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Review of  The Routledge Applied Linguistics Reader

Reviewer: Tyler A. Barrett
Book Title: The Routledge Applied Linguistics Reader
Book Author: Li Wei
Publisher: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
General Linguistics
Language Documentation
Text/Corpus Linguistics
Forensic Linguistics
Language Acquisition
Issue Number: 22.4231

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TITLE: The Routledge Applied Linguistics Reader
PUBLISHER: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
YEAR: 2011

Tyler A. Barrett, Faculty of Education, University of Calgary


The Routledge Applied Linguistics Reader is a compilation of twenty-six papers
written by leading scholars in the field of Applied Linguistics. Some of the
papers are recent while others were written as early as the 1990s. (In what
follows, dates after authors’ names represent the original date the paper was
published.) The purpose of this book is two-fold, since it is intended to be a
comprehensive overview of the field of Applied Linguistics useful for any
scholar interested in the field, while also being an introductory textbook for
students. As a result, there are notes for students and instructors written by
editor Li Wei at the end of each part. The book is divided into four parts:

- Reconceptualizing the native speaker and the language learner
- Reconceptualizing language in language learning and practice
- Critical issues in applied linguistics
- Applied linguistics in a changing world

Part I “Reconceptualizing the Native Speaker and the Language Learner” addresses
the traditional construct of the NS (native speaker) in the context of language
teaching and language learning. To understand the complexities of the construct
of the NS, Davies (2004; pp. 18-32), in his paper titled “The Native Speaker in
Applied Linguistics,” considers the roles of the traditional foreigner, the
revisionist foreigner, the other native, and globalized international language.
Ultimately, Davies suggests that the construct of the native speaker is based
upon the relationship between the individual speaker and the given social group
in addition to community norms.

Community norms are reflected in the classroom and influence TESOL approaches
and practices as a result of language learner identity complexities, as
discussed by Harris, Leung, and Rampton in Chapter 2, “The Idealized Native
Speaker, Reified Ethnicities and Classroom Realities” (1997; pp. 33-45). The
impact of this paper within the field of Applied Linguistics is apparent when
considering that although it was written in 1997 it is still included as part of
the Applied Linguistics canon. Particular to the 1990s is the recognition of
inequality (see Tollefson 1991 and elsewhere), which is why this paper
emphasizes the importance of recognizing social inequalities concerning ethnic
and linguistic groups in terms of individuals and linguistic expertise,
affiliation, and inheritance.

One of the key issues with recognizing social inequalities in terms of language
and an individual is ownership. To understand concepts of linguistic ownership
Higgins (2003) (pp. 46-68) in “‘Ownership’ of English in the Outer Circle: an
Alternative to the NS-NNS Dichotomy” (Chapter 3), and Llurda (2004) (pp. 69-76)
in “Non-Native Speaker Teachers and English as an International Language”
(Chapter 4), examine issues concerning the NS and NNS (non-native speaker).
Higgins analyses conversational data using conversation analytic methods while
Llurda discusses language in the classroom particular to NNS teachers and the
topic of English as an international language.

Vivian Cook (2009) (Chapter 5, pp. 77-89) closes Part 1 with “The Nature of the
L2 User” in which she discusses complexities concerning multi-competent L2 users
having varied language systems that are static, developing, or reducing.
Overall, the focus of the paper (and perhaps this section) is the assertion that
traditional SLA research should continue to be reevaluated and reconsidered on
the basis that individuals and communities produce complex interconnected and
overlapping L2 languages too complex to be divided into NS-NNS categorizations.

Part II, “Reconceptualizing Language in Language Learning and Practice,”
discusses language in the context of teaching, learning, and in social contexts.
The first paper of the section (Chapter 6), “Appropriating English, Expanding
Identities, and Re-visioning the Field: From TESOL to Teaching English for
Globalized Communication (TEGCOM),” is an autobiographical analysis from four
researchers: Akamatsu, Lin, Riazi, and Wang (2002; pp. 96-112) who describe
their TESOL experiences in terms of recognizing the discursive and institutional
process of Othering and its effects upon NS-NNS (non-native speaker) students.
Interestingly, the result of their analysis is a proposition suggesting a shift
from traditional TESOL approaches to teaching English for “glocalized” (a
combination of global and local) communication, while asking the question, “can
one use the ‘master’s tools’ to deconstruct the ‘master’s house’?” (p. 96).

