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Review of An Introduction to Applied Linguistics, Second Edition
EDITOR: Norbert Schmitt TITLE: An Introduction to Applied Linguistics, 2nd edition PUBLISHER: Oxford University Press; Hodder & Stoughton Ltd YEAR: 2010
Melanie Rockenhaus, Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa
As the title indicates, this book aims to provide the reader with an introductory overview of the field of Applied Linguistics (AL). At the same time, the editor makes it clear that it is his intention not only to introduce a series of topics within the field of AL but also to provide the reader with enough material, at a sophisticated enough level, to permit immediate, further, more advanced reading and research in each of the areas covered.
The volume contains sixteen chapters. After an introductory chapter, the book is divided into three macro sections (more on this below), each of which is further divided into four or five chapters, for a total of fourteen subject area chapters. Each of these chapters, independently authored by specialists, follows the same basic format: introduction, an explanation of the key issues, the pedagogical implications of the topic, a brief further reading list and at least one hands-on activity. Since this format is unvarying, it is not described again in each chapter but is commented upon in the Evaluation section below. The sixteenth and final chapter features suggested solutions to the hands-on activities of the other chapters.
In the introductory chapter, 'An Overview of Applied Linguistics', co-authored by the editor and M. Celce-Murcia, a working definition and a brief historical review of AL are offered. This latter very naturally dwells at greater length on the twentieth century, focusing briefly on socio- and psycholinguistics. The chapter ends with a look at the themes which will emerge in the book, including the interrelationship of many AL areas, the move from discrete to more holistic, integrated perspectives, lexico-grammar or formulaic language, the move to include the language learner in AL discussions, and the impossibility of finding clear-cut solutions in many AL debates.
The three major sections and their chapters are as follow:
I. Description of Language and Language Use
'Grammar': This chapter, co-authored by D. Larsen-Freeman and J. DeCarrico, opens by distinguishing prescriptive, descriptive and pedagogical grammars, indicates that the latter more closely resembles the second and uses this as a springboard to explain the difficulties of writing a descriptive grammar. These difficulties include deciding which rules (and exceptions) to include, the tension between form-driven or function-driven grammatical models, the inclusion or not of suprasentential discourse grammar and the inadequacies of grammatical descriptions based on writing to describe the grammar of speech. There follows a brief look at recent holistic, multidimensional approaches which attempt to take into consideration the entire lexico-grammatical spectrum. The chapter ends with a lengthy consideration of learning and teaching grammar, offering a careful and informed review of some of the ongoing debates in this area of language teaching, such as the role and limits of noticing or prompting vs. immediate feedback for error correction. The authors prudently recommend the use of a variety of approaches and the inclusion of all three dimensions of form, meaning and use in grammar instruction.
'Vocabulary': Co-authored by P. Nation and P. Meara, this chapter proceeds from an attempt to define vocabulary to a long section considering what vocabulary should be learned. The authors come down firmly on the side of explicitly teaching high-frequency vocabulary, then instructing learners in vocabulary-learning strategies for acquiring lower-frequency words in their own time. This section is thus naturally followed by an excellent and detailed review of recommendations about how words can, indeed be learned, recommended reading for any teacher interested in classroom techniques. The authors then offer some pointers for developing learner strategies and a series of specific suggestions for assessing vocabulary knowledge. The chapter ends with a very useful section dwelling on the enormous load English vocabulary represents for the learner and what this means for both learners and teachers.
'Discourse Analysis': The co-authors M. McCarthy, C. Matthiessen and D. Slade, after providing a working definition of their field, look at various sub-areas and/or approaches to the topic, including the conversation analyses of sociology, the ethnography of sociolinguistics, linguistic approaches and a brief look at critical discourse analysis. After this more research-oriented material, the authors turn to practical considerations such as a look at the differences between spoken and written discourse, the connections between corpus linguistics and discourse analysis, and a look at how the materials reviewed in the chapter can directly inform educators and materials writers.
