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Review of  The Handbook of Applied Linguistics

Reviewer: Michael Lessard-Clouston
Book Title: The Handbook of Applied Linguistics
Book Author: Alan Davies Catherine Elder
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Issue Number: 18.893

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EDITORS: Davies, Alan; Elder, Catherine
TITLE: The Handbook of Applied Linguistics
SERIES: Blackwell Handbooks in Linguistics
PUBLISHER: Blackwell Publishing
YEAR: 2006

Michael Lessard-Clouston, Applied Linguistics & TESOL, Biola University

An edited collection of 32 chapters, this book aims to ''provide a
comprehensive and up-to-date picture of the field of applied linguistics''
(back cover). Written in a clear academic style with detailed reference
lists and suggestions for further reading in each chapter, The Handbook of
Applied Linguistics (HAL) is geared toward researchers and graduate
students in the discipline or any of its main sub-fields. At 866 pages, HAL
is a substantial and helpful addition to a small but growing list of major
reference works on applied linguistics (see, e.g., Antos & Knapp, in
progress; Kaplan, 2002). In this sense HAL is distinct from introductory
textbooks (e.g., Schmitt, 2002) or edited collections (e.g., Bruthiaux et
al., 2005) on applied linguistics because it is much more comprehensive,
and yet it also has a broader scope than works that address key applied
linguistics sub-disciplines (e.g., Hinkel, 2005). HAL does not cover the
field completely, though, nor does it aim for the breadth achieved in major
encyclopedias, like the recent one by Brown (2006). Yet this collection
demonstrates key issues in and approaches to the field, and will therefore
be of interest to applied linguists, researchers, and graduate students.


Following a general introduction by the editors, the book is divided into
two main parts, each of which is further sub-divided into sections, ranging
in length from one chapter (sections 6 and 11) to five chapters (sections 3
and 9). Part I focuses on Linguistics-Applied (L-A), with 16 chapters in 6
sections, and Part II focuses on Applied-Linguistics (A-L), also with 16
chapters, but in 5 sections. Given HAL's length, I am only able to comment
briefly on each chapter. In doing so, I hope to provide an overview of this
collection and an understanding of its usefulness, while noting some of its
strengths and weaknesses.

After helpful notes on the 38 contributors, who represent a wide-ranging
and international group (though authors located in Australia and New
Zealand represent more than a third), the General Introduction to this
volume is by editors Alan Davies and Catherine Elder, both of whom are
experts in the field, having contributed books and articles on various
applied linguistics topics. The subtitle of this chapter, ''Applied
Linguistics: Subject to Discipline?'', however, offers the reader a hint of
the lingering insecurity that appears to exist in the field, as well as in
this collection, which seems rather strange for a major tome that wishes to
represent and introduce the discipline coherently. Following some
definitions and a brief history, Davies and Elder argue that applied
linguistics is an ethical profession with two main traditions. Echoing
Davies (1999), these are L-A, focusing on the applications of linguistics
to various practical issues, and A-L, which concerns itself with addressing
language problems. The editors suggest that L-A ''looks inward, concerned
not to solve language problems 'in the real world' but to explicate and
test theories about language itself,'' while A-L ''looks outward, beyond
language in an attempt to explain, perhaps even ameliorate social problems''
that involve language (p. 11). This distinction reflects some uncertainty
about definitions of ''applied linguistics''. Stating that ''the L-A/A-L
distinction is sustainable only at the extremes'' (p. 12), the editors note
that it ''is in some cases problematic'' (p. 13) but then continue to use it
in the rest of the book.

In his Introduction to Part I, on L-A, Davies suggests that its chapters
reflect ''a cline from closest to the linguistics of language to the more
distant connection'' (p. 19). Section 1 includes two chapters. In ''Language
Descriptions'' Anthony Liddicoat and Timothy Curnow note that while applied
linguistics focuses on language, ''many applied linguists are not directly
involved in language description'', so they provide a clear and concise
outline of ''the sounds of language (phonetics and phonology)'', followed by
''language structures (morphology, syntax, and information structure) and
meaning (semantics)'' (p. 26). My graduate students appreciate this overview
of the aspects of language we are likely to consider in various applied
linguistics endeavors. Next, Alan Kirkness provides a good introduction to
''Lexicography'', ''the art and craft of writing a dictionary'' (p. 55). While
his presentation of dictionary types is comprehensive and the discussion of
how lexicography relates to second language teaching is helpful for those
with an interest in education, the examples here are only of English
language dictionaries, and Kirkness does not cover the technical and
theoretical processes involved in dictionary making.

