LINGUIST List 16.763

Mon Mar 14 2005

Disc: Re: 16.713: Controversies in Applied Linguistics

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        1.    Ronald Sheen, Re: 16.713: Controversies in Applied Linguistics

Message 1: Re: 16.713: Controversies in Applied Linguistics

Date: 14-Mar-2005
From: Ronald Sheen <>
Subject: Re: 16.713: Controversies in Applied Linguistics

In the opening post on this subject, I claimed implicitly that the field of
applied linguistics has tended to foster the advocacy of theoretically-
motivated teaching options whilst failing to encourage subjecting them to
critical scrutiny. Such a claim constitutes a serious charge against the
whole apparatus of AL. The fact that the initial post can appear on LL and
not provoke a single response is in itself support for the charge. It is so
for, given the reasonable assumption that many applied linguists read LL,
it is plausible that a number of them have published work which has been
unintentionally complicit in legitimising the charge.

Now, this would constitute serious stuff in a field which functioned on the
basis of transparency and accountability. Unfortunately, though many
applied linguists may assume that such principles form the bedrock of
published AL work, much of what has been published in recent decades
does not reflect this. In fact, what has been published has been more a
demonstration of blackboxing (Latour 1987). That is, the undiscriminating
citing of research findings which do not, in fact, withstand critical scrutiny.

Should any reader of LL wish to challenge me to support this claim, I will
happily do so by taking the degree to which the assumed validity of the
principles of incidental learning and development sequences have played a
role in contemporary advocacy but the classroom application of which has
NOWHERE been demonstrated to result in an ability to produce accurate
grammatical language. In fact, there is empirical evidence to demonstrate
that such an application is more a recipe for fossilisation. In spite of this,
contemporary publications are replete with both the implicit and explicit
assumptions of the validity of those principles.


Latour, B. 1987. Science in action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press.

Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
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