'Pragmatics': The co-authors H. Spencer-Oatey and V. Žegarac introduce their specialization by explaining that pragmatics deals with ''the interrelationship between language form, (communicated) messages and language users'' (p. 70). Fortunately for complete novices, they immediately offer the reader a concrete example in the form of an authentic dialogue which they investigate at some length from a pragmatics perspective, using their considerations as a platform to introduce a good number of useful pragmatics terms and techniques. This is followed by a brief look at pragmatics research approaches, broadly divided into cognitive- and social-psychological, and the chapter concludes with detailed and exceedingly valuable considerations of applications of pragmatics in language teaching and learning.
'Corpus Linguistics': The co-authors R. Reppen and R. Simpson-Vlach illustrate the area of corpus linguistics, describing in some detail how corpora are designed, compiled and (often) annotated, all material of use to any reader who may be considering compiling a personal corpus for pedagogical or research purposes. The authors then dedicate no little effort to describing what sort of information can be gleaned from corpus analysis and the different types of corpora available. They end with recommendations for classroom use of corpora, perhaps the most disappointing part of the chapter, as they make no mention at all of any recent research in this area (see the Evaluation below).
II. Essential Areas of Enquiry in Applied Linguistics
'Second Language Acquisition': The co-authors N. Spada and P. Lightbown begin with a review of some of the linguistic and psychological theories which are background to and part of second language acquisition research. This is followed by a brief overview of some of the research findings on learners' language development and use. The chapter ends with an updated and carefully documented review of the research findings concerning the effects of both different types of instruction and implicit/explicit degrees of instruction on second language acquisition. These final pages will be of special interest to any reader interested in practical aspects of language instruction.
'Psycholinguistics': Given the pedagogical slant of the book, co-authors K. de Bot and J. Kroll sensibly choose to focus on the psycholinguistics of what they call 'bilinguals', that is, ''individuals who are acquiring or actively using more than one language'' (p. 124). They look first at the models psycholinguists construct to study language production in bilinguals, then review some representative research, including exceedingly interesting and very recent research into the costs and benefits of bilingualism across a lifetime of language use. They conclude by looking at future trends in psycholinguistics, which is in the opinion of these authors moving towards more holistic research (dialogues, larger units and non-verbal communication as opposed to simply monologues, words and speech only), as well as the potentially very exciting area of neuro-imaging.
'Sociolinguistics': By offering a broad definition of sociolinguistics as ''the study of language variation and language change'' (p. 143), the co-authors of this chapter, C. Llamas and P. Stockwell, leave themselves room to explore some of the many issues involved, including how to categorize and describe language variants, for which they offer a considerable review. Their section on sociolinguistic research is regrettably brief, but neatly exemplified by one of the co-authors' own research efforts, which is explained at length -- perhaps too great a length, given the scarce general introduction to research offered. They conclude by reviewing myriad practical applications of sociolinguistics, ranging from influencing government and educational policy to how accent and discourse pattern studies can benefit acting and law enforcement, politicians and psychologists.
'Focus on the Language Learner: Styles, Strategies and Motivation': The author of this chapter, A. Cohen -- who acknowledges the contribution of Z. Dörnyei for the section on motivation -- first considers those learner characteristics outside of teacher control (learner age, gender, aptitude, learning styles), then turns to learner strategies. These latter are usefully discussed in sufficient detail and readers interested in language learner strategies for any reason will find the concise but inclusive coverage of strategies to be of great help. The section on motivation follows, and tidily segues into the conclusion, where the author outlines his recommendations on how to help learners integrate their learning styles with new strategies and self-motivation. This chapter has been greatly reworked and updated, offering a successful and satisfying development from the first edition which will be of great interest to anyone working in this area.
III. Language Skills and Assessment
The four language skills chapters -- 'Listening', co-authored by T. Lynch and D. Mendelsohn; 'Speaking and Pronunciation', co-authored by A. Burns and B. Seidlhofer; 'Reading', co-authored by P. Carrell and W. Grabe; 'Writing', co-authored by P. Matsuda and T. Silva -- can be usefully jointly reviewed. They are, in fact, the most uniformly structured chapters of the volume, each moving as outlined in the description above from a definition of the material of study through a discussion of the issues involved to a concluding section on the pedagogical implications of the research reviewed. They are also all four, not surprisingly, weighted towards the more practical aspects of second language learning. The chapter on Listening and the one concerning Speaking and Pronunciation feature lengthy considerations of how research in the respective areas can be utilized in the classroom, while the chapter on Reading and that on Writing are nearly entirely focused on second language learning. It is clear, then, that any reader concerned with the 'four skills' in an educational context will find these chapters of use.
