LINGUIST List 13.1950

Sun Jul 21 2002

Review: Oxford Handbook of Applied Ling, Kaplan (2002)

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  1. Tracey McHenry, Kaplan, ed. (2002) Oxford Handbook of Applied Linguistics

Message 1: Kaplan, ed. (2002) Oxford Handbook of Applied Linguistics

Date: Thu, 18 Jul 2002 19:12:00 +0000
From: Tracey McHenry <tmchenrymail.ewu.edu>
Subject: Kaplan, ed. (2002) Oxford Handbook of Applied Linguistics

Kaplan Robert, ed. (2002) Applied Ling. The Oxford Handbook of Applied
Linguistics. Oxford University Press, xxvii+ 641 pp, hardback ISBN
0-19-513267-X, $74.00.


Book Announcement on Linguist:
http://linguistlist.org/get-book.html?BookID=2417 

Tracey McHenry, Eastern Washington University

DESCRIPTION OF BOOK

As the editor notes on the dust-jacket, The Oxford Handbook of Applied
Linguistics is the "first reference work of its kind." In other words,
it is the first comprehensive survey of the past, present, and future
of the relatively young field of applied linguistics. At 672 pages and
39 chapters, it has the satisfying heft and appearance of a book
claiming to be comprehensive. From its engaging cover photo of
silhouetted hands counting on fingers as if listing topics to be
discussed to its 108-page list of references, this handbook proclaims
its presence and quality in both contributions and production.

The volume is substantial, well organized, and user-friendly. It
begins with an Editor's Preface (6 pp), A Table of Contents (5 pp),
and a List of Contributors (11 pp) before the 39 chapters (515 pp). It
ends with References (108 pp), and a thorough Index (15 pp). The
contributors and chapter titles, arranged into larger groupings, are
listed below.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Part I: Introduction
1 William Grabe: An Emerging Discipline for the 21st Century
2 Patricia Duff: Research Approaches in Applied Linguistics, 

Part II: The Four Skills
3 Martin Bygate: Speaking
4 Tony Lynch: Listening: Questions of Level
5 William Grabe: Reading in a Second Language
6 Ilona Leki: Second Language Writing

Part III: Discourse Analysis
7 Deborah Poole: Discourse Analysis and Applied Linguistics

Part IV: The Study of Second Language Learning
8 Alan Juffs: Formal Linguistic Perspectives on Second Language Acquisition
9 James Lantolf: Sociocultural Theory and Second Language Acquisition
10 Bonny Norton and Kelleen Toohey: Identity and Language Learning
11 Michael Harrington: Cognitive Perspectives on Second Language Acquisition
12 Dennis Preston: A Variationist Perspective on Second Language Acquisition
13 Robert Gardner: Social Psychological Perspectives on Second
Language Acquisition 
14 Susan Gass: An Interactionist Perspective on Second Language Acquisition 
15 Kathleen Bardovi-Harlig: Pragmatics and Second Language Acquisition

Part V: The Study of Second Language Teaching
16 Peter Medgyes and Marianne Nikolov: Curriculum Development: The
Interface between Political and Professional Decisions
17 Marjorie Bingham Wesche and Peter Skehan: Communicative,
Task-Based, and Content-Based Instruction
18 Colin Baker: Bilingual Education

Part VI: Variation in Language Use and Language Performance
19 Rebecca Oxford: Sources of Variation in Language Learning
20 Terence Odlin: Language Transfer and Cross Linguistic Studies:
Relativism, Universalism, and the Native Language
21 Mary McGroarty: Language Uses in Professional Contexts

Part VII: Bilingualism and the Individual Learner
22 Christian Faltis: Contexts for Becoming Bilingual Learner in School Settings
23 Kees de Bot: Cognitive Processing in Bilinguals: Language Choice
and Code-Switching
24 Judith Kroll and Ton Dijkstra: The Bilingual Lexicon

Part VIII: Multilingualism in Society
25 Peter Nelde: Language Contact
26 Jeff Siegel: Pidgins and Creoles
27 Ofelia Garcia: Language Spread and Its Study: Narrowing Its Spread
as a Scholarly Field
28 Nancy Hornberger: Language Shift and Language Revitalization
29 Peter Muhlhausler: Ecology of Languages

Part IX: Language Policy and Planning
30 Richard B. Baldauf, Jr: Methodologies for Policy and Planning
31 William Eggington: Unplanned Language Planning
32 James W. Tollefson: Limitations of Language Policy and Planning

Part X: Translation and Interpretation
33 Roda Roberts: Translation
34 Nancy Schweda Nicholson: Interpretation

Part XI: Language Assessment and Program Evolution
35 Geoff Brindley: Issues in Language Assessment
36 Micheline Chalhoub-Deville: Technology in Standardized Language Assessments

Part XII: Technological Applications in Applied Linguistics
37 Jill Burstein and Martin Chodorow: Directions in Automated Essay Analysis
38 Carol Chapelle: Computer-Assisted Language Learning

Part XIII: Conclusion
39 Robert B. Kaplan: Conclusion: Where to from Here?

