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Review of  Handbook of Applied Linguistics

Reviewer: Lorenzo Zanasi
Book Title: Handbook of Applied Linguistics
Book Author: Alan Davies Catherine Elder
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Issue Number: 15.1502

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Date: Tue, 11 May 2004 12:41:20 +0200
From Lorenzo Zanasi:
Subject: Handbook of Applied Linguistics

EDITOR: Davies, Alan; Elder, Catherine
TITLE: Handbook of Applied Linguistics
SERIES: Blackwell Handbooks in Linguistics
PUBLISHER: Blackwell Publishing
YEAR: 2003

Lorenzo Zanasi, University for Foreigners of Siena.


This volume collects 32 contributions concerning a large
family of applied linguistics. Papers are grouped in a
very defined structure, clearly explained by Davies and
Elder in the Introduction (see Critical Evaluation below).
Papers are so collected following that split: 16 for the
first part and 16 for the second one. Each contribution
provides a well made reference section: neither poor or
too vast, but essential. The first part is also divided
into 6 sections ''providing a cline from closest to the
linguistics of language to the more distant connection''.

Liddicot and Curnow provide a synthetic and punctual
outline of what is involved in the description of languages
and its levels: phonology, morphology, syntax, semantic.
This chapter is useful both for the student as for the user
of applied linguistics methods.

The same aim is followed by the second article about
lexicography (by Kirkness). Starting from a descriptive and
didactic tone, the author focuses on a particular aspect:
dictionary in second/foreign language teaching and
learning. In using this tool, Kirkness gradually moves
from a lexicologist approach to a more applicative one.
Section 2 consist of papers that ''investigate language in
terms of the uses that are made of it''. Birdsong's
contribution considers the ultimate attainment in SLA a
young research topic that refers to the outcome or end
point of acquisition L2. The concepts of native-like and
non native-like is introduced in relation to several
variables determining the level of ultimate attainment: age
of immersion (related to critical period hypothesis),
quantity of input, L1/L2 pairings. The notion of
fossilization is also criticised and a look at
neuroscientific approaches confirms the importance of
dialogue between SLA and cognitive models.

Mike Stubbs brings us into the world of corpus linguistics.
CL could be interpreted as a series of techniques bringing
''together as parameters populations of language tokens
across individuals'' It is useful to store data languages in
order to manipulate them. New technologies are obviously
leaders in this field, but there were corpus studies long
before computers and the knowledge to practice CL remains
essentially a linguistics one. Stubbs also proposes a list
of areas where CL could be required: language teaching,
lexicography in primis. But he claims that ''applications
are indirect and before findings can be applied to real
world problems, they require careful interpretation''.
The last article in this section is offered by Trappes ?
Lomax. He presents a view of discourse analysis underlining
three main points:
1) identifying and describing some of its gradually
emerging landmarks
2) illustrating the range of educational issues that
discourse work informs
3) point to some current movements and controversies

DA appears to be a multidisciplinary study because it is
shared by several sources that the author divided into four
categories: rule and principles (pragmatics, conversation
analysis), context and culture (ethnography of
communication and sociolingistics), functions and
structures (systemic functional linguistics, text
linguistics) and power and politics (pragmatic and
sociolinguistic approaches to power in language and
critical discourse analysis).

Section 3 puts together chapters ''that uncover the
connections between speakers and their language''.
The article of Sutton-Spence and Woll informs about British
Sign Language (BSL). The authors focus on its status and on
deaf community, discussing problems of planning and
standardization of BSL. Attention is also given to variants
in this language.

Giles and Billings reviewed the language attitude research
of the past 40 years in order ''to determine where the
research will be on going in the future''. Language attitude
concerns interaction between language, communication and
social judgment. The authors describe the historical
origins of the early studies; they pass on to consider the
role of standard and non-standard accent in social context
and the speech style as a social cue. Finally they present
us two models that frame language attitude as discursive
and linguistic action.

