LINGUIST List 15.1971

Thu Jul 1 2004

Review: Applied Ling/Comp Ling: Chapelle (2004)

Editor for this issue: Tomoko Okuno <>

What follows is a review or discussion note contributed to our Book Discussion Forum. We expect discussions to be informal and interactive; and the author of the book discussed is cordially invited to join in. If you are interested in leading a book discussion, look for books announced on LINGUIST as "available for review." Then contact Sheila Dooley Collberg at


  1. Jonathon Reinhardt, English Language Learning and Technology

Message 1: English Language Learning and Technology

Date: Tue, 29 Jun 2004 21:51:00 -0400
From: Jonathon Reinhardt <>
Subject: English Language Learning and Technology


AUTHOR: Chapelle, Carol A.
TITLE: English Language Learning and Technology
SUBTITLE: Lectures on applied linguistics in the age of information and 
communication technology
SERIES: Language Learning & Language Teaching 7
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2004
Announced at

Jonathon Reinhardt, Penn State University

Carol Chapelle's text provides in-depth discussion of current issues
in applied linguistics at the intersection of second language
acquisition (SLA), foreign language pedagogy, and technology. While
the title and some of the discussion addresses the TESOL community
specifically, most of the topics would be of interest to any
practitioner or researcher of Computer-Assisted Language Learning
(CALL) for any language, and many of the issues Chapelle addresses
concern the applied linguistics community at large. While the book is
composed of material from a variety of lectures the author has given,
covering a range of topics, it is neither an introduction to CALL nor
a manual for designing CALL activities. Rather, it is a perspective on
the epistemological and methodological debates surrounding the young
field, as well as an expert guide for conducting CALL research,
written by one of the field's most perspicacious scholars.

The first chapter, ''The changing world of English language
teaching'', begins with three visions of technology, that of the
technologist, who sees technology as a glorious inevitability; that of
the social pragmatist, who sees the practical limits to technology;
and that of the critical analyst, who sees in the debate a lack of
attention to broader issues of cultural ideology. Chapelle argues that
language practitioner s should be aware of all three, adopting not one
vision at the expense of the others, but a ''critical,
technologically-informed pragmatism'' (p. 9). She then discusses the
influences of technology on English language learners in terms of
motivation for peer interaction, new technology-shaped English
language registers, and the resulting implication for how
communicative competence is defined. Discussing the shifting nature of
English language use in computer labs and online, the author shows
that if language use is conceptualized as contextually appropriate use
of registers, the notion of communicative competence can be understood
to entail language use in situations involving technology. She briefly
discusses how technology expands options for classroom tasks, for
example, the possibility for computer-mediated communication (CMC)
based discussion and telecollaboration, or web publishing. She also
mentions the influence technology has on new forms of language
assessment as well as research on learning, which leads to a brief
discussion of the need for incorporating technology into all aspects
of applied linguistics and teacher education, not as a separate
subject but as a means of research and an object of critical analysis.
As technology becomes more integrated into our lives, it ''risks
becoming invisible unless applied linguists attempt to expose it, and
subject it to study'' (p. 33).

In chapter 2, ''The potential of technology for language learning'',
Chapelle explores the application of SLA and language pedagogy theory
in CALL research, focusing on linguistic, particularly grammatical,
development. While some early CALL studies did not make use of
established SLA theoretical frameworks, the author explains that more
recent studies have begun to make connections She provides a heuristic
for understanding and a rationale for exploring these connections that
shows the relationship among knowledge about classroom teaching,
materials development, and CALL as connected by knowledge of cognitive
and social processes of L2 learning. To illustrate these cognitive and
social processes, Chapelle first discusses studies that address
notions such as enhanced input, specifically input salience,
modification, and elaboration. Next, the author briefly discusses
CALL research with respect to the concept of interaction. In
particular, she notes how interpersonal, learner-computer, and
intrapersonal interaction are conceptualized within the interaction
hypothesis, sociocultural theory and depth of processing theory (from
Ellis 1999). To discuss linguistic production, Chapelle first
introduces the notion of comprehensible output, and then considers
CALL research on the notions of planning, correcting linguistic
production, and help with production. After providing a useful summary
of task characteristics considered conducive to the learning of
vocabulary and syntax, the author concludes the chapter by noting the
need for more CALL research on the development of aspects of
proficiency like pragmatic and strategic competence.

