- Applied Linguistics ed. by Li Wei
This book introduces the reader to the field of applied linguistics and consists of an introduction followed by four parts, each of which contains three chapters; thus, there are in total thirteen contributions. Each chapter starts with aids, such as a chapter outline, learning outcomes, and key terms. The study material is presented afterwards in several sections, some of which contain a study activity, which can prove useful to stimulate the reader’s analytical thinking skills. A brief summary, study questions, and recommended readings conclude each chapter.
Chapter 1, “Introducing Applied Linguistics”, authored by the editor, initiates the reader to linguistics and its different branches, tackling some questions that have to do with the essence of human language and different approaches to studying it. The branch of applied linguistics is introduced as using a “problem-solving approach” (p. 5). Applied linguists are seen as “jacks of all trades” (pp. 6, 13) who work across different disciplines or as individuals who solve problems raised within a given area of language use (e.g., language teaching). The branch of applied linguistics is said to be a “research methodology” (p. 13) or a set of “principles” (p. 13) that define the application of varying methods or specific techniques/tools in collecting and/or analyzing different data, also studied by other branches of linguistics. Although there is no unique or universally adopted methodology, the stages in seeing a research project through are typically the same: defining study questions, collecting data, and finally, analyzing the collected data and explaining the results.
Part 1, entitled “Language in Development”, includes chapters two to four. Chapter 2, “First Language Acquisition” (Zhu Hua), addresses the facts and problems related to the acquisition of the mother tongue in typical and atypical environments. It is shown how the type and amount of linguistic input plays a crucial role in the development of the first language. Also, despite certain individual variations in the output, [End Page 120] children’s learning processes in a typical setting follow the same acquisitional stages, reflecting the existence of innate developmental universals. Chapter 3, “Second and Additional Language Acquisition” (Jean-Marc Dewaele), deals with the acquisition of languages other than the mother tongue (which starts at birth). Second-language learning starts later, often after the first language is acquired, after the age of three (in accordance with the Critical Period Hypothesis). One of the puzzling issues mentioned is that some second-language learners manage to achieve native-like competence, while others do not. Anxiety, aptitude, and motivation (positive/negative attitudes) are some of the factors that tend to influence the outcome. As far as the “learning of a third or an additional foreign language” (p. 60) is concerned, one of the facilitating factors is prior linguistic knowledge or language learning, since experienced learners have better communicative skills and greater (meta)linguistic competence; they also, among other things, handle anxiety better. Chapter 4, “Language and the Brain” (Marjorie Lorch), deals with some major issues of language impairment (LI) and loss. The discussion focuses on how language processing works, how language interacts with other cognitive domains of the brain, what effect maturation and aging have on the manifestations of LI, how challenges with language are related to difficulties with social aspects of language use (or pragmatics), and how impairment in written language processing (a cognitively complex task) is linked to multiple cognitive domains (e.g., visual, perceptual, types of memory, etc.).
The chapters in Part 2, “Language in Use”, discuss language use in different communicative contexts. The role of context in the interpretation of meaning is explicated in Chapter 5, “Language in Interaction” (María Elena Placencia). In some contexts, meaning can be expressed directly (as the surface or literal meaning), whereas in others it can be implied (as an intended or underlying meaning) or expressed indirectly. Also, depending on one’s cultural background, the same meaning can be interpreted in different ways. Finally, the same meaning can be interpreted differently when used in different contexts. It is shown that...