Monika Schmid and Kees de Bot focus on language attrition
(''in the process of language attrition, lack of contact
leads to a reduced level of proficiency in the attriting
language''). They investigate the phenomenon of loss at the
individual and community level, describing four
theoretical models in this field:
1) Jakobson's regression hypothesis
2) Language contact and language change
3) Universal grammar and parameter setting
4) Psycholinguistic questions of accessibility

The discussion of theme shows how linguistic levels are
affected by the attritional process and how sociolinguistic
variables influence attritional processes.

The contribute of Claire Kramsch concerns the relationship
between language, thought and culture. First of all Kramsch
traces the history of these kinds of studies in Herder, Von
Humboldt, Sapir and Whorf. Secondly she follows the changes
of this topic in three areas: semiotic relativity,
linguistic relativity, discursive relativity. Finally she
considers its implications in applied linguistic research,
above all in SLA.

Gardner's essay on conversation analysis ''provides another
take on the ways in which speakers use language''. He
divides a paper in two parts: the first one identifies the
historical roots of CA, developed in 1960s and strongly
linked to ethnomethodology; it discusses definitions and
characteristics of CA, describing its attributes and
principal findings (turn-taking, sequence of actions,
repair, turn design). The second part focuses on the
application of CA in four contexts (applied linguistics
domains): institutional, medical and legal, educational,
and second language learning/talk.

Section 4 hosts three chapters for three functional uses of
language: language and law, language and gender,
stylistics. How Davies claims: what distinguishes Section 4
from Section 3 is that while Section 3 deals with applied
linguistics in terms of language, Section 4 concerns
applied linguistics in terms of language use''.

Gibbons rightly reminds us that language of law is an
important arena for applied linguistics, because the law is
such an important and influential institution, and because
it is packed with language problems''. The core of this
papers, in our opinion, is really important: legal language
is usually not understandable by the community. And this is
true for many countries where the legal system derived from
another culture and language. From here, Gibbons suggests,
the need to teach the language of law.

Susan Ehrlich deals with language and gender. She considers
''the importance of recognizing the dynamic and performative
nature of linguistic gendered identities'', providing an
historical overview of gender research.

McRae and Clark provide an essay about a controversial
term: stylistics. It's usually used as an umbrella term so
the authors try to define more specific key aspects. A
paragraph is dedicated to stylistic methods to teach
literature in English for non-native speakers.
Section 5 contains two chapters ''dealing with the influence
of language in external affairs''. Joseph observes mutual
connections between language and politics: he describes
politics in grammar and discourse according to the trends
of Marxism and structuralism.

Bolton dedicates his study to World English, the so called
super language created by the spread of English. This
language has been studied in different perspectives:
descriptive ways, sociolinguistic ways, applied
linguistics. Bolton explains all these positions, reviewing
the literature through the time. He concludes with some
considerations on the importance of WE in applied

The last chapter of Part 1 is filled by Rajagopalan's paper
on philosophy of applied linguistics. The author traces an
historical overview of the philosophical roots of AL,
passing trough Chomskyan revolution, post-Chomskyan
developments and neo empiricist trends. The last paragraph
concerns the ethical implications of work done in applied

The second part starts from what the editors have classed
as weak AL and moves towards strong AL at the end. Davies
opens his section (on problem of definition) with the theme
of native speaker in applied linguistics. Specifically, he
examines ''the relation between the native speaker and non
native speaker and raises the question of whether a second
foreign language learner who starts learning after puberty
can become a native speaker of target language''.

Edward's paper is about language minorities. He deals with
issues of definition and categorization of topic. He also
suggests that in order to better understand minority
language groups it's necessary to use more cross context
comparison and more typological work.

A very useful reading for students and researchers is a
chapter by Brown about research methods in AL. The author
describes types of research; he discusses some
methodological approaches in AL; and presents a more
constructive approach concern with qualitative and
quantitative research. Finally he focuses on some ethical
and professional responsibilities in research.

