Themes and Styles of Doing Applied Linguistics

A Sense of Direction, Revisited

The quest for an effective method of teaching another language, discussed in the previous chapters, is one of the best indications within applied linguistics that the designs that we do from within its disciplinary framework depend in the last instance on a choice of direction. Do we place ourselves on the side of those who claim that, in order to be effective, designs must derive from scientific analysis, or do we side with those who stress the freedom of the designers and their plans for making instruction relevant, appropriate and socially accountable? As we have noted already, this is often the parting of the ways within applied linguistics: a choice between a modernist and a postmodernist direction for the discipline.

There is, however, more to doing applied linguistics than merely this choice, as a closer examination of the history of the discipline will show, since within these directions one finds various interpretations both of modernist and of postmodernist starting points. The aim of the preceding discussion was to introduce the development of the discipline of applied linguistics in such a way that it gives us a new perspective on how we may view that history. The history of a discipline is important because ignorance in this respect constitutes a risk to those who practice it. Without a sense of the history of the discipline, those working within applied linguistics may merely be reinventing the same things over and over again, as postmodernist commentators are fond of pointing out (Pennycook 1989, 1994, 1999, 2000, 2004). Moreover, as Hult (2010a, b: 28) has observed, new entrants to our field “are often faced with the double-edged sword of an open field of research and a dizzying array of options.”

The intention of this chapter, therefore, is to take a closer look at the history of applied linguistics by framing the discussion in terms of the various styles of doing it, and discussing the relative historical influence that doing applied linguistic designs from the starting points offered by these various traditions has had. Some of these styles of applied linguistic design have already been explored above; this chapter © Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

A. Weideman, Responsible Design in Applied Linguistics: Theory and Practice, Educational Linguistics 28, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-41731-8_8

will also highlight those that have been less prominent in the preceding analysis. Seven more or less successive styles of doing applied linguistics will be discussed below. This discussion takes up points already made in an array of studies on the development of the various traditions within applied linguistics and their respective research agendas (Weideman 1999, 2003a, 2007a, b, c, 2013a, b, c; Van der Walt (2007) cf. too Evensen 1997: 34f.; McCarthy 2001; Rajagopalan 2004; Brown 2004).

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