LINGUIST List 23.5147

Mon Dec 10 2012

Review: Applied Linguistics; Language Acquisition: Robinson (2012)

Editor for this issue: Monica Macaulay <>

Date: 10-Dec-2012
From: Florentina Taylor <>
Subject: The Routledge Encyclopedia of Second Language Acquisition
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Book announced at

EDITOR: Peter RobinsonTITLE: The Routledge Encyclopedia of Second Language AcquisitionPUBLISHER: RoutledgeYEAR: 2012

Florentina Taylor, Department of Education, University of York, UK


The 756-page ''Routledge Encyclopedia of Second Language Acquisition'' beginswith the declared aim ''to provide readers with a user-friendly, authoritativesurvey of terms and constructs that are currently thought to be important tounderstanding research in second language acquisition (SLA) and itsapplications'' (p. xxii, Introduction). This aim is achieved to a great extentthrough 246 general entries of variable length (500-2,000 words) and 9''survey entries'' or ''thematic areas'' (around 4,000 words), with someauthors contributing more than one entry. The longer and more developedsections incorporate various concepts, which have their own short entries,into more in-depth discussions of associated theories, approaches and notions,offering readers the opportunity to familiarize themselves with terminology incontext while underlining important relationships between variousperspectives. The nine survey entries are: Development in SLA (Jürgen Meisel),Discourse and pragmatics in SLA (Eva Alcón-Soler), Individual differences inSLA (Rebecca Oxford), Instructed SLA (Nina Spada and Patsy Lightbown),Language and the lexicon in SLA (Marjolijn Verspoor and Norbert Schmitt),Measuring and researching SLA (Andrew Cohen and Ernesto Macaro),Psycholinguistics of SLA (Ping Li and Natasha Tokowicz), Social andsocio-cultural approaches to SLA (Dwight Atkinson) and Theoretical constructsin SLA (Geoff Jordan).

All sections end with six ''see also'' key words/ phrases discussed in thebook, a reference list and, in some cases, suggestions for further reading.There are also very useful lists of contributors and entries, as well as asubject/ author index that facilitate navigation around the volume and make iteasy to locate topics and authors. The titles of the survey entries/thematicareas appear in the list of entries in bold characters. As most sections beginwith concise definitions of the term in question, the encyclopedia can alsoserve as a dictionary, allowing for both quick reference and more in-depthunderstanding of the concepts discussed.

Although organized alphabetically, the sections present a helpful historicaloverview of the SLA literature, from older concepts such as Classroominteraction, Relative clauses, Scaffolding or Speech acts to more recentconcepts and perspectives such as Complexity theory, Ecology of languagelearning or Event-related potentials. Topics are not limited to SLA conceptsand theories, but also include research perspectives (e.g., Qualitative,Quantitative and Mixed-method approaches, as well as Longitudinal,Cross-sectional and Time-series designs) and introductions to methods ofqualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis. Some statisticalconcepts are also covered briefly (e.g., Effect size, Significance levels), inline with the growing need for these to be reported in published SLA research.


As stated in the introduction, this is clearly an authoritative survey of SLAterminology, written by a respected body of international specialists, manydiscussing their own innovative contributions. This offers the reader avaluable opportunity to find out more about the field from the best informedsources. However, this can also diminish the level of criticality andintroduce a certain amount of bias in instances where authors discuss theirown instruments or projects, supporting their entries exclusively with theirown (or their team's) references (e.g., Attitudes and Motivation Test Battery;ZISA project).

As most entries are relatively short, deciding what content to include in eachof them was clearly an evaluative exercise resulting in often partisanpositions. This becomes more of an issue in overview/multiple-perspectiveentries such as Individual differences or Theoretical constructs in SLA, whereclearly not all readers will agree with the selection included and thearguments developed. In addition, by fragmenting such sections into yetsmaller sub-sections, it can become difficult to provide any meaningful reviewof the topics discussed (see, for example, Gender and age, in Individualdifferences in SLA). The result of an evaluative process in deciding whatcontent to include may also be visible at the macro level, the volumeoverlooking several recent and not so recent areas such as affect/beliefs(e.g., Arnold, 1999; Horwitz, 1995), autonomy (e.g., Little, Ridley & Ushioda,2002), goal theory (e.g., Woodrow, 2012) and self-concept (e.g., Mercer,2011). While many readers will consider the absence of such concepts from theencyclopedia objectionable, this may also be an indication that far more (andmore rigorous) published research is necessary for these topics to be regardedas on a par with more established themes in SLA research.

These limitations, which are perhaps inherent to any encyclopedia, do not,however, distract from the important contribution that the volume makes to theSLA literature. As Peter Robinson explains in the introduction, one of theaims of the encyclopedia is to provide a complement to several recent SLAhandbooks that, through their very nature, can only cover a limited number oftopics in as many chapters. The Routledge Encyclopedia of Second LanguageAcquisition does so successfully, offering the best of both worlds -- acollection of expanded dictionary entries and a number of more developedsections that bring together several different perspectives, each with its ownentry in the volume. As such, it will be of great use to students looking foran introduction to core SLA concepts, as well as to supervisors confrontedwith less familiar terminology. It is also a helpful reference tool forresearchers, authors and professionals with an interest in SLA.


Arnold, Jane (ed.). 1999. Affect in Language Learning. Cambridge: CambridgeUniversity Press.

Horwitz, Elaine K. 1995. ''Student Affective Reactions and the Teaching andLearning of Foreign Languages.'' International Journal of Educational Research23 (7): 573–579.

Little, David, Jennifer Ridley, and Ema Ushioda. 2002. Towards Greater LearnerAutonomy in the Foreign Language Classroom. Dublin: Authentik.

Mercer, Sarah. 2011. Towards an Understanding of Language LearnerSelf-concept. Dordrecht: Springer.

Woodrow, Lindy. 2012. ''Goal Orientations: Three Perspectives on MotivationalGoal Orientations.'' In Psychology for Language Learning: Insights fromResearch, Theory and Practice, ed. Sarah Mercer, Stephen Ryan, and MarionWilliams, 188–202. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.


Dr. Florentina Taylor is a Lecturer in Education and MA TESOL Programme Leaderat the University of York, UK, where she currently teaches English Linguisticsand Teaching English for Academic Purposes to postgraduate students, as wellas Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages to undergraduates. Her mainresearch interests focus on the self and identity in language learning,especially the interface between identity perceptions, language acquisitionand academic achievement.

Page Updated: 10-Dec-2012