In section 2 three chapters deal with language and its use. David Birdsong
presents an overview of ''Second Language Acquisition (SLA) and Ultimate
Attainment'', making clear that this concept does not equal native-likeness,
although that is ''one of the observed outcomes of'' SLA (p. 82). Birdsong
connects this topic to age issues (including the critical period
hypothesis) and universal grammar, helpfully describing relevant research.
Next Michael Stubbs does an excellent job explaining the history, use, and
methods of ''Language Corpora''. Stubbs' presentation of how a corpus study
is done is practical, and his summary of new findings from corpus
linguistics is useful for students who are familiarizing themselves with
the field. One weakness, though, is that Stubbs does not explain the
theoretical issues related to the creation and use of language corpora.
Hugh Trappes-Lomax's chapter ''Discourse Analysis'' is multi-disciplinary and
dynamic. He sees the various areas within discourse analysis as having
different ''ways and means'' to study texts, and these are rules and
principles, contexts and cultures, functions and structures, and power and
politics (p. 136). Trappes-Lomax's review of different approaches is clear,
though not exhaustive, and his discussion on first and second language
education enables those with interests in these areas to see the usefulness
of discourse analysis.

With the five chapters in section 3, Davies argues that we see ''connections
between speakers and their language'' (p. 21). Such is the case with Rachel
Sutton-Spence and Bencie Woll's introduction to ''British Sign Language''
(BSL), which is a language distinct from English, yet is directly in
''relationship with the majority language community which surrounds it'' (p.
184). Sutton-Spence and Woll describe social, regional, and situational
dialects, the aesthetic use of BSL (with some photographs), and challenges
in finding BSL-English interpreters. Next, in one of the shorter chapters,
Howard Giles and Andrew Billings write about ''Assessing Language
Attitudes'', emphasizing speaker evaluation studies. They begin with early
empirical work, outline later studies, particularly in the '''matched-guise'
technique'' paradigm, and conclude with areas for future research (pp.
202-203). Monika Schmid and Kees de Bot then describe models and theories
of first ''Language Attrition'', and how it has been connected with
linguistic levels and various sociolinguistic factors. They usefully end
the chapter by summarizing some problems with the attrition research
discussed and close with five ''demands for language attrition studies'' in
the future (p. 228). Claire Kramsch next summarizes issues related to
''Language, Thought, and Culture'', succinctly outlining views on language
relativity and connecting them both with applied linguistics research and
educational practice. In one of the most useful parts, Kramsch encourages
those in the field to move away from static concepts ''toward more dynamic
notions of speakers/writers, thinkers, and members of discourse
communities'' (p. 255). The following chapter by Rod Gardner on
''Conversational Analysis'' (CA) introduces the fact that CA focuses on ''talk
rather than language'' (p. 262) and notes its foundations, methodology, and
principal findings. Gardner also outlines some applications of CA to
different settings and offers some suggestions for where future work will
be done.

In section 4 we see some ''functional uses of language'' (p. 23), beginning
with John Gibbons' discussion of ''Language and the Law'', which utilizes a
helpful reflection, action, and evaluation approach to language problems
and issues. Following a description of legal language, Gibbons relates it
to legal interpretation and translation, language legislation, and the use
of linguistic evidence in court, offering an easy to follow overview of
forensic linguistics. Next Susan Ehrlich successfully surveys research on
''Language and Gender''. Even though the different theories and research
methods can at times be overwhelming, Ehrlich does a nice job categorizing
diverse studies and putting them into a framework of social theories, with
two main strands (p. 322). As with other chapters, however, the strength of
this one may also be a weakness, as the overwhelming amount of information
conveyed sometimes becomes a distraction to what Ehrlich seems to attempt
to convey and discuss. The last chapter in this section concerns
''Stylistics'', and is by John McRae and Urszula Clark. After defining the
field and showing how text, context, and interpretation are interrelated,
McRae and Clark devote much of their chapter to ''the pedagogic value of
stylistics'' (p. 334), for teaching both native and non-native speakers how
language works in texts. They use several examples (two in an appendix),
but again the focus is uniquely on English (and ESL/EFL).

