedia I would not read it word-by-word, but
could skip around to the various articles that I was interested in, exploring
both old and new territory. Having the publication brochure on hand proved
to be useful, because as fascinating as the content of this book is, the
organization of the CEEL itself as presented in its table of contents was
confusing and required more time to make sense of than the casual user would
probably want to spend.

In stark contrast to this is Spolsky's general introduction summing up the 
different sections of the book (pp.1-6) in which he uses a clear numbering
and title system which is easy to follow both visually and conceptually. 
However, in the table of contents, the sections are not numbered at all, so
when you are directed at the end of one of the articles to see the entry on,
for example, "Teaching Endangered Languages," you need to thumb through the 
18 page table of contents to find it under the major heading of "The Social
Context" and the subheading "Society." Entries for encyclopedias are usually
organized alphabetically (as is the parent volume, The Encyclopedia of
Language and Linguistics) and there is even an alphabetical list of articles
included at the end of the CEEL, but since no page numbers or numbered titles
are given, it is of little use. Since this is a reference volume, being able
to find specific topics and information quickly is very important; the
reader could use the index of topics at the back of the volume to find topics
and articles and authors' names, but a better organized table of contents
would be an asset.

Finally, one feature that I found confusing in CEEL was that articles on
specific situations, for example, "Irish Language Education Policy" was
interspersed with articles on more general topics like "Language Diffusion
Policy" instead of having the general topics precede and introduce the
specific ones. An example of where the general topics appear in what to me
is a more logical order is in Wodak and Corson (1997) where the general
articles tend to provide a framework for those dealing with specific

Despite the organizational problems and the fact that some of the articles
could be more up-to-date, the Concise Encyclopedia of Educational Linguistics
will be a valuable addition to the reference section of libraries and to the
reference book collections of scholars who would like to have an authorita-
tive encyclopedia on educational linguistics but cannot afford the 
multi-volume encyclopedias on the market.


Asher, R.E. (1994). The encyclopedia of language and linguistics (Vols.
1-10). Oxford: Pergamon.

Bright, W. (1994). [Review of the encyclopedia of language and linguistics].
Journal of Linguistics, 30, 551-555.

Kachru, B. (1985). Standards, codification and sociolinguistic realism:
The English language in the outer circle. In R. Quirk & H.G. Widdowson 
(Eds.), English in the world: Teaching and learning the language and 
literatures (pp.11-30). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wodak, R. & Corson, D. (Eds.). (1997). Encyclopedia of language and education
(Vols. 1-8). Amsterdam: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Reviewer: Joyce Milambiling is an Assistant Professor at the University of
Northern Iowa in the TESOL section of the Department of English. She teaches
courses in linguistics and language teaching and her current research
interests revolve around how and by whom languages are taught in various
contexts around the world.
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