Such a question is a result of recognizing issues with language in terms of
ownership, localization, and authenticity, which is central to chapter 7:
“Language, Localization, and the Real: Hip-hop and the Global Spread of
Authenticity.” In this chapter, Pennycook (2007; pp. 113-124) discusses hip-hop
as an English language commodity and its presence as a global medium for self
expression through localized reproduction. In particular, it is the penetration
of English as a lingua franca within non-English cultures that is of primary

Barbara Seidlhofer (2001; pp.125-144) in chapter 8 questions the traditional
development of English as a lingua franca (ELF) in her paper, “Closing a
Conceptual Gap: The Case for a Description of English as a Lingua Franca.” As a
result of finding deviations when comparing NNS empirical data with traditional
idiomatic ENL (English as a Native Language) code switching tendencies (among
other things), she proposes ELF alternatives to NS-driven corpus-based standards
that have qualified NS English in TEFL contexts. The issue is ownership since
NNSs who acquire ELF tend to develop unique language patterns as a result of
global communication circles.

Suresh Canagarajah (2007; pp.145-164) in chapter 9 continues describing this
view of ELF speakers as being members of a global community in his paper,
“Lingua Franca English, Multilingual Communities, and Language Acquisition”.
Canagarajah suggests that within these ELF communities where English is a lingua
franca, it is actually a hybrid based upon negotiation as a result of NNSs
monitoring one another throughout the course of communication. Also, as a result
of a globalizing world -- understanding that SLA standards have remained
relatively fixed in historical traditions viewing language acquisition in terms
of simple and convenient models (see Haugen 1972) -- it is high time SLA
paradigms be reconsidered and reconstructed to suit the complex transnational
relationships and multilingual communication of NNSs.

A particular aspect of SLA is academic writing. Academic writing can be a
challenging for non-native speakers since oftentimes learning SLA English
writing introduces different culturally constructed views of self. Ken Hyland
(2002; pp. 165-184) in “Authority and Invisibility: Authorial Identity in
Academic Writing” (Chapter 10), discusses writer identity using empirical data
from a corpus collection of writing by L2 undergraduates at a Hong Kong
university. In particular, the study examines the use of rhetorical devices in
the form of authorial pronouns such as ‘I’, we’, ‘me’, and ‘us’ which work to
promote a sense of self. Interestingly, the study showed reluctance on the
students’ behalf to identify their role in the research papers which came
perhaps as a result of cultural differences and an inability to identify with
the pragmatic NS English language based research tendencies. Overall, it was
clear that the role of teachers was influential in students’ usage of
authoritative rhetorical devices of self-mention. Using corpus linguistics
approaches was useful for Hyland as a means to see student writing tendencies.

In a sort of climactic corpus focused shift, Biber, Conrad, and Reppen’s (1994;
pp. 185-201) Chapter 11 entitled “Corpus-based Approaches to Issues in Applied
Linguistics,” offers a comprehensive -- albeit compact -- view of corpus
research methodology. Topping off the corpus research sub-section of Part II,
Carter and McCarthy (2004; pp. 202-224), using the 5 million word CANCODE corpus
of everyday language, in their paper “Talking, creating: Interactional Language,
Creativity and Context,” discuss the implications of creatively used language in
social contexts.

Part III, entitled “Critical issues in applied linguistics,” focuses on the
social science relation to applied linguistics with emphasis upon identity in
language and language practices.

Bonny Norton Pierce (1995; pp. 232-247) in, “Social Identity, Investment, and
Language Learning,” discusses the importance of developing a comprehensive
theory that connects the language learner with the context in which the language
is being learned. Since it is through language that individuals participate
while negotiating a sense of self, complicated by the fact that second language
learners are often individuals of complex social identity, there is much work to
be done concerning power relations between second language learners and target
language speakers. Ultimately, to understand the dichotomy between the language
learner and the target language speaker, Pierce examines contexts of immigrant
language learners and Anglophone Canadians in North America.

David Block (2006; pp. 248-261) is also concerned with identity in his paper
(Chapter 14) “Identity in Applied linguistics,” in which he discusses
problematic issues concerning normalized post structural epistemological
approaches to identity in the context of applied linguistics.

Similarly, Ryuko Kubota (2003; pp. 262-274) is also concerned with
poststructuralist and constructivist approaches concerning gender, class, and
race in her paper “New Approaches to Gender, Class, and Race in Second
Language.” Unlike Block (perhaps in part because her paper pre-dates Block’s by
three years), Kubota maintains a favorable view of poststructuralist
epistemologies in discussing the power relationships evident in the race, class,
and gender interrelationships of individuals.