Davies declares that section 5 concerns ''the influence of language in
external affairs'' (p. 23), and John Joseph's chapter is on ''Language and
Politics''. Drawing on a summary of structuralist and Marxist perspectives,
Joseph first discusses politics in discourse within the Marxist approach
and then grammar and discourse in the structuralist one, before considering
the politics of language choice. The chapter ends with a commentary on the
debate in applied linguistics ''concerning the spread of English and its
cultural and political consequences'' (p. 361). This leads well into the
chapter on World Englishes, by Kingsley Bolton. The spread of English has
led scholars to investigate, theorize, and critique this phenomenon, and
Bolton summarizes seven different and overlapping approaches to the field.
The summaries of each approach are excellent and the analyses insightful.
Overall, Bolton seems to hold a fairly moderate view towards the future of
''World Englishes'', described in his ''theory to practice'' conclusion (pp.

Section 6, the last in Part I, has one chapter by Kanavillil Rajagopalan on
''The Philosophy of Applied Linguistics''. It reviews landmarks in the
history of applied linguistics, including ''the Chomskyan revolution and its
impact'' (p. 402) and developments since the late 1960s. Arguing that
applied linguistics ''flourished in the shadow of theoretical or general
linguistics'' (p. 408), Rajagopalan describes signs of the field's
increasing status and autonomy, along with a ''neo-empiricist turn'' (p. 411)
which has lead to ''rethinking the very relation between linguistic theory
and ... various practices involving language'' (p. 414). It is on this note
concerning the ''critical orientation'' of applied linguistics that Part I ends.

In her ''Introduction to Part II'', on A-L, Catherine Elder states that its
sections and chapters are also on a cline, from the most to the least
explicitly linguistic. Section 7 includes three chapters on ''definition and
categorization'' (p. 423), starting with Alan Davies' on ''The Native Speaker
in Applied Linguistics''. Davies helpfully explains six criteria but
declares that only ''childhood acquisition'' is contingent (p. 436), before
summarizing five views on what it means to be a native speaker and four
ways of coping with loss of one's native speaker identity. Then John
Edwards' chapter on Language Minorities defines minority groups before
arguing for language maintenance among them and suggesting ''bilingualism as
a longer-term solution for small or threatened languages'' (p. 461). In
categorizing minority languages, Edwards outlines a model with 10 different
types of situations, each of which may involve indigenous and immigrant
groups (p. 466), and he encourages further ''investigations that try to
establish links across cases, areas, and groups'' (p. 470). Next James Dean
Brown's overview of ''Research Methods for Applied Linguistics'' is concise
but clear. It starts with a short discussion of scope (primary vs.
secondary, qualitative through statistical research), and its numerous
figures and tables are great for explaining the characteristics of and
differences in various research approaches. The outline of ''standards for
sound applied linguistics research'' (pp. 491-498) gives excellent
guidelines to use in evaluating and producing appropriate research, and
Brown's final section on ''ethical considerations'' is appreciated since such
issues are a concern in most disciplines. This chapter is a gem, and has
been appreciated by several groups of my graduate students who have used it.

In section 8, on language acquisition, we find William Littlewood's chapter
on ''Second Language Learning'', which provides an introduction to processes
and theories, as well as to research on sequences of development and the
effects of classroom instruction on SLA. Given the range and depth of work
in these areas, Littlewood's coverage is brief and somewhat incomplete, but
his strongest section is on theories of second language learning, in which
he successfully categorizes and summarizes some of the significant ones in
the field (pp. 514-520). Rod Ellis' chapter on ''Individual Differences in
Second Language Learning'' is another highlight. Divided into two parts, it
briefly discusses some methods and instruments used to investigate
individual differences in SLA before devoting most of the chapter to a
review of seven key factors. Ellis ends with a call for ''an overarching
theory'' that can explain success in and the processes of SLA (p. 546).
Next, in ''Social Influences on Language Learning'', Gary Barkhuizen presents
a model of SLA that lists five necessary components: the learner, input,
interlanguage, output, and social context. Barkhuizen also helpfully offers
brief answers to five key questions on language education, rightly noting
''the complex nature of the language learning task'' (p. 571). In his
''Literacy Studies'' chapter, Eddie Williams divides the area into narrow and
broad interpretations, and his discussion of the narrow tradition of
literacy provides a comprehensive view of different subjects in reading and
writing, including vocabulary and language learning and development. His
section on process models of reading is especially well-done, but his
writing on the broader interpretation of literacy could have represented
views of the autonomous model more fully.

