By Sari Pietikäinen, Alexandra Jaffe, Helen Kelly-Holmes, Nik Coupland
Sociolinguistics from the Periphery "presents a fascinating book about change: shifting political, economic and cultural conditions; ephemeral, sometimes even seasonal, multilingualism; and altered imaginaries for minority and indigenous languages and their users"
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. 387-391).
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 testing.
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 Matters.
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: Arnold.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
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.