CRITICAL EVALUATION

With 39 separate chapters covered in over 500 pages, this handbook
does not encourage a chapter-by-chapter analysis. In this review,
therefore, I assess the handbook as a collection of articles rather
than providing thorough discussions of each chapter. I'll focus on the
book's numerous strengths before I discuss its few weaknesses.

In his preface, Kaplan provides a thorough and clear introduction to
the field of applied linguistics while reminding readers that, since
the term "applied linguistics" is a difficult one to define, this
handbook should not been seen as the "definitive definition" of the
field. Its purpose is to provide an overview of the field as it exists
today. He briefly chronicles the history of the field of applied
linguistics while noting that several subfields (notably second
language acquisition) have split off on their own.

He then moves to a thought-provoking list of field-defining questions
that originated from the 1999 International Association of Applied
Linguistics (AILA) conference in Tokyo. Of particular interest to
anyone who, like me, teaches graduate students in applied linguistics
is question six: "What does an aspiring applied linguist need to know?
That is, what should be the content of graduate curricula in applied
linguistics today?" Applied linguistics as a field is at a point in
its history when introspection is called for. What is it that we
expect new applied linguists to know? What areas are traditionally
within the scope of applied linguistics? What other areas could
enrich, and be enriched by, applied linguistics research? While not
the final say, The Oxford Handbook of Applied Linguistics provides a
timely, clear, and wide-ranging look at the present state of the field
so that we can begin to consider the future with these questions in
mind.

A groundbreaking book such as this will, of course, appear as a
required or recommended text in many graduate-level linguistics
courses. In fact, a cursory search of the Internet indicates that it
is already on several syllabi pages, although it was published barely
six months ago, in February 2002. As its title suggests, then, the
book will be used as a comprehensive introduction to the key terms,
people, and ideas of applied linguistics. That is a daunting
responsibility for editors and contributors both, and I am happy to
report that they have all risen to the challenge.

STRENGTHS 
Audience 

The dustjacket and information on the Oxford University Press website
(http://www.oup-usa.org) indicate that the audience for this book
consists of "applied linguists; educators and other scholars working
in language acquisition, language learning, language planning,
teaching, and testing; and linguists concerned with applications of
their work." To this list, I would add students of applied linguistics
and perhaps especially students of Teaching English as a Second
Language (TESL). The handbook rightfully deserves its place on the
bookshelves of this wide-ranging audience.

Production Values 

While a book should not be judged by its cover, a good cover enhances
the experience of a good book, as is the case with this handbook. From
its glossy dustjacket to its virtually error-free typesetting, this
book quietly indicates the time and care that went into its
production. The contributions all conform well to the book's
format. Set in easy-to-read font on thick, off-white, acid-free paper,
the book will hold up well to repeated photocopying and years of
grabbing off a reference desk.

Comprehensiveness 

Comprehensiveness, in the first handbook of its kind in the field, is
a tricky subject. There must be enough breadth to represent the many
environments in which applied linguists are working today, yet too
much breadth would risk repetition of information and references as
well as unmanageable page length and retail price. This handbook is
quite broad, but not at the expense of depth. Chapters range from
approximately ten to twenty-five pages, a length that keeps authors
focused enough to fulfill the purpose of the chapter while allowing
them freedom to explore some subtopics in depth. While not everyone
will be happy with this book's table of contents, there will be few
who can find more than one or two topics that they wish had been
covered but weren't.