Section 9, on more explicit ''issues of pedagogy'' (p. 426), opens with Bob
Adamson's chapter on ''Fashions in Language Teaching Methodology''. Stating
that ''no method is inherently superior to another'' (p. 605), Adamson
reviews the origins of a number of 'methods' before discussing the place of
them in the curriculum. He also considers how teaching methods reflect
contemporary practices before closing with Kumaravadivelu's ''ten
micro-strategies for teachers to employ'' (p. 618). Paul Gruba's ''Computer
Assisted Language Learning (CALL)'' chapter uses three main periods
(structural, communicative, and integrative CALL) and many acronyms to
review the history of work in this area. Gruba also surveys the roles of
computers, learners, teachers, and researchers, and closes with a call for
''a stronger critique of technologies in the field'' (p. 642). Next Richard
Johnstone begins his chapter by noting diverse factors involved in
''Language Teacher Education'' (LTE), before outlining a useful framework for
it (see pp. 652-653). He also observes that effective LTE should reflect
the various stages of teacher's career, and ends the chapter with five
roles within LTE where applied linguistics research might contribute (pp.
667-669). Helen Basturkmen and Catherine Elder's chapter on ''The Practice
of LSP'' (language for specific purposes) first defines the field and notes
that two key features are ''needs analysis and description of language use
in target situations'' (p. 674). After brief sections on issues in LSP
teaching and its widening agenda, the bulk of the chapter is then devoted
to a range of issues in LSP testing. Lastly in this section, Heather
Lotherington's chapter on Bilingual Education begins with a brief history
and notes current issues, before outlining sociocultural, political, and
psychological contexts. A wonderful aspect of this chapter is that
Lotherington usefully outlines models of bilingual education before noting
several perspectives for evaluating it.

Section 10 includes three chapters on ''institutional arrangements or
practices'' (p. 428), beginning with Anne Pauwels' on ''Language
Maintenance''. Pauwels distinguishes 'language maintenance' and 'language
shift' in terms of language contact, and describes usual methods, tools,
and data for researching both of these phenomena. She also devotes a
section to both community and individuals efforts at language maintenance,
drawing on the work of Joshua Fishman and others. Next Joseph Lo Bianco's
chapter, ''Language Planning as Applied Linguistics'', first defines and
theorizes about language policy and planning (LPP) before noting examples
of critiques and problems in this area. Lo Bianco also summarizes three
main approaches to language that are reflected in LPP work and argues for
the addition of a category of ''discourse planning'' in LPP (p. 757). Tim
McNamara's chapter on ''Language Testing'' ends this section, arguing for the
centrality of language testing in applied linguistics. Validity and
validation studies are among the topics addressed, as are language tests
and identity, testing research and its connections to language learning,
and current and future developments.

In section 11, the final one in the book, Alastair Pennycook does a fine
job summarizing and critiquing recent work in ''Critical Applied
Linguistics''. He mainly covers critical issues in discourse analysis and
literacy, translation, language education, testing, language planning and
rights, and the workplace. Pennycook makes claims for the importance and
innovations of critical applied linguistics and critical discourse
analysis, yet it seems to this reader that in his defense of the right to
practice critical methodology he may have lost perspective on the goal of
applied linguistics for many in the field -- to create solutions for
language-related problems.


