LINGUIST List 32.1228

Wed Apr 07 2021

Review: Applied Linguistics; Sociolinguistics: Filipović (2019)

Editor for this issue: Jeremy Coburn <>

Date: 21-Sep-2020
From: Rachel Poulin <>
Subject: Bilingualism in Action
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Book announced at

AUTHOR: Luna Filipović
TITLE: Bilingualism in Action
SUBTITLE: Theory and Practice
PUBLISHER: Cambridge University Press
YEAR: 2019

REVIEWER: Rachel B Poulin, University of Texas at Austin


Luna Filipović’s Bilingualism in Action: Theory and Practice details her framework, Complex Adaptive System Principles (CASP) for Bilingualism, intended to both analyze and predict bilingual behaviors by taking into account the interaction of languages within the individual speaker’s mind as well as language use throughout communities. The author critiques the field of bilingualism for its tendency to study factors in isolation and conduct myopic empirical procedures for the sake of experimental simplicity. Furthermore, she argues for the need to conduct holistic psycholinguistic investigations by considering a variety of internal (speaker-specific) and external (context-specific) factors so as to account for the variable individual differences found throughout the bilingual literature. Filipović undertakes the daunting question of “why” bilingual speakers do what they do by marrying classic psycholinguistic questions with sociolinguistic variables. In doing so, the author puts forth a compelling representation of how bilinguals can be influenced by their environment and how the interplay between a variety of factors can lead to the well-documented individual differences observed in the field. This text, aimed at an academic audience, can also provide valuable insight to bilinguals hoping to better understand their own language use and processing, as well as those working within related fields pertaining to language use such as second language instruction, translation, and interpretation.

Chapter 1, “Introduction: The Research Domain of Applied Bilingual Studies”
In Chapter 1, the author focuses on the complexity one faces in defining who constitutes as a bilingual. This is in large part due to there being varying linguistic proficiencies, acquisition histories, and language use experiences that require researchers to consider bilingualism along a continuous spectrum. This chapter introduces the author’s focus on the “why” of different bilingual outcomes, and not necessarily the description of bilingual tendencies. However, as the subtitle of this work indicates, this book is far from purely theoretical, as illustrated by the provision of typologically diverse examples that provide vivid narration to the author’s main points. She reiterates her main goal of providing a unifying framework that incorporates theory with empirical research, and again, urges researchers to conduct more nuanced studies. Furthermore, she introduces her goal of discovering how one’s languages interplay within the bilingual’s mind as well as within the linguistic community.

Chapter 2, “Bilingualism Research: What We Know and What We Need to Know”
In Chapter 2, the author presents what she deems a brief overview of the field of bilingualism, tying together research from both the sociolinguistic and psycholinguistic perspectives. Although far from exhaustive, the author covers an impressive range of relevant topics in both fields including but not limited to: language proficiency, the critical period hypothesis, differences in language acquisition histories, language dominance and attrition, monolingual and bilingual processing differences, the bilingual advantage debate and bilingual long-term processing and language outcomes. She then discusses a variety of internal and external factors that lead to different bilingual outcomes and how language is represented in the bilingual’s mind. By presenting this vast overview of the literature, she strengthens her argument that each individual bilingual’s experience is comprised of a rich combination of factors, and as such, one’s language outputs should be expected to differ tremendously.

Chapter 3, “Introducing CASP for Bilingualism”
The author begins unveiling the mechanisms behind her novel framework: the CASP for Bilingualism processing model. This framework is the authors’ solution to unify distinct disciplines, explain individual differences, and make predictions for bilingual outcomes. She accomplishes this by taking into account both internal and external factors that can either be in conflict or work together in coalitions so as to create these individual outcomes. Crucially, she also emphasizes how this framework necessitates the conception that bilingual language use and processing are non-fixed entities, and instead, retain plasticity dependent on myriad factors (i.e. their interlocutor, frequency of use, language mode, etc.) as well as the bi-directional transfer of one’s languages. This discussion is followed by a brief description of the Five Principles of CASP for Bilingualism: (A Minimize Learning Effort, (B) Minimize Processing Effort, (C) Maximize Expressive Power, (D) Maximize Efficiency in Communication, and (E) Maximize Common Ground. Principles A, B, C, and D guide both monolingual and bilingual language processing, but bilinguals are set apart based on their ability to “Maximize Common Ground” (Principle E) between their two languages. This principle indicates that a bilingual will attempt to lower processing effort by finding the overlap in one’s multiple languages while simultaneously ensuring effective language production and processing. The author argues that this framework, guided by these five principles, can provide the multifactorial, granular framework currently absent in bilingualism research.

