Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"
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Date: Tue, 11 May 2004 12:41:20 +0200 From Lorenzo Zanasi: Subject: Handbook of Applied Linguistics
EDITOR: Davies, Alan; Elder, Catherine TITLE: Handbook of Applied Linguistics SERIES: Blackwell Handbooks in Linguistics PUBLISHER: Blackwell Publishing YEAR: 2003
Lorenzo Zanasi, University for Foreigners of Siena.
This volume collects 32 contributions concerning a large family of applied linguistics. Papers are grouped in a very defined structure, clearly explained by Davies and Elder in the Introduction (see Critical Evaluation below). Papers are so collected following that split: 16 for the first part and 16 for the second one. Each contribution provides a well made reference section: neither poor or too vast, but essential. The first part is also divided into 6 sections ''providing a cline from closest to the linguistics of language to the more distant connection''.
PART 1 Liddicot and Curnow provide a synthetic and punctual outline of what is involved in the description of languages and its levels: phonology, morphology, syntax, semantic. This chapter is useful both for the student as for the user of applied linguistics methods.
The same aim is followed by the second article about lexicography (by Kirkness). Starting from a descriptive and didactic tone, the author focuses on a particular aspect: dictionary in second/foreign language teaching and learning. In using this tool, Kirkness gradually moves from a lexicologist approach to a more applicative one. Section 2 consist of papers that ''investigate language in terms of the uses that are made of it''. Birdsong's contribution considers the ultimate attainment in SLA a young research topic that refers to the outcome or end point of acquisition L2. The concepts of native-like and non native-like is introduced in relation to several variables determining the level of ultimate attainment: age of immersion (related to critical period hypothesis), quantity of input, L1/L2 pairings. The notion of fossilization is also criticised and a look at neuroscientific approaches confirms the importance of dialogue between SLA and cognitive models.
Mike Stubbs brings us into the world of corpus linguistics. CL could be interpreted as a series of techniques bringing ''together as parameters populations of language tokens across individuals'' It is useful to store data languages in order to manipulate them. New technologies are obviously leaders in this field, but there were corpus studies long before computers and the knowledge to practice CL remains essentially a linguistics one. Stubbs also proposes a list of areas where CL could be required: language teaching, lexicography in primis. But he claims that ''applications are indirect and before findings can be applied to real world problems, they require careful interpretation''. The last article in this section is offered by Trappes ? Lomax. He presents a view of discourse analysis underlining three main points: 1) identifying and describing some of its gradually emerging landmarks 2) illustrating the range of educational issues that discourse work informs 3) point to some current movements and controversies
DA appears to be a multidisciplinary study because it is shared by several sources that the author divided into four categories: rule and principles (pragmatics, conversation analysis), context and culture (ethnography of communication and sociolingistics), functions and structures (systemic functional linguistics, text linguistics) and power and politics (pragmatic and sociolinguistic approaches to power in language and critical discourse analysis).
Section 3 puts together chapters ''that uncover the connections between speakers and their language''. The article of Sutton-Spence and Woll informs about British Sign Language (BSL). The authors focus on its status and on deaf community, discussing problems of planning and standardization of BSL. Attention is also given to variants in this language.
Giles and Billings reviewed the language attitude research of the past 40 years in order ''to determine where the research will be on going in the future''. Language attitude concerns interaction between language, communication and social judgment. The authors describe the historical origins of the early studies; they pass on to consider the role of standard and non-standard accent in social context and the speech style as a social cue. Finally they present us two models that frame language attitude as discursive and linguistic action.
Monika Schmid and Kees de Bot focus on language attrition (''in the process of language attrition, lack of contact leads to a reduced level of proficiency in the attriting language''). They investigate the phenomenon of loss at the individual and community level, describing four theoretical models in this field: 1) Jakobson's regression hypothesis 2) Language contact and language change 3) Universal grammar and parameter setting 4) Psycholinguistic questions of accessibility
The discussion of theme shows how linguistic levels are affected by the attritional process and how sociolinguistic variables influence attritional processes.
The contribute of Claire Kramsch concerns the relationship between language, thought and culture. First of all Kramsch traces the history of these kinds of studies in Herder, Von Humboldt, Sapir and Whorf. Secondly she follows the changes of this topic in three areas: semiotic relativity, linguistic relativity, discursive relativity. Finally she considers its implications in applied linguistic research, above all in SLA.
Gardner's essay on conversation analysis ''provides another take on the ways in which speakers use language''. He divides a paper in two parts: the first one identifies the historical roots of CA, developed in 1960s and strongly linked to ethnomethodology; it discusses definitions and characteristics of CA, describing its attributes and principal findings (turn-taking, sequence of actions, repair, turn design). The second part focuses on the application of CA in four contexts (applied linguistics domains): institutional, medical and legal, educational, and second language learning/talk.
Section 4 hosts three chapters for three functional uses of language: language and law, language and gender, stylistics. How Davies claims: what distinguishes Section 4 from Section 3 is that while Section 3 deals with applied linguistics in terms of language, Section 4 concerns applied linguistics in terms of language use''.
Gibbons rightly reminds us that language of law is an important arena for applied linguistics, because the law is such an important and influential institution, and because it is packed with language problems''. The core of this papers, in our opinion, is really important: legal language is usually not understandable by the community. And this is true for many countries where the legal system derived from another culture and language. From here, Gibbons suggests, the need to teach the language of law.
Susan Ehrlich deals with language and gender. She considers ''the importance of recognizing the dynamic and performative nature of linguistic gendered identities'', providing an historical overview of gender research.
