LINGUIST List 15.1502

Wed May 12 2004

Review: Applied Ling: Davies & Elder (2003)

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  1. Lorenzo Zanasi:, Handbook of Applied Linguistics

Message 1: Handbook of Applied Linguistics

Date: Tue, 11 May 2004 13:57:04 -0400 (EDT)
From: Lorenzo Zanasi: <>
Subject: Handbook of Applied Linguistics

EDITOR: Davies, Alan; Elder, Catherine
TITLE: Handbook of Applied Linguistics
SERIES: Blackwell Handbooks in Linguistics
PUBLISHER: Blackwell Publishing
YEAR: 2003
Announced at

Lorenzo Zanasi, University for Foreigners of Siena.


This volume collects 32 contributions concerning a large family of
applied linguistics. Papers are grouped in a very defined structure,
clearly explained by Davies and Elder in the Introduction (see
Critical Evaluation below). Papers are so collected following that
split: 16 for the first part and 16 for the second one. Each
contribution provides a well made reference section: neither poor or
too vast, but essential. The first part is also divided into 6
sections ''providing a cline from closest to the linguistics of
language to the more distant connection''.


Liddicot and Curnow provide a synthetic and punctual outline of what
is involved in the description of languages and its levels: phonology,
morphology, syntax, semantic. This chapter is useful both for the
student as for the user of applied linguistics methods.

The same aim is followed by the second article about lexicography (by
Kirkness). Starting from a descriptive and didactic tone, the author
focuses on a particular aspect: dictionary in second/foreign language
teaching and learning. In using this tool, Kirkness gradually moves
from a lexicologist approach to a more applicative one. Section 2
consist of papers that ''investigate language in terms of the uses
that are made of it''. Birdsong's contribution considers the ultimate
attainment in SLA a young research topic that refers to the outcome or
end point of acquisition L2. The concepts of native-like and non
native-like is introduced in relation to several variables determining
the level of ultimate attainment: age of immersion (related to
critical period hypothesis), quantity of input, L1/L2 pairings. The
notion of fossilization is also criticised and a look at
neuroscientific approaches confirms the importance of dialogue between
SLA and cognitive models.

Mike Stubbs brings us into the world of corpus linguistics. CL could
be interpreted as a series of techniques bringing ''together as
parameters populations of language tokens across individuals'' It is
useful to store data languages in order to manipulate them. New
technologies are obviously leaders in this field, but there were
corpus studies long before computers and the knowledge to practice CL
remains essentially a linguistics one. Stubbs also proposes a list of
areas where CL could be required: language teaching, lexicography in
primis. But he claims that ''applications are indirect and before
findings can be applied to real world problems, they require careful
interpretation''. The last article in this section is offered by
Trappes ? Lomax. He presents a view of discourse analysis underlining
three main points: 1) identifying and describing some of its gradually
emerging landmarks 2) illustrating the range of educational issues
that discourse work informs 3) point to some current movements and

DA appears to be a multidisciplinary study because it is shared by
several sources that the author divided into four categories: rule and
principles (pragmatics, conversation analysis), context and culture
(ethnography of communication and sociolingistics), functions and
structures (systemic functional linguistics, text linguistics) and
power and politics (pragmatic and sociolinguistic approaches to power
in language and critical discourse analysis).

Section 3 puts together chapters ''that uncover the connections
between speakers and their language''. The article of Sutton-Spence
and Woll informs about British Sign Language (BSL). The authors focus
on its status and on deaf community, discussing problems of planning
and standardization of BSL. Attention is also given to variants in
this language.

Giles and Billings reviewed the language attitude research of the past
40 years in order ''to determine where the research will be on going
in the future''. Language attitude concerns interaction between
language, communication and social judgment. The authors describe the
historical origins of the early studies; they pass on to consider the
role of standard and non-standard accent in social context and the
speech style as a social cue. Finally they present us two models that
frame language attitude as discursive and linguistic action.

