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Review of  Studies in French Applied Linguistics

Reviewer: Robert V Reichle
Book Title: Studies in French Applied Linguistics
Book Author: Dalila Ayoun
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Language Acquisition
Subject Language(s): French
Issue Number: 20.2674

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EDITOR: Ayoun, Dalila
TITLE: Studies in French Applied Linguistics
SERIES: Language Learning & Language Teaching 21
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2008

Robert V. Reichle, Department of Foreign Languages & Literatures, Northern
Illinois University

As a continuation of Ayoun (2007), this volume covers a wide variety of topics
relating to the diverse subfields of applied linguistics. Since the fundamental
aspects of second language acquisition have already been discussed in Ayoun's
previous volume, the current work serves to branch out into other branches of
applied linguistics while using French as the language of interest. The book is
divided into two parts: The first part covers topics in first and second
language acquisition, while the second part addresses current work on French in
applied linguistics.

Chapter 1 (''Evolving perspectives on learning French as a second language
through immersion'' by Roy Lyster) considers the successes and shortcomings of
immersion education, focusing on results from a series of studies on French
immersion programs in Canada. Lyster examines the focus on academic content
(rather than the form of the target language) observed in many immersion
settings, and discusses the resulting difficulties observed in many learners in
the acquisition of verb aspect, pronoun use (tu vs. vous) and gender marking. He
describes the mixed long-term results of several form-focused instruction
techniques, and concludes by suggesting counterbalanced instruction (in which
activities and feedback are incongruous to the academic orientation of the
classroom setting) as an alternative.

Chapter 2 (''Language production from a neurolinguistic perspective'' by Marina
Laganaro) details the early attempts by Broca, Wernicke and others to link
regions of the cortex with language processes. The resulting theory of
modularity is also discussed, as it leads into the first main focus of the
chapter: selective language impairments, double dissociations, and the evidence
they provide supporting modularity of language processes. This is followed by a
discussion of phonological production, both in aphasic patients and in the
general population, with a focus on slips of the tongue, lexical stress, and
syllabic representation in speech production. The chapter concludes by shifting
away from anatomy-based methods of neurolinguistic investigation and turning to
time-course investigations using the event-related potential (ERP) technique.
Much of the chapter discusses phenomena not specific to French, and as such is
an accessible introduction to neurolinguistics and speech production for a more
general audience.

Chapter 3 (''Natural language processing tools in CALL'' by Marie-Josée Hamel)
examines computer-assisted language learning using the FreeText project as a
case study in French language instruction. Hamel begins with a detailed overview
of intelligent tutoring systems and intelligent language tutors, which make use
of parsers and other natural language processing (NLP) techniques to assist
language learners. While this portion of the chapter is highly informative, it
may be of limited utility to those without a background in computational
linguistics. Of much wider interest, however, is the discussion of FreeText, a
language instruction environment that makes use of these NLP techniques.
Included are examples of FreeText activities, as well as an analysis of how the
different modules of the software environment conduct error diagnosis and
instruct learners.

Chapter 4 (''Specific language impairment in French'' by Celia Jakubowicz and
Laurice Tuller) explores the clinical and linguistic characteristics of specific
language impairment (SLI) as they relate to SLI in French. Particular attention
is given to the difficulties French SLI children exhibit with certain
grammatical morphemes, such as compound past tenses, accusative clitics, gender
and number marking, and wh-constructions. The authors also consider the state of
the art in determining clinical markers of SLI in French, from benchmarks
relating to age of acquisition of grammatical markers, to comparisons of SLI
children to children with other pathologies such as hearing loss and epilepsy.
Finally, they tie the previous discussion into the major theories of SLI to
date. These theories have approached the difficulties of SLI children by
accounting for them in terms of speed of processing difficulties, blindness to
grammatical features, or impairment to the ability to handle certain levels of
computational or derivational complexity.

Chapter 5 (''The first language acquisition of French from a generative
perspective'' by Cornelia Hamann) presents an array of findings from corpus
studies of SLI and unimpaired children learning French as a first language, all
the while tying these findings in to theories of language acquisition under a
(primarily) Principles and Parameters approach to Universal Grammar (UG). Hamann
discusses the development of clitic placement, verb raising, subject omission
and optional infinitives, coming to the conclusion that French has a phase of
optional infinitives and that null subjects do occur in such contexts. She also
outlines the development of subject, object and reflexive clitics, and charts
the acquisition of wh-questions. This chapter has a decidedly more UG-centric
bent than the rest of the volume, and the author has helpfully included
appendices on the Principles and Parameters approach for newcomers.