In the third chapter, ''Evaluating language learning'', Chapelle notes
that there is still uncertainty as to the kinds of research needed in
CALL and the application of research to practice in the field. Using
her own experience in the field, she explains why comparison studies
pitting CALL against 'traditional' classroom language instruction may
be unproductive, as language teachers, administrators, and publishers
all have their own purposes for implementing or promoting CALL, often
unrelated to 'effectiveness.' To make informed decisions regarding
CALL, teachers need a better understanding of applied linguistics and
SLA research in four specific areas: 1) the nature of research itself;
2) the applicability of specific research results to general CALL and
SLA knowledge; 3) the role and nature of methodological approaches;
and 4) theory-research links. Regarding the latter two points, the
author believes that methodology should be driven by research
questions and not necessarily theory, which should play an informative
role, so that ''the focus is not a single theoretical orientation but
a quality of the CALL task (e.g. language learning potential) for
which the research seeks evidence'' (p. 80). In the next segment of
the chapter, Chapelle describes a series of nine empirical studies
from a variety of theoretical and methodological perspectives,
focusing on software, the learner, and the learning task. She explains
the relationship between research question, method, and interpretation
for each study, relating theory as a resource for evaluation, task
design, or methodology. For example, in a study on looking up words
(Plass et al. 1998), the question asked if look-up behavior is related
to improved comprehension, the method was to record that behavior and
correlation using pretests and posttests, and the interpretation
showed a positive correlation between behavior and acquisition. Theory
of input modification through interaction informed the evaluation,
acting as a resource for explanation of results.

The fourth chapter, ''Investigating learners' use of technology'',
presents clear and useful guidelines on how to conduct process-based
CALL research by employing the three analytic perspectives of
description, interpretation, and evaluation. The author begins by
discussing the nature of technology-related process data, which may be
transcripts of learner-learner chat interaction or records of learner-
computer interaction including click behavior and screen
presentations. For the perspective of 'description', she explains the
application of interaction analysis, discourse analysis, and
conversation analysis, providing examples of research that utilizes
these methods. While discourse analysis has often been used as a
theory-neutral method for analysis of functional or grammatical
development, some approaches like systemic-functional linguistics
offer a built-in analytic perspective on register, which the author
demonstrates with a sample text analysis of language reflecting
experiential, interpersonal, and textual meanings (p. 110). Chapelle
then presents a system of graphic notation to aid interpretation,
which she relates to description through the concept of inference
(p. 122). Using examples, she shows how these inferences can be about
learner capacities, i.e. internal causes of the observed behavior
related to competence, and about task characteristics, i.e. inferences
about the influence of the task on the interaction -- balanced
research should consider both. She moves on to discuss evaluation,
which ''requires that learning goals be stated in terms of desired
learning processes'' (p. 120). Using her notational system, the author
then provides examples on how process goals were used for evaluation
in three studies: the first on negotiation of meaning, the second on
noticing gaps, and the third on strategic discourse management. In the
first study, for example, negotiation of meaning (e.g. Pica, Kanagy, &
Falodun, 1993) both infers learner capacity and acts as an
instructional goal, and is tied to the task type, in this case a
jigsaw task designed to elicit the goal (p. 121- 122). The process
data, then, is the actual linguistic interaction categorized as
trigger, indicator, response, and reaction.
In the fifth chapter, ''Advancing applied linguistics: L2 learning
tasks'', Chapelle expounds on the view that technology is not only a
means of solving practical problems in CALL, but also a means of
posing theoretical problems that can inform SLA research. Not just for
the critically pragmatic practitioner, technology can also provide SLA
researchers tools ''for operationalizing current task theory,
expanding the constructs that task theory needs to account for, and
expanding the scope of task evaluation'' (p. 129). The author then
builds on chapter four by introducing three approaches to task
evaluation -- assessment of outcomes (e.g. Ellis 1999), negotiation of
meaning (interactionist -- e.g. Pica, Kanagy, & Falodun, 1993), and
task performance based on accuracy, complexity, and fluency
(cognitivist -- e.g. Skehan & Foster, 2001). Each approach
methodically describes task features and characteristics, thus
allowing for theoretical consistency and expandability. However,
recent CALL research on negotiation of meaning has implicated
consideration of factors beyond traditional interactionist and
cognitivist frameworks, such as range of topic, turn timing, and
familiarity with genre features. In response, Chapelle presents a
chart (pp. 138-139) in which task features from interactionist and
cognitivist frameworks are combined with features implicated by
technology and organized according to the four task aspects of topics
and actions, participants, mode, and evaluation. This leads to a
discussion of how CALL research may drive an expansion of task theory,
perhaps incorporating a framework where task features might be
analyzed in terms of their correspondence with register features; in
fact, the first three of Chapelle's four task aspects can be seen to
fit with systemic-functional linguistic notions of field (topic and
actions), tenor (participants), and mode (Halliday & Hasan, 1985).