Monika Schmid and Kees de Bot focus on language attrition (''in the
process of language attrition, lack of contact leads to a reduced
level of proficiency in the attriting language''). They investigate
the phenomenon of loss at the individual and community level,
describing four theoretical models in this field: 1) Jakobson's
regression hypothesis 2) Language contact and language change 3)
Universal grammar and parameter setting 4) Psycholinguistic questions
of accessibility

The discussion of theme shows how linguistic levels are affected by
the attritional process and how sociolinguistic variables influence
attritional processes.

The contribute of Claire Kramsch concerns the relationship between
language, thought and culture. First of all Kramsch traces the history
of these kinds of studies in Herder, Von Humboldt, Sapir and
Whorf. Secondly she follows the changes of this topic in three areas:
semiotic relativity, linguistic relativity, discursive
relativity. Finally she considers its implications in applied
linguistic research, above all in SLA.

Gardner's essay on conversation analysis ''provides another take on
the ways in which speakers use language''. He divides a paper in two
parts: the first one identifies the historical roots of CA, developed
in 1960s and strongly linked to ethnomethodology; it discusses
definitions and characteristics of CA, describing its attributes and
principal findings (turn-taking, sequence of actions, repair, turn
design). The second part focuses on the application of CA in four
contexts (applied linguistics domains): institutional, medical and
legal, educational, and second language learning/talk.

Section 4 hosts three chapters for three functional uses of language:
language and law, language and gender, stylistics. How Davies claims:
what distinguishes Section 4 from Section 3 is that while Section 3
deals with applied linguistics in terms of language, Section 4
concerns applied linguistics in terms of language use''.

Gibbons rightly reminds us that language of law is an important arena
for applied linguistics, because the law is such an important and
influential institution, and because it is packed with language
problems''. The core of this papers, in our opinion, is really
important: legal language is usually not understandable by the
community. And this is true for many countries where the legal system
derived from another culture and language. From here, Gibbons
suggests, the need to teach the language of law.

Susan Ehrlich deals with language and gender. She considers ''the
importance of recognizing the dynamic and performative nature of
linguistic gendered identities'', providing an historical overview of
gender research.

McRae and Clark provide an essay about a controversial term:
stylistics. It's usually used as an umbrella term so the authors try
to define more specific key aspects. A paragraph is dedicated to
stylistic methods to teach literature in English for non-native
speakers. Section 5 contains two chapters ''dealing with the
influence of language in external affairs''. Joseph observes mutual
connections between language and politics: he describes politics in
grammar and discourse according to the trends of Marxism and

Bolton dedicates his study to World English, the so called super
language created by the spread of English. This language has been
studied in different perspectives: descriptive ways, sociolinguistic
ways, applied linguistics. Bolton explains all these positions,
reviewing the literature through the time. He concludes with some
considerations on the importance of WE in applied linguistics.

The last chapter of Part 1 is filled by Rajagopalan's paper on
philosophy of applied linguistics. The author traces an historical
overview of the philosophical roots of AL, passing trough Chomskyan
revolution, post-Chomskyan developments and neo empiricist trends. The
last paragraph concerns the ethical implications of work done in
applied linguistics.


The second part starts from what the editors have classed as weak AL
and moves towards strong AL at the end. Davies opens his section (on
problem of definition) with the theme of native speaker in applied
linguistics. Specifically, he examines ''the relation between the
native speaker and non native speaker and raises the question of
whether a second foreign language learner who starts learning after
puberty can become a native speaker of target language''.

Edward's paper is about language minorities. He deals with issues of
definition and categorization of topic. He also suggests that in order
to better understand minority language groups it's necessary to use
more cross context comparison and more typological work.

A very useful reading for students and researchers is a chapter by
Brown about research methods in AL. The author describes types of
research; he discusses some methodological approaches in AL; and
presents a more constructive approach concern with qualitative and
quantitative research. Finally he focuses on some ethical and
professional responsibilities in research.