HAL offers readers a good overview of applied linguistics, with an accurate
picture of the discipline; yet at the same time it reveals some of the
challenges of defining and delimiting such a broad field of inquiry. The
chapters are long enough to offer good breadth and some depth, and the
references in each list both primary and secondary research that readers
may consult for further information. One thing I appreciate about this
collection is that the chapters are self-contained and include all relevant
references, so that one can use a chapter in a relevant class or the whole
collection as a course textbook. I have chosen to do both, using HAL as a
text for my introductory applied linguistics course and seminar in applied
linguistics class, but single chapters (on discourse analysis, research
methods, and SLA) in related courses. Now in paperback, the book is an
excellent and reasonably priced resource that should be on the shelf of
every applied linguist and in the library of all relevant programs.

For readers like me, continuing to use the L-A/A-L division in HAL does not
appear to make much sense, especially since the focus of A-L here seems to
be connected to language learning and teaching, but some chapters in the
L-A part, such as on SLA and World Englishes, are directly connected to
language education, particularly in reference to English. Also, despite the
helpful and detailed coverage of each topic, the logic in the arrangement
and inclusion of the chapters is not evident to me. The first chapter by
Liddicoat and Curnow, for example, presents a sound introduction to
linguistics, yet its application to applied linguistics is not specified.
In the chapters by Kirkness and Birdsong one finds a good overview of
lexicography and then a rather specialist perspective on ultimate
attainment in SLA. One challenge with edited collections is that the focus
and coverage of individual chapters vary, with some being more relevant to
readers newer to the field and others being especially useful to those who
already have some familiarity with the topic at hand. This situation exists
with HAL, and may in fact be one of its strengths. A further strength,
reflecting the editors' expertise, is the emphasis on issues related to

The emphasis on English (and examples related to it) in HAL is
unmistakable, and is not surprising for an audience of graduate students
and applied linguists reading this handbook in English. I wish, however,
that there had been more effort to include examples from other languages,
as applied linguistics is relevant to work in all languages. On a positive
note, there were few typographical errors in HAL, which is a major feat for
such a huge volume. Bravo to the authors, editors, and Blackwell's team.
Also, HAL offers helpful information, including email addresses, about its
contributors; yet apart from Stubbs' chapter on corpus linguistics there
are surprisingly few Internet resources or references mentioned. This
reality strikes me as a major weakness given the intended audience --
graduate students and researchers. Similarly, HAL could have included a
chapter on the use of technology in various applied linguistics activities.
While the list of additional topics that could have been included is long,
from my perspective a major omission is that there are no chapters on
translation and interpretation, areas that I consider central to the field
(and which are addressed in Kaplan, 2002).

One can always criticize a book that claims to be comprehensive. Despite
some concerns about HAL that I have mentioned, in finishing this collection
the reader comes away with a much better understanding of current topics
and issues in applied linguistics, and as a result is well prepared to ask
appropriate questions concerning the numerous areas that HAL does address.
As a result, I am grateful both to the editors and the contributors for
this important, useful, and valuable contribution to the literature. I
therefore highly recommend it.


Antos, G., & Knapp, K. (Eds.). (in progress). Handbooks in applied
linguistics (9 volumes). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Brown, K. (Ed.). (2006). Encyclopedia of language and linguistics, Second
edition (14 volumes). Oxford: Elsevier.

Bruthiaux, P., Atkinson, D., Eggington, W. G., Grabe, W., & Ramanathan, R.
(Eds.). (2005). Directions in applied linguistics. Clevedon: Multilingual

Davies, A. (1999). An introduction to applied linguistics. Edinburgh:
Edinburgh University Press.

Hinkel, E. (Ed.). (2005). Handbook of research in second language teaching
and learning. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Kaplan, R. B. (Ed.). (2002). The Oxford handbook of applied linguistics.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Schmitt, N. (Ed.). (2002). An introduction to applied linguistics. London:

Michael Lessard-Clouston holds a Ph.D. in second language acquisition and
literacy from the University of Toronto. His interests include vocabulary
acquisition and language learning strategies, and his recent research has
appeared in the Canadian Modern Language Review and is in press at the
Indian Journal of Applied Linguistics. Dr. Lessard-Clouston teaches Applied
Linguistics and TESOL at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He is
grateful to his graduate students for their feedback on HAL, and
acknowledges the input of Richard Chen in particular on the handbook and
this review.

Format: Paperback
ISBN: 1405138092
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 888
Prices: U.S. $ 49.95
U.K. £ 26.99