In chapter 16 Constant Leung (2005; pp. 275-294) examines ‘communicative
competence’ in light of the history of ELF, World Englishes, and critical SLA
theory in her paper “Convivial Communication: Recontextualizing Communicative
Competence.” Considering the globalized context of English, Leung suggests
recontextualizing traditional English language teaching approaches and pedagogy
to be culturally appropriate and applicable to the given environment. Kramsch
and Whiteside (2008; pp. 295-315) in chapter 17 expand upon Leung’s implications
as they explore multilingualism in their paper, “Language Ecology in
Multilingual Settings: Towards a Theory of Symbolic Competence.” Using
complexity theory and post-modern sociolinguistics Kramsch and Whiteside discuss
ecological epistemologies applied to multilingual settings and suggest that
learners and educators take upon themselves a mindset of symbolic competence
which allows an individual to maintain an inclusive and comprehensive awareness
of self, despite potential feelings of foreignness during intercultural

Continuing in the context of communication and concluding the section, Cameron
(2002; pp. 316-328) discusses differences in politeness and meaning according to
individual norms in her paper “Globalization and the Teaching of ‘Communication
Skills.’” Given these differences, instructors have the challenge of explaining
the language being taught and politeness ideology associated with the given
language which may allow for constructive and critical discussions about
language choices leading to greater awareness and knowledge of the language
being learned.

Part IV examines practical ways to apply applied linguistics in real world
contexts. Using an ethnography account of a doctoral student named Oliver, John
Flowerdew (2000; pp. 336-352) examines challenges in publishing for NNS scholars
in his paper “Discourse Community, Legitimate Peripheral Participation and the
Nonnative-English-Speaking Scholar.” Not being a native speaker, Oliver was
distant from his desired discourse community, which meant he could not easily
participate in the scholarly publication process. As a result, Flowerdew
suggests that interactive training programs promoting communication with NS
peers could reduce the distance with the desired discourse community.

The distance described above between NNS speakers and NS communities also
affects language testing approaches. In chapter 20, Tim McNamara (2001; pp.
353-363) suggests alternative assessment approaches as a result of constantly
changing social environments in his paper “Language Assessment as Social
Practice: Challenges for Research.” Constantly changing social environments
present particular challenges for language learners trying to adapt to native
speaker work communities.

In chapter 22, Duff, Early, and Wong (2000; pp. 364-396) examine immigrants
seeking employment in the medical community in their paper “Learning language
for work and life: The Linguistic Socialization of Immigrant Canadians Seeking
Careers in Healthcare.” Overall they suggest that programs preparing NNSs for
medical employment should be revised to equip ESL learners with the technical
and pragmatic language skills necessary to function as employees in the medical

While it may be that NNSs need to acquire skills to become employable, it is
also important to recognize the multilingual communities of NNSs, such that
policies may reflect the linguistic identities and communities of NNS
individuals. In chapter 22, Hornberger (2002; pp. 397-413) discusses various
multilingual settings that concern NNSs in her paper “Multilingual Language
Policies and the Continua of Biliteracy: An Ecological Approach.” Specifically,
she is concerned with languages as ecologies, and argues that multilingual
policies actually reflect languages in terms of this ecology metaphor because
this sort of policy is ultimately concerned with allowing languages to continue
to develop and flourish. As a result, she suggests that language educators,
language planners, and language users should be active in promoting language
policies that view languages as ecologies. Since policies reflect the often
top-down political contexts of languages within communities of language users it
is important to examine the language of such policies to understand the
intentions of the policy makers. Various modes of critical discourse analysis
are useful in developing an understanding of the positions indicated in policy

Using political discourse analysis, in her paper, “Political Discourse Analysis
from the Point of View of Translation Studies,” Christina Schäffner (2004; pp.
414-436) in chapter 23 explores “The translation of politics and the politics of
translation” (p. 416) in the context of current issues within Translation
Studies, resulting in her assertion that Political Discourse Analysis and
Translation Studies are complementary for interdisciplinary studies. While
policy analysis is concerned with practical issues concerning language and
communication in society, understanding language in terms of creativity is also
very useful for understanding language practices within various communities.

In chapter 24, Maybin and Swann (2007; pp. 437-453) discuss sociocultural
aspects of language creativity in their paper “Everyday Creativity in Language:
Textuality, Contextuality, and Critique.” Specifically, they are concerned with
two areas of applied linguistics: poetic language and linguistic anthropological
research on performance, both of which work together to display a discursive
view of language in terms of creativity.

Resuming the more rigid aspect of language policy within the legal context, in
chapter 25 Pavlenko (2008; pp. 454-475) discusses issues concerning non-native
speakers and Miranda warnings (alluding to issues with legal language in
general) in her paper ““I’m very not about the law part”: Non-Native Speakers of
English and the Miranda Warnings.” The study looks at comprehension issues
concerning NNSs and language used by police such as Miranda warnings. Pavlenko
suggests that governments should provide translations for NNSs and that ESL
curricula should include studies in legal English.