Section 8 provides four chapters on language learning. Littlewood
describes elements, processes and theories of SLL in a clear and
exhaustive way. Ellis finds the individual differences in SLL, also
discussing the role of some factors as learning style, motivation,
anxiety and willingness to communicate. Barkhuizen tried to explain
''how language learning and social context in which it takes place
relate to each other'', reviewing models of language learning. Finally
Williams focuses on literacy studies in particular on a mainstream
cognitive approach to the study of literacy. A large analysis is given
by the author to the ''reading'', basic literacy skills.

Section 9 ''moves a little closer to the strong end of the AL

Adamson examines language education methodology from different
perspectives. His paper addresses several questions as: where do
methods originate? What are the salient features of methods that have
been widely promoted? Adamson also argues that ''no methods is
superior to another; instead, some methods are more appropriate than
others in a particular context''.

Gruba's paper goes into computer assisted language learning (CALL); he
traces a brief historical overview, theoretical perspectives, and the
role, respectively of computers, students and teacher involved.

Johnstone discusses the topic of language teacher education (LTE). He
considers social, political and cultural factors influencing LTE and
proposes a framework for LTE provision. Secondary he focuses on some
aspects of ideology and process involved in LTE and he reports some
suggestions about relationship between applied linguistics research
and LTE.

Basturkmen and Elder's chapter concerns language for specific purposes
from a teaching and testing perspective. Definitions and features are

Bilingual education is the subject of the Lotherington's paper. Many
aspects of this field are discussed here: bilingualism and
nationalism, models of bilingual education, evaluation of
bilingualism. Finally, the author, explains the benefits of bilingual

Section 10 ''is concerned with language based institutional
arrangements of practices which are more broadly focused than language
teaching''. Pauwels focuses on language maintenance. It is a
multidisciplinary topic used to describe a situation in which a
speaker continue to use his language in some or all spheres of life
despite competition with the dominant language to become the main
language in these spheres. The contribution also contains a paragraph
about methods, tools and data for language maintenance.

Lo Bianco discusses language planning as applied linguistics. He
''critically reviews past and current attempts to define and theorize
the discipline and sketches different forms of language planning

The chapter of McNamara is about language testing. It set the place of
language testing within applied linguistics and observes the role of
tests as institutional practice. Section 11 is filled by the last
essay of the book: critical applied linguistics (by Pennycook). The
author discusses two principal concerns: ''what domains of work might
be considered to fall within the rubric of critical applied
linguistics; and what constitute the different understandings of the
critical in critical applied linguistics''.


The authors of the papers (mostly from the UK, Australia and North
America, but also from Holland, Sweden, Germany and Brazil) discuss
themes of a various nature using a focus sometimes wide, useful and
informative, in other cases the focus is more specific in context and
aim. This qualitative heterogeneity of contributions, accompanied by
a quantitative one, could give the impression of an opera jumping,
incoherently, from the British sign language to the language testing;
describing both theories and techniques; and proposing itself more as
an encyclopaedic work than a unitary collection. Nevertheless the
already quoted introduction to the volume cancels this kind of
evaluation revealing a ratio of the opera more complex and

Davies and Elder find a double root in the tradition of applied
linguistics. The first one(applied linguistics or AL) ''looks outward,
beyond language in an attempt to explain perhaps even ameliorate
social problems. LA looks inward, concerned not to solve language
problems but to explicate and test theories about language itself. So
LA uses language data to develop our linguistic knowledge about
language, while AL studies a language problem with a view to
correcting it''.

The book, structured according to this split, is useful both for
students as for specialists. Contributions are synthetic and open
stimulating windows onto the future of applied linguistics.


Lorenzo Zanasi has recently discussed his Ph.D. thesis in linguistics
at the University for Foreigners of Siena. His research interests
include sociolinguistics, SLT and corpus linguistics. He is currently
working with the Observatory of immigrant languages and of Italian
spoken by immigrants created in 2001 at the University for Foreigners
of Siena.
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