Section 8 provides four chapters on language learning.
Littlewood describes elements, processes and theories of
SLL in a clear and exhaustive way. Ellis finds the
individual differences in SLL, also discussing the role of
some factors as learning style, motivation, anxiety and
willingness to communicate. Barkhuizen tried to explain
''how language learning and social context in which it takes
place relate to each other'', reviewing models of language
learning. Finally Williams focuses on literacy studies in
particular on a mainstream cognitive approach to the study
of literacy. A large analysis is given by the author to the
''reading'', basic literacy skills.

Section 9 ''moves a little closer to the strong end of the
AL continuum''.

Adamson examines language education methodology from
different perspectives. His paper addresses several
questions as: where do methods originate? What are the
salient features of methods that have been widely promoted?
Adamson also argues that ''no methods is superior to
another; instead, some methods are more appropriate than
others in a particular context''.

Gruba's paper goes into computer assisted language learning
(CALL); he traces a brief historical overview, theoretical
perspectives, and the role, respectively of computers,
students and teacher involved.

Johnstone discusses the topic of language teacher education
(LTE). He considers social, political and cultural factors
influencing LTE and proposes a framework for LTE provision.
Secondary he focuses on some aspects of ideology and
process involved in LTE and he reports some suggestions
about relationship between applied linguistics research and

Basturkmen and Elder's chapter concerns language for
specific purposes from a teaching and testing perspective.
Definitions and features are provided

Bilingual education is the subject of the Lotherington's
paper. Many aspects of this field are discussed here:
bilingualism and nationalism, models of bilingual
education, evaluation of bilingualism. Finally, the author,
explains the benefits of bilingual education.

Section 10 ''is concerned with language based institutional
arrangements of practices which are more broadly focused
than language teaching''. Pauwels focuses on language
maintenance. It is a multidisciplinary topic used to
describe a situation in which a speaker continue to use his
language in some or all spheres of life despite competition
with the dominant language to become the main language in
these spheres. The contribution also contains a paragraph
about methods, tools and data for language maintenance.

Lo Bianco discusses language planning as applied
linguistics. He ''critically reviews past and current
attempts to define and theorize the discipline and sketches
different forms of language planning activity''.

The chapter of McNamara is about language testing. It set
the place of language testing within applied linguistics
and observes the role of tests as institutional practice.
Section 11 is filled by the last essay of the book:
critical applied linguistics (by Pennycook). The author
discusses two principal concerns: ''what domains of work
might be considered to fall within the rubric of critical
applied linguistics; and what constitute the different
understandings of the critical in critical applied


The authors of the papers (mostly from the UK, Australia
and North America, but also from Holland, Sweden, Germany
and Brazil) discuss themes of a various nature using a
focus sometimes wide, useful and informative, in other
cases the focus is more specific in context and aim.
This qualitative heterogeneity of contributions,
accompanied by a quantitative one, could give the
impression of an opera jumping, incoherently, from the
British sign language to the language testing; describing
both theories and techniques; and proposing itself more as
an encyclopaedic work than a unitary collection.
Nevertheless the already quoted introduction to the volume
cancels this kind of evaluation revealing a ratio of the
opera more complex and interesting.

Davies and Elder find a double root in the tradition of
applied linguistics. The first one(applied linguistics or
AL) ''looks outward, beyond language in an attempt to
explain perhaps even ameliorate social problems. LA looks
inward, concerned not to solve language problems but to
explicate and test theories about language itself. So LA
uses language data to develop our linguistic knowledge
about language, while AL studies a language problem with a
view to correcting it''.

The book, structured according to this split, is useful
both for students as for specialists. Contributions are
synthetic and open stimulating windows onto the future of
applied linguistics.

Lorenzo Zanasi has recently discussed his Ph.D. thesis in
linguistics at the University for Foreigners of Siena. His
research interests include sociolinguistics, SLT and corpus
linguistics. He is currently working with the Observatory
of immigrant languages and of Italian spoken by immigrants
created in 2001 at the University for Foreigners of Siena.

Format: Hardback
ISBN: 0631228993
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 864
Prices: U.K. £ 66.50
U.S. $ 97.97