Chapter 4, “Action Time: CASP for Bilingualism at Work”
Throughout this chapter, the author builds upon the presentation of her CASP model, by providing an explanation with clear examples for the application of her framework. Indeed, she begins uncovering the “why” of bilingualism – why we process and produce language in different ways and the variety of factors that come into play, dependent on her five main principles. These examples provide a case study of sorts to uncover why different outcomes in bilingual processing and ultimately production occur. Furthermore, this chapter exemplifies how all of these factors come into play in such a way as to alleviate the processing costs for the speaker, while also prioritizing successful communication. This chapter underlines how linguistic efficiency motivates much of what a bilingual speaker does, but that no singular principle can independently account for a bilingual’s language outcomes; crucially, language outputs are modulated by the bilingual’s respective proficiencies, current linguistic mode, and interlocutor, as well as the formality of the linguistic context.

Chapter 5, “Bilingual Cognition: Language, Memory and Judgement”
The author investigates how bilinguals recall specific events in comparison to monolinguals and whether different bilingual experiences impact memory (i.e. early vs. late acquisition.) Her analysis consists of clear and poignant examples of how typological linguistic differences impact bilingual memory and how this can be understood within the framework of CASP for Bilingualism. The author concludes this chapter by stating that language shapes memory and there is no simple answer with regard to whether or not bilinguals demonstrate better memory and judgment as, again, this depends on a variety of factors including: the pertinent semantic information being conveyed, the typological differences (i.e. grammatical features that render certain semantic information more salient), and the individual’s linguistic proficiencies. The author details a number of studies that highlight how a variety of factors are at play and result in different outcomes, emphasizing that the CASP for Bilingualism framework provides a solution to account for the interplay of so many interacting factors.

Chapter 6, “Bilinguals in Action as Language Professionals: Specialized Interpreting and Translating”
Chapter 6 focuses on interpretation in “high-risk communicative context(s)” (p. 148) such as in courtrooms and police work, as testimonies and interrogations play a large role in the pursuit of justice. The author attends to these specific contexts, as both languages are necessarily present and active within a singular linguistic context. She further details examples of when failure to capture the minutiae of typological differences in such bilingual situations could result in undue convictions. The author argues that interpreters must be professionally trained and not simply heritage speakers or those having attained high proficiency levels. On the contrary, an interpreter must be intimately familiar with how the two relevant languages differ, as these minute dissimilarities can make all the difference in such high-risk contexts. The greatest takeaway from this chapter is that interpreters do not “Maximize Common Ground” as they must interpret meaning that captures the intricacies of the source language which could otherwise be lost in an effort to sound more natural in the target language. Instead, interpreters must forego the importance of this principle in order to accurately convey the semantics of the original message. Thus, we see that there are competing motivations at play such that although Principle E (“Maximize Common Ground”) tends to be a strong indicator of bilingual behaviors in many contexts, Principle D (Maximize efficiency in Communication), appears to outweigh Principle E in high-risk interpretive situations.

Chapter 7, “Conclusions and Future Directions”
The author concludes by arguing that CASP for bilingualism is a necessary framework as it can explain and predict the vastly different bilingual outcomes reported in the literature. It becomes evident based on the variety of examples provided in this text that a bilingual’s immediate linguistic context, acquisition history, and locale, among other factors, can all influence one’s bilingual processing and ultimately output. Additionally, the author convincingly underlines that if researchers continue to examine only canonical predictive variables such as age of acquisition and proficiency, then it should come as no surprise when results are not replicated. Indeed, researchers will continue to arrive at these contradictory results, and the field will remain fragmented unless we can take into account the entire constellation of both psycholinguistic and sociolinguistic factors. Ultimately, by adopting this unifying and holistic framework, the author argues that we will begin to understand how these factors interact to create unique bilingual outcomes. She concludes this chapter with a summary of future work to be conducted in the field, as well as additional ways in which to apply her CASP for bilingualism framework.