In Chapter 6 (''The role and status of the French language in North Africa'' by
Farid Aitsiselmi and Dawn Marley), the book turns away from language acquisition
and focuses on recent work on French in other areas of applied linguistics. This
chapter begins with a detailed and engaging historical background on the
language contact situation in Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria. Much of the chapter
is devoted to the postcolonial Arabization movement in the Maghreb, and the
impact it has had on the use of French in the region; code-switching and the
place of French in the educational system are also discussed. This chapter
serves as a thorough introduction to the sociolinguistic status of French in the
Maghreb, and it clearly sets out the circumstances that have left French as a
prestige language even after a tumultuous colonial history.

Chapter 7 (''Anthropological linguistic perspectives on writing Guadeloupean
Kréyòl'' by Kathe Managan) makes extensive use of firsthand field research on the
use of new orthographic guidelines for writing the creole of Guadeloupe. Special
attention is given to the orthographic features k, w and ò, which are salient to
speakers as being dissimilar from the writing conventions of French, and which
are gradually leading the way to acceptance of the new orthographic system. The
first-person nature of the field work presented here contrasts with the other
chapters of the volume, making it a good illustration of just how large an
umbrella the term ''applied linguistics'' can be.

Chapter 8 (''Literacy and technology in French language teaching'' by Richard
Kern) explores the meaning of literacy in a time of ever-increasing computer
mediated communication (CMC). Kern frames literacy in terms of its social,
cultural and collaborative implications, and uses this definition as a starting
point for an examination of CMC-related language innovation and language play
among both native speakers and language learners. Kern also presents data from a
pilot study on collaborative videoconferencing between American and French
students; the findings are particularly interesting given the multimodal
(visual, aural, and written) nature of the project.

Chapter 9 (''Forensic linguistics and French'' by Douglas A. Kibbee) provides a
useful introduction to the aims and interests of forensic linguistics for those
who are unfamiliar with this less-frequently-discussed field. Kibbee traces the
pre- and post-revolution history of the French language and the law. He cites
several attempts by the king to unify the language of the law, as well as more
recent attempts to accommodate regional languages, that will be of interest to
readers concerned with the history of the language. Finally, Kibbee gives
attention to cases of linguistic disadvantage for those engaged with the court
system and government.

Chapter 10 (''Analyzing urban youth vernaculars in French cities'' by Tim Pooley)
discusses the lexical and phonological features of the variety of French most
commonly associated with the youth of the banlieues. Recent work on youth lexis
etymology and word formation is summarized, as is the sociolinguistic research
on regional phonological markers. Pooley also discusses recent ethnographic work
on the use of slang, giving special attention to ritual insults such as ''ta
mère'' jokes. Finally, Pooley puts the data into context by comparing the
situation in France to that of Germany and England.

Chapter 11 (''Language planning and policy in Quebec'' by Leigh Oakes) concludes
the volume by providing a history of language planning in Quebec on three
fronts: Status planning, acquisition planning and corpus planning. The
discussion touches on all points of Quebec's history, from the British
acquisition of francophone Canada to the rapid developments in language planning
in the latter half of the 20th century to the present-day desire of Montreal's
immigrant population to learn English as a language of global commerce and
media. Oakes also helpfully provides a concise introduction to the theories
behind language policy and planning.

Given that the volume's stated goal is to provide overviews of a wide variety of
subfields of applied linguistics, there is little uniformity or thematic
coherence from chapter to chapter. In some ways this is illuminating - seeing
the differences in methodologies and style between the chapters on SLI and
creole orthography, for example, reminds the reader just how multifaceted the
field is. At the same time, the transitions from subject to subject can be
slightly jarring, and not all of the chapters do an equally good job of
introducing the reader to the conventions and frameworks of their fields.
Overall, the second half of the volume more successfully doubles as both an
introduction to and state of the art of the disciplines within, and as such is
perhaps suitable for a wider audience.

The unusual assortment of topics is inherent to the design of the volume,
considering it is a followup to Ayoun (2007), which already treated the more
stereotypically ''core'' aspects of applied linguistics. This design choice
prevents this second volume from serving as a general introduction to French
applied linguistics, but makes it an excellent ''next step'' in learning more
about the diversity of the field.

As for the goal of presenting current research in the field, the authors succeed
in presenting the state of the art of their respective fields and presenting
data from interesting case studies, all while providing the context of prior
research. Readers with an interest in any of the topics described within would
do well to seek out these useful contributions to their fields.

Ayoun, Dalila, ed. (2007). _French Applied Linguistics_. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Robert V. Reichle is assistant professor of French linguistics at Northern
Illinois University. He recently completed his dissertation on the acquisition
and processing of L2 French focus structure at the University of Texas at
Austin. His research interests include ERP investigations of L1 and L2
processing, age-related effects on L2 acquisition, and the use of existential
constructions in French.