WEAKNESSES 
Comprehensiveness 

In his preface (Available as a PDF file at 
http://www.oup-usa.org/sc/019513267X/019513267X_intro.pdf,
Kaplan acknowledges that there are "holes" in the book's
design, in that chapters on work with the deaf, teacher education, and
corpus development were never delivered to the editorial
group. "Holes" of this nature seem to have been unavoidable
and are thus understandable. However, other omissions are less
acceptable. Kaplan explains that the editorial group decided not to
include a chapter on critical linguistics because this cluster of
research "rejects all theories of language, expresses 'skepticism
towards all metanarratives' (Lyotard 1984), and rejects traditional
applied linguistics as an enterprise because it has allegedly never
been neutral and has, rather, been hegemonic" (vi). While this
sentence makes clear the basis for the editors' rejection of critical
linguistics -- its practitioners allegedly don't "believe"
in what we're doing as (non- critical?) applied linguists -- such an
important, if controversial, subfield of applied linguistics
nonetheless deserves its own chapter. Coverage seems especially
warranted in light of Kaplan's acknowledgement that the editorial
group, while exceedingly experienced and well qualified to discuss the
history and present state of the field, may be "less well
qualified to discuss the future of applied linguistics. That is a task
for younger scholars" (vi). If we assume that this handbook will
be used as an introduction to the field, it seems shortsighted not to
include a subfield that is sure to become increasingly important in
the near future.

This is not the only such omission. The second chapter in the
Introduction section, Duff's "Research Approaches in Applied
Linguistics" refers (on p. 19) to the Inner and Outer Circles of World
Englishes. However, this theoretical framework and sub-field is never
mentioned by name again, nor is it defined, and there is no chapter
focusing on World Englishes nor is there even a large sub-section of a
chapter discussing this important and timely sub-area of applied
linguistics. The handbook would benefit from an entry on World
Englishes similar to the one by Ilona Leki on Second Language
Writing. In her chapter, Leki provides a brief, clear, and powerful
introduction to a relatively new sub-area of applied linguistics, but
one that, like World Englishes, has its own journal and its own
conference, as well as colloquia and panels at such large conferences
as the American Association for Applied Linguistics, Teaching English
to Speakers of Other Languages, and the Conference on College
Composition and Communication.

Whereas World Englishes is a relatively new sub-area, its scholarly
contributions are far too extensive to be overlooked. In his preface,
Kaplan lists several journals that have expanded the scope of applied
linguistics in the past forty years, and while he does not claim that
his list is exhaustive, he does not mention the journal World
Englishes (nor, for that matter, does he mention the Journal of Second
Language Writing). While several works by World Englishes pioneer Braj
Kachru appear in the references, they are cited parenthetically in
Ofelia Garcia's chapter on language spread. While this volume does not
even mention World Englishes as an area of study, World Englishes
scholars have their own journal, their own conference, and panels at
almost many linguistics conferences. This level of activity matches or
even exceeds that of other, smaller subfields of applied linguistics,
making the absence of World Englishes from the handbook all the more
noticeable as a flaw.

Another omission concerns the lack of international representation in
this handbook. Kachru himself, during his plenary address at the start
of the 2002 American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL) annual
conference in Salt Lake City, mentioned another shortcoming of this
volume when he discussed "constructs of knowledge and the margins" in
reference to this volume and the Encyclopedia of Bilingualism and
Bilingual Education (Baker & Prys Jones, 1998). While The Oxford
Handbook's editor Kaplan claims that the "distribution of scholars
represents diversity" (vi) because forty-three percent of the
contributors are women and forty-five percent are from countries
outside the US, the range of contributors does not represent true
diversity. If we take "diverse" to mean "not based in the US," then
perhaps the term is appropriate. However, these non-US contributors
are based in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Hungary, the Netherlands, and
the UK. This limited geographic range does not represent the
diversity of scholars, especially younger scholars, working in applied
linguistics today. I find it amazing that this handbook does not
contain even one chapter by an author from Asia, Africa, India, or
South America. This lack of true diversity does not reflect the field
of applied linguistics that I, as a relatively recent Ph.D., consider
myself a part of. One look at the AAAL conference booklet reveals far
more diversity in the range of contributors than is seen in this
handbook.

To conclude, while the Oxford Handbook of Applied Linguistics shows
some regrettable omissions in terms of both diversity of contributors
and diversity of topics included, these flaws detract only slightly
from what is otherwise a solid, laudable piece of scholarship. With
such a clearly articulated rationale, cogent and current chapters, and
a well-polished appearance, it's a shame that the editorial group did
not widen their scope to include some less canonical topics and
contributors from the Outer and Expanding Circles.

REFERENCES 

Baker, C. & Prys Jones, S. (eds.) (1998). Encyclopedia of Bilingualism
and Bilingual Education. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER 

Tracey McHenry is an assistant professor of English teaching in the
MA-TESL program at Eastern Washington University. Her research focuses
on language policy and planning in the US, Native American language
issues, and World Englishes.
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