These chapters, however, are not only classroom-oriented, but also offer adequate theoretical analysis and references in the sections dedicated to a review of the issues. Lynch and Mendelsohn therefore look at the many models used to describe listening and its processing, Burns and Seidlhofer look at research into the genres of speaking, Carrell and Grabe look at a remarkable amount of applied second language reading research and Matsuda and Silva move from the consideration of the aspects (relational, strategic, textual) of writing to a lengthy triangulation of second language writing theory, research and pedagogy.
'Assessment': This chapter, co-authored by C. Chapelle and G. Brindley, structured like the chapters above, likewise offers both theoretical (initially) and practical (lastly) information. The authors begin by differentiating testing and assessment -- the latter is used in a broader sense to include both formal, quantifiable and informal, qualitative assessments -- then nimbly lead the reader through a good bit of the terminology, research and issues involved in assessment, from various construct definitions to methods, covering validation, analysis of test items, correlation and washback. By the end, the reader has a good sense of how much richer and complex the field of language assessment has become over the last decade or so. The final pages are slightly less technical, offering updated information on alternative assessment methods (observation, portfolios, self-assessment) and a satisfactory discussion of the pros and cons of these assessment techniques.
'Suggested Solutions', the sixteenth and final chapter, offers not only solutions to the Hands-on Activities with which each chapter ends but also a certain amount of discussion of the activities themselves, and is one of the elements which makes this introductory book particularly pleasing, as is discussed below.
Overall, this book is a very good introductory text for AL, in particular for any reader involved in English language education. The decision to feature co-authors for most of the chapters offers a greater guarantee of authoritativeness and breadth of treatment, and, despite the introductory nature of the volume, the authors are mostly well-known specialists in their fields. This allows the editor to stay true to his promise of providing a 'sophisticated introduction' to those areas of AL treated in this volume, and provides the reader with a satisfying sense of having engaged with authentic AL material and thus being prepared to delve into further research.
This sense of satisfaction is fueled in great part by the surprisingly balanced feel of the book, given the editor's decision to request that authors organize their chapters generally in the same way. Thus the reader knows that each chapter will be organized around the reassuring, repetitive framework of introduction, key issues, pedagogical implications, further reading and hands-on activity as s/he explores what may be the completely unknown territory of an AL sub-discipline. The concluding Hands-on Activities are particularly gratifying, offering the reader the opportunity to explore and test new knowledge, concepts and theoretical suppositions. Likewise, the chapter dedicated to the 'Suggested Solutions' for these activities contains rather more feedback than is often the case in introductory books, adding to the reader's sense of engagement with the material.
On a less positive note, readers from outside language education may find this book less appealing, but in fairness they are forewarned as early as the back cover, which claims the book to be ''ideal for students of applied linguistics, TESOL and second language pedagogy, as well as practicing teachers''. Moreover, second-time readers (arguably a minority) will be disappointed to find that several chapters were simply reprints of the first edition. Two quick examples of this: Typos can slip in anywhere, but the chapter on vocabulary regrettably still features a fairly evident misprint found in the first edition. And in the case of the corpus linguistics chapter, the further reading list has not even been updated and features no Further Reading suggestion more recent than 1998, surprising in a field of rapid and multi-faceted expansion (but see below).
Still, these are minor objections for what can only be considered a successful and useful introductory level book. The volume closes with more than fifty pages of updated references provided by the various authors, divided by chapters (and here the corpus linguistics references have been updated), and extremely comprehensive Index pages significantly expanded from the first edition. These features render the book not only accessible and pleasurable but also valuable to the reader, guaranteeing that the volume can be used as starting point for AL novices as well as a reference book for practitioners who occasionally need background information about a specialist area outside their own.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Melanie Rockenhaus is the English Language Lecturer at Scuola Normale
Superiore, an honors university in Pisa, where she teaches mainly
first-year university students. She also teaches composition for the
University of Maryland in Europe. Her interests include phrasal (formulaic)
language and assessment.