Overall, I found this title to compellingly highlight a way to unify the subfields of sociolinguistics and psycholinguistics. This is further bolstered by her intentional avoidance of subfield-specific jargon which often creates confusion for anyone going beyond the confines of their specific linguistic subfield. Although perhaps unintentional, I found that this title’s greatest strength was the overview provided in Chapter 2. Although the author claims that this chapter is not exhaustive, it is as close to exhaustive as anything could be when discussing the unification of two bodies of research in the span of 40 pages. Throughout this chapter, the author somehow touches on an extensive breadth of critical sociolinguistic and psycholinguistic concepts, all the while presenting clear and concise examples of bilingual usage that are the definition of typologically informed. For this reason, I would recommend this chapter to any graduate student or scholar interested in learning more about psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, and bilingualism. This provides an excellent jumping-off point with clear explanations of the most prominent topics within the field. Furthermore, the author generously outlines copious prompts for unanswered questions in a clear and coherent manner, making this a wellspring of future research for the aspiring psycholinguist.

Regarding the CASP for Bilingualism framework, although clear in its application of studies reviewed by the author, I question the author’s assertion of its predictive strength. Due to the holistic nature of this framework, the outcomes for bilingual output are effectively limitless and dependent on myriad internal and external factors. As the examples provided in this work are all subjected to this framework in hindsight, I fail to see how one might apply this framework in the beginning stages of a psycholinguistic research project during which precise predictions and hypotheses must be made. As such, I remain skeptical as to whether this model should be applied in such instances where concrete predictions are critical. If this framework is indeed capable of such predictive enterprises, then I would ask that the author incorporate examples for its predictive strength in the seminal stages of the research process. Thus, although an important contribution to the field, this framework’s predictive strength appears to have been overstated.

Furthermore, Chapters 5 & 6, although effective at demonstrating how this model can be used to explain output in different contexts, felt tangential and beyond what should have been the scope of this text. However, both chapters exemplified the interdisciplinary nature of bilingualism and the breadth of the impact of the application of this framework. Finally, there were some surprising gaps in the literature where scholarship such as VanPatten & Cadierno (1987) were missing in the discussions of overt grammatical pedagogical interventions in the classroom (p. 180). Evidently, a short text cannot cover all of the literature in the field, which the author mentions on multiple occasions. However, it felt lacking based on the influential nature of their work in the field.

In conclusion, Bilingualism in Action convincingly argues for the need for more granular, fine-tuned research that ties together sociolinguistic and psycholinguistic variables so as to understand the “why” behind individual differences of bilingual processing and production outcomes. Indeed, this book made me ruminate on my own bilingual experience, my current usage tendencies, and the ways in which I convey typological differences when teaching my second language to Anglophone students. This text would greatly benefit scholars who wish to subvert their field’s empirical norms and embrace the interdisciplinary nature of such a unified approach. Finally, this book would be an excellent addition to any graduate syllabus on bilingualism and would serve any graduate student seeking direction on her next research topic.


Filipović, L. (2019). Bilingualism in Action. Cambridge University Press.

VanPatten, B., & Cadierno, T. (1993). Explicit instruction and input processing. Studies in second language acquisition, 15(2), 225-243.


Rachel Poulin is a doctoral student at The University of Texas at Austin. Her main research interests are bilingualism, psycholinguistics, language processing, individual differences in bilingualism, cognitive control, and sociolinguistics. Her dissertation research focuses on how both psycholinguistic and sociolinguistic factors influence bilinguals’ variable outcomes in Stroop task performance as a measure of cognitive control.

Page Updated: 07-Apr-2021