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Applied linguistics: disciplines,

theories, models, descriptions

Issues in applied linguistics
- Michael Mc Carthy -

Applied linguistics as problem

Linguistics can offer insights and ways forward in
the resolution of problems related to language in
a wide variety of contexts that underlies the very
existence of applied linguistics
Applied linguists offer solutions to real-world
problems in which language is a central issue
(Brumfit 1991)
Problems in real life, professional diversification
(more fields): turn to linguistics to seek insight
and potential solutions to practical problems
(temporarily applied linguists).

AL investigates how language is involved in

branch of human activity: answers
significant problems (forensic applications
of linguistics, language and the elderly, etc)
Complex understanding of human language
Different from community of applied
linguists, who teach linguistics and suggest
Doing applied linguistics should not be only
the responsibility of academic community.

Linguistics itself is a broad discipline

as encompasses a large number of
Aim: how language teachers and
others involved directly or indirectly
in language learning and teaching
may approach their problems via
aspects of linguistic study (also non
pedagogical applied linguists: foster
a shared professional identity).

Linguistics and applied linguistics:

hierarchy or partnership?
Applied linguistics is problem-driven discipline
rather than theory driven (L), based on solving
Lingustics associates with particular schools of
thought ot theories; set of agreed theories and
instruments that can be readily applied to realworld language-related problems (linguistics
Traditional approach: application of L to
language problems rather than dialogue
between L and AL

Applied linguistics: test the applicability and

replicability of linguistics theory and description
and question and challengue them
Relationship between L and AL should be fruitful
partnership rather than a top-down imposition
by theorists on practitioners
Both sides of L/AL need to have a regular
dialogue with regard to theories and practices
Bi-directional accountability: important influence
on both applicability of L and evaluation of AL
solutions (responsibilities on both disciplines)

Responsibilities for AL and L

L: build testable theories of language,
connected to perceived realities
L: offer models, descriptions and
explanations of language that satisfy
intellectual rigour, common sense and
AL: misrepresent theories, descriptions
and models
AL: not to apply theories, descriptions and
models to purposes for which they were
never intended
AL: not just apply linguistics but work
towards: relevant models of language

Both: adopt critical position to work

of their peers
Both: exchange experience with
practitioners (language teachers,
psychologists, etc, who do not have a
training in L nor time/resources to do
applied linguistics research but
want to communicate and learn from
both groups (are in daily contact with
real life problems).

Theory in applied linguistics