McRae and Clark provide an essay about a controversial term: stylistics. It's usually used as an umbrella term so the authors try to define more specific key aspects. A paragraph is dedicated to stylistic methods to teach literature in English for non-native speakers. Section 5 contains two chapters ''dealing with the influence of language in external affairs''. Joseph observes mutual connections between language and politics: he describes politics in grammar and discourse according to the trends of Marxism and structuralism.
Bolton dedicates his study to World English, the so called super language created by the spread of English. This language has been studied in different perspectives: descriptive ways, sociolinguistic ways, applied linguistics. Bolton explains all these positions, reviewing the literature through the time. He concludes with some considerations on the importance of WE in applied linguistics.
The last chapter of Part 1 is filled by Rajagopalan's paper on philosophy of applied linguistics. The author traces an historical overview of the philosophical roots of AL, passing trough Chomskyan revolution, post-Chomskyan developments and neo empiricist trends. The last paragraph concerns the ethical implications of work done in applied linguistics.
PART 2 The second part starts from what the editors have classed as weak AL and moves towards strong AL at the end. Davies opens his section (on problem of definition) with the theme of native speaker in applied linguistics. Specifically, he examines ''the relation between the native speaker and non native speaker and raises the question of whether a second foreign language learner who starts learning after puberty can become a native speaker of target language''.
Edward's paper is about language minorities. He deals with issues of definition and categorization of topic. He also suggests that in order to better understand minority language groups it's necessary to use more cross context comparison and more typological work.
A very useful reading for students and researchers is a chapter by Brown about research methods in AL. The author describes types of research; he discusses some methodological approaches in AL; and presents a more constructive approach concern with qualitative and quantitative research. Finally he focuses on some ethical and professional responsibilities in research.
Section 8 provides four chapters on language learning. Littlewood describes elements, processes and theories of SLL in a clear and exhaustive way. Ellis finds the individual differences in SLL, also discussing the role of some factors as learning style, motivation, anxiety and willingness to communicate. Barkhuizen tried to explain ''how language learning and social context in which it takes place relate to each other'', reviewing models of language learning. Finally Williams focuses on literacy studies in particular on a mainstream cognitive approach to the study of literacy. A large analysis is given by the author to the ''reading'', basic literacy skills.
Section 9 ''moves a little closer to the strong end of the AL continuum''.
Adamson examines language education methodology from different perspectives. His paper addresses several questions as: where do methods originate? What are the salient features of methods that have been widely promoted? Adamson also argues that ''no methods is superior to another; instead, some methods are more appropriate than others in a particular context''.
Gruba's paper goes into computer assisted language learning (CALL); he traces a brief historical overview, theoretical perspectives, and the role, respectively of computers, students and teacher involved.
Johnstone discusses the topic of language teacher education (LTE). He considers social, political and cultural factors influencing LTE and proposes a framework for LTE provision. Secondary he focuses on some aspects of ideology and process involved in LTE and he reports some suggestions about relationship between applied linguistics research and LTE.
Basturkmen and Elder's chapter concerns language for specific purposes from a teaching and testing perspective. Definitions and features are provided
Bilingual education is the subject of the Lotherington's paper. Many aspects of this field are discussed here: bilingualism and nationalism, models of bilingual education, evaluation of bilingualism. Finally, the author, explains the benefits of bilingual education.
Section 10 ''is concerned with language based institutional arrangements of practices which are more broadly focused than language teaching''. Pauwels focuses on language maintenance. It is a multidisciplinary topic used to describe a situation in which a speaker continue to use his language in some or all spheres of life despite competition with the dominant language to become the main language in these spheres. The contribution also contains a paragraph about methods, tools and data for language maintenance.
Lo Bianco discusses language planning as applied linguistics. He ''critically reviews past and current attempts to define and theorize the discipline and sketches different forms of language planning activity''.
The chapter of McNamara is about language testing. It set the place of language testing within applied linguistics and observes the role of tests as institutional practice. Section 11 is filled by the last essay of the book: critical applied linguistics (by Pennycook). The author discusses two principal concerns: ''what domains of work might be considered to fall within the rubric of critical applied linguistics; and what constitute the different understandings of the critical in critical applied linguistics''.
The authors of the papers (mostly from the UK, Australia and North America, but also from Holland, Sweden, Germany and Brazil) discuss themes of a various nature using a focus sometimes wide, useful and informative, in other cases the focus is more specific in context and aim. This qualitative heterogeneity of contributions, accompanied by a quantitative one, could give the impression of an opera jumping, incoherently, from the British sign language to the language testing; describing both theories and techniques; and proposing itself more as an encyclopaedic work than a unitary collection. Nevertheless the already quoted introduction to the volume cancels this kind of evaluation revealing a ratio of the opera more complex and interesting.
Davies and Elder find a double root in the tradition of applied linguistics. The first one(applied linguistics or AL) ''looks outward, beyond language in an attempt to explain perhaps even ameliorate social problems. LA looks inward, concerned not to solve language problems but to explicate and test theories about language itself. So LA uses language data to develop our linguistic knowledge about language, while AL studies a language problem with a view to correcting it''.
The book, structured according to this split, is useful both for students as for specialists. Contributions are synthetic and open stimulating windows onto the future of applied linguistics.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Lorenzo Zanasi has recently discussed his Ph.D. thesis in linguistics at the University for Foreigners of Siena. His research interests include sociolinguistics, SLT and corpus linguistics. He is currently working with the Observatory of immigrant languages and of Italian spoken by immigrants created in 2001 at the University for Foreigners of Siena.