The sixth chapter is entitled ''Advancing applied linguistics:
Assessment''. As an extension of her argument concerning the potential
of CALL research to inform broader SLA and pedagogical theory, the
author promotes computer-assisted language assessment as a means for a
better understanding of assessment issues in general, especially
construct definition and validation. Construct definition is
challenged by the nuances of interface design and scoring, and the
effect of the technology on the learner, on research methods, and on
washback raise questions about validation. The author draws on her
extensive expertise in assessment to discuss these issues in-depth,
and she concludes by warning that these issues ''can be swept aside by
the broom of efficiency'' (p. 171), if efficiency is the only goal of
computer- assisted language testing. Paradoxically, while technology
expands the number of constructs to be measured and may provide more
efficient methods for doing so, it also may inadvertently promote
reductionist tendencies in assessment.

In a short final chapter, ''The imperative for applied linguistics and
technology'', Chapelle ties all the lectures together with a summary
of the material covered, including several useful charts showing how
research approach entails assumptions about technology use, research,
or assessment, leading to certain results. For example, an approach
that focuses on tasks assumes that the effects of task design choices
need investigation, and might result in evidence showing how
successful those choices are (p. 177). Technology can achieve a
synergetic, fruitful relationship with applied linguistics only if
current practice-focused CALL research is supplemented by
theory-focused research that aims to inform SLA, not to prove
effectiveness or efficiency in relation to traditional, face-to-face,
or paper-based environments. An innovation approach to language
assessment in particular, as opposed to an efficiency or comparison
approach (p. 179), can guide CALL theory and research, as it offers
the potential to connect practice and construct theory. In light of
the ''confusing noise of popular discourse, common sense, and
commercial interests'' (p. 181) regarding CALL, it is important to
keep these issues in mind.

In general, Chapelle's writing is informative and thorough, with many
examples and references to current research as well as useful rubrics
and diagrams that provide visual representations of her
discussions. On one hand, a lack of an overall sense of progression
sometimes results because each chapter is composed of material from
different lectures. On the other hand, this also means that most of
the chapters are comprehensive enough to stand alone as supplementary
material for a graduate level SLA or CALL course, though Chapelle
would probably advocate the former, since a separate course on
technology misses her point about theoretical synergy. For those who
cannot take such a course with the author, reading the text is like
sitting in on her lectures. The text is invaluable as a literature
review, research guide, and source of discussion.

