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LINGUIST List 23.5147

Mon Dec 10 2012

Review: Applied Linguistics; Language Acquisition: Robinson (2012)

Editor for this issue: Monica Macaulay <monicalinguistlist.org>

Date: 10-Dec-2012
From: Florentina Taylor <florentina.tayloryork.ac.uk>
Subject: The Routledge Encyclopedia of Second Language Acquisition
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-3190.html

EDITOR: Peter Robinson
TITLE: The Routledge Encyclopedia of Second Language Acquisition
PUBLISHER: Routledge
YEAR: 2012

Florentina Taylor, Department of Education, University of York, UK

SUMMARY

The 756-page ''Routledge Encyclopedia of Second Language Acquisition'' begins
with the declared aim ''to provide readers with a user-friendly, authoritative
survey of terms and constructs that are currently thought to be important to
understanding research in second language acquisition (SLA) and its
applications'' (p. xxii, Introduction). This aim is achieved to a great extent
through 246 general entries of variable length (500-2,000 words) and 9
''survey entries'' or ''thematic areas'' (around 4,000 words), with some
authors contributing more than one entry. The longer and more developed
sections incorporate various concepts, which have their own short entries,
into more in-depth discussions of associated theories, approaches and notions,
offering readers the opportunity to familiarize themselves with terminology in
context while underlining important relationships between various
perspectives. The nine survey entries are: Development in SLA (Jürgen Meisel),
Discourse and pragmatics in SLA (Eva Alcón-Soler), Individual differences in
SLA (Rebecca Oxford), Instructed SLA (Nina Spada and Patsy Lightbown),
Language and the lexicon in SLA (Marjolijn Verspoor and Norbert Schmitt),
Measuring and researching SLA (Andrew Cohen and Ernesto Macaro),
Psycholinguistics of SLA (Ping Li and Natasha Tokowicz), Social and
socio-cultural approaches to SLA (Dwight Atkinson) and Theoretical constructs
in SLA (Geoff Jordan).

All sections end with six ''see also'' key words/ phrases discussed in the
book, a reference list and, in some cases, suggestions for further reading.
There are also very useful lists of contributors and entries, as well as a
subject/ author index that facilitate navigation around the volume and make it
easy to locate topics and authors. The titles of the survey entries/thematic
areas appear in the list of entries in bold characters. As most sections begin
with concise definitions of the term in question, the encyclopedia can also
serve as a dictionary, allowing for both quick reference and more in-depth
understanding of the concepts discussed.

Although organized alphabetically, the sections present a helpful historical
overview of the SLA literature, from older concepts such as Classroom
interaction, Relative clauses, Scaffolding or Speech acts to more recent
concepts and perspectives such as Complexity theory, Ecology of language
learning or Event-related potentials. Topics are not limited to SLA concepts
and theories, but also include research perspectives (e.g., Qualitative,
Quantitative and Mixed-method approaches, as well as Longitudinal,
Cross-sectional and Time-series designs) and introductions to methods of
qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis. Some statistical
concepts are also covered briefly (e.g., Effect size, Significance levels), in
line with the growing need for these to be reported in published SLA research.

EVALUATION

As stated in the introduction, this is clearly an authoritative survey of SLA
terminology, written by a respected body of international specialists, many
discussing their own innovative contributions. This offers the reader a
valuable opportunity to find out more about the field from the best informed
sources. However, this can also diminish the level of criticality and
introduce a certain amount of bias in instances where authors discuss their
own instruments or projects, supporting their entries exclusively with their
own (or their team's) references (e.g., Attitudes and Motivation Test Battery;
ZISA project).

As most entries are relatively short, deciding what content to include in each
of them was clearly an evaluative exercise resulting in often partisan
positions. This becomes more of an issue in overview/multiple-perspective
entries such as Individual differences or Theoretical constructs in SLA, where
clearly not all readers will agree with the selection included and the
arguments developed. In addition, by fragmenting such sections into yet
smaller sub-sections, it can become difficult to provide any meaningful review
of the topics discussed (see, for example, Gender and age, in Individual
differences in SLA). The result of an evaluative process in deciding what
content to include may also be visible at the macro level, the volume
overlooking several recent and not so recent areas such as affect/beliefs
(e.g., Arnold, 1999; Horwitz, 1995), autonomy (e.g., Little, Ridley & Ushioda,
2002), goal theory (e.g., Woodrow, 2012) and self-concept (e.g., Mercer,
2011). While many readers will consider the absence of such concepts from the
encyclopedia objectionable, this may also be an indication that far more (and
more rigorous) published research is necessary for these topics to be regarded
as on a par with more established themes in SLA research.

These limitations, which are perhaps inherent to any encyclopedia, do not,
however, distract from the important contribution that the volume makes to the
SLA literature. As Peter Robinson explains in the introduction, one of the
aims of the encyclopedia is to provide a complement to several recent SLA
handbooks that, through their very nature, can only cover a limited number of
topics in as many chapters. The Routledge Encyclopedia of Second Language
Acquisition does so successfully, offering the best of both worlds -- a
collection of expanded dictionary entries and a number of more developed
sections that bring together several different perspectives, each with its own
entry in the volume. As such, it will be of great use to students looking for
an introduction to core SLA concepts, as well as to supervisors confronted
with less familiar terminology. It is also a helpful reference tool for
researchers, authors and professionals with an interest in SLA.

REFERENCES

Arnold, Jane (ed.). 1999. Affect in Language Learning. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.

Horwitz, Elaine K. 1995. ''Student Affective Reactions and the Teaching and
Learning of Foreign Languages.'' International Journal of Educational Research
23 (7): 573–579.

Little, David, Jennifer Ridley, and Ema Ushioda. 2002. Towards Greater Learner
Autonomy in the Foreign Language Classroom. Dublin: Authentik.

Mercer, Sarah. 2011. Towards an Understanding of Language Learner
Self-concept. Dordrecht: Springer.

Woodrow, Lindy. 2012. ''Goal Orientations: Three Perspectives on Motivational
Goal Orientations.'' In Psychology for Language Learning: Insights from
Research, Theory and Practice, ed. Sarah Mercer, Stephen Ryan, and Marion
Williams, 188–202. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Dr. Florentina Taylor is a Lecturer in Education and MA TESOL Programme Leader
at the University of York, UK, where she currently teaches English Linguistics
and Teaching English for Academic Purposes to postgraduate students, as well
as Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages to undergraduates. Her main
research interests focus on the self and identity in language learning,
especially the interface between identity perceptions, language acquisition
and academic achievement.
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