The final chapter in part IV (and in the book) follows suit in the critical
analysis theme of this final section and is focused upon understanding language
in terms of food marketing discourse which is reflective of the politics and
social status of the given time. In their paper “‘But it’s all true!’:
Commercialism and Commitment in the Discourse of Organic Food Promotion,” Cook,
Reed, and Twiner (2009; pp. 476-491) use several epistemologies to develop
understanding concerning the politics behind organic food promotion. Their
findings include the discovery that certain terms have significant implications
in determining and maintaining certain power relations especially between
corporations and consumers. They challenge traditional perceptions of PR
language suggesting that the accepted view of how PR language works is not
cohesive with the data they collected, which is important considering that a
change in attitude leads to a change in behavior. Overall, this section
highlights the multi-modal and interconnected developments of various
epistemologies within Applied Linguistics indicating the breadth and depth of
what the field has become and the various directions it continues to move toward.


The field of Applied Linguistics has developed from its early stages of being
Linguistics applied to language learning environments, to a multi-discourse
approach to understanding complex issues about language in society
(sociolinguistics) and the way language affects an individual
(psycholinguistics). The concept of a native speaker is central to both fields
that comprise the field of Applied Linguistics since determining individual
identity in terms of language is relative to the Davies’ dichotomy of social
group and community norms. According to Chomsky (quoted in Paikeday 1985:58),
“Everyone is a Native Speaker of the particular language states that the person
has ‘grown’ in his/her mind/brain.” But of course, not everyone would agree with
this definition, especially individuals in power who determine the employability
of an individual based upon NS status, which brings up issues of equity and
equal opportunity. But how are we able to determine an equal playing field if,
as Cook recognizes, language in terms of equality is difficult to measure,
especially when language is static, developing, or reducing and too complex to
be divided into NS-NNS categorizations? This is the sort of question that is of
primary concern in the field of Applied Linguistics today.

When approaching language we are forced to consider it in the global and local
context which is perhaps why the term “glocalized” has become relevant. The
question, “can one use the ‘master’s tools’ to deconstruct the ‘master’s
house’?” (p. 96) implies the historical ownership that language has had
traditionally, while also indicating the current global contexts of non-native
speakers who possess a language in various degrees and contexts. Language is
constantly being re-contextualized and localized, which is why Pennycook asserts
that Hip-hop is a vehicle bringing English across trans-cultural lines. Thus, we
should consider the most recent contexts and uses of language when approaching
the way we view English, especially as a lingua-franca (ELF) within non-English

But, how do we assess the identity of a learner, or as Pierce (1995) puts it,
power relations between second language learners and target language speakers?
Traditionally, identity has been deconstructed and reconstructed through
epistemologies such as post-structuralism. However, as Block implies in his
findings that post structural analysis is problematic since it is derived from
Western thought, it is difficult to apply this Western approach when analyzing
the way foreign cultures realize languages. It is challenging because it means
seating one’s self in a contradicting power position and making Western value
judgments on a culture that does not ascribe to Western values. Particular to
differences between Western cultures and others is politeness discourse, about
which Cameron (2002) accurately suggests that politeness ideology ought to be
discussed often in student-teacher conversations and in SLA approaches and

This book offers great insight to instructors and students who are interested in
understanding more about the developments of SLA research. These developments
often reflect the changing status of language, and so it is useful to view
language using the metaphor of ecologies (Hornberger 2002). Similar to the
changing status of language, the field of Applied Linguistics continues to
evolve and expand as a far-reaching interdisciplinary and multimodal approach to
understanding the relationship between language and individuals in various
contexts. This collection of papers dating from the 1990s and into more recent
times indicates the various fields and developments that have come to form the
field of Applied Linguistics since its inception in the 1950s. As a result, “The
Routledge Applied Linguistics Reader” is a valuable resource for students,
teachers, and scholars, and is a significant contribution to the field of
Applied Linguistics, demonstrating important developments within the field.


Haugen, E. (1972) The ecology of language. In A. Dil (Ed). Stanford, CA:
Stanford University Press.

Paikeday, T.M. (1985) The native speaker is dead! Toronto and New York: Paikeday
Pub. Co.

Tollefson, J.W. (1991) Planning language, planning inequality: Language policy
in the community. London: Longman.

Tyler A. Barrett is a PhD student in Language and Diversity studies at the Faculty of Education at the University of Calgary. His interests include sociolinguistic discourses such as politeness, race, multiculturalism, class, globalization, and identity.

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