Chapelle's expertise in language assessment is apparent, but regarding
SLA, she sticks to the theories and methodologies with which she feels
most comfortable, namely task and interactionist theory; for example,
six of the nine studies in chapter 3 are analyzed in terms of
interactionist theory and only two used non-experimental, qualitative
methodologies. While she does acknowledge controversy over the notion
of interaction (pp. 54-55), only in the final chapter does she mention
other relevant theories that might consider ''social, historical, and
identity concerns'' (p. 178). In fact, researchers using such
approaches, for example sociocultural/activity theory, may even
question the very notion of task, around which she constructs her
approach, as well as object to being subjected to 'interpersonal' and
'intrapersonal' distinctions (p. 56) they do not recognize. Because of
her standing in the field, her avoidance of these issues may send the
message that these approaches are less worthy of consideration than
task or interactionist theory. Then again, qualitative CALL studies
using a socio-cognitive approach (Kern & Warschauer 2000) are
infrequent and difficult to categorize. The author herself objects to
such categorizations and her reference on p. 116 to Kern &
Warschauer's 'cognitive approach' as parallel to 'learner capacity'
and 'socio- cognitive approach' to 'task characteristic' is slightly
confusing -- 'socio-cognitive' has been interpreted as encompassing
the 'social' (context of task) and the 'cognitive' (the learner),
exactly the comprehensive, hybrid approach she seems to be advocating
in chapter 4.

While Chapelle makes her perspectives on theory-research links and
methodologies clear, her own epistemological beliefs on the nature of
language and learning are sometimes unclear. Yet the author would
agree that for any researcher, these beliefs will inform what they see
in the classroom and how they formulate research questions, regardless
of whether they believe themselves to be theoretically driven or
not. If Chapelle is espousing a Hallidayan view of language (Halliday
& Hasan, 1985), as implied by her several references to register
theory and systemic-functional research, her view of language would be
as a social semiotic, where meaning is discursively constructed and
contextually embedded, systemic but not relying on pre-existing
structures. Input- focused theories like the interactionist
hypothesis, however, are rooted in Chomskyan structuralism, which is
quite at odds with a Hallidayan perspective (see Belz, 2003 for an
application of systemic- functional appraisal theory to CMC
interaction). Thus, theoretical commensurability might become an issue
if task theory and register theory are to come together, insofar as
task theory is based on a structuralist paradigm. In calling for task
theory to expand to consider register, perhaps Chapelle is offering
mild, constructive criticism of task theory, though whether it can be
restructured without losing its theoretical rigor remains to be
seen. In any case, the author would likely agree that a constructive,
synergistic relationship between technology and applied linguistics
will bring these epistemological issues to the fore, diversifying and
strengthening theory, research methodology, and ultimately
practice. Her text offers direction for the continued development of
this diversity and strength.

Belz, J. (2003). Linguistic perspectives on the development of
intercultural competence in telecollaboration. LL&T, 7(2), 68-117.

Ellis, R. (1999). Learning a second language through interaction. 
Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Halliday, M., & Hasan, R. (1985). Language, context, and text: aspects
of language in a social-semiotic perspective. Oxford, UK: Oxford
University Press.

Kern, R., & Warschauer, M. (2000). Introduction: Theory and Practice
of Network-Based Language Teaching. In M. Warschauer & R. Kern (Eds.),
Network-based Language Teaching: Concepts and Practice (pp. 1-19). New
York: Cambridge University Press.

Pica, T., Kanagy, R., & Falodun, J. (1993). Choosing and using
communicative tasks for second language instruction. In G. Crookes &
S. Gass (Eds.), Tasks and language learning: Integrating theory and
practice. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Plass, J., Chun, D., Mayer, R., & Leutner, E. (1998). Supporting
visual and verbal learning preferences in a second-language multimedia
learning environment. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90(10),

Skehan, P., & Foster, P. (2001). Cognition and tasks. In P. Robinson
(Ed.), Cognition and second language instruction
(pp. 3-32). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP.

Jonathon Reinhardt is a Ph.D. candidate in Applied Linguistics at Penn
State University. He has taught technology-enhanced ESOL in the U.S.
and Japan, and his research interests include SLA, CMC, and L2
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue