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The Linguistic “Extended Paradigm” Model

The second historically significant style of doing applied linguistics is closely associated with communicative designs in language teaching. The continuity that this second tradition in applied language studies has with the first is evident already in its intentions: it aimed to redefine and extend the linguistic basis of the work done by the founding fathers of the discipline. The approach of first generation work in language teaching design was discussed above and in Chap. 2. The subsequent refinements and extensions to be discussed here involve a less restrictive, less exclusively formal view of the nature of language than that of first generation applied linguistics. Instead the extended paradigm model adopts an opened-up, disclosed view of what language is. Viewing language as a social phenomenon, those working within the second design tradition posit that larger, socially relevant units of language are important for language teaching and learning, rather than the formally defined, smaller units of language identified by first generation applied linguistics. Those working in this tradition distinguish as meaningful units of language the disclosed, sociolingual ideas of text, discourse, and register (see Widdowson 1978; Coulthard 1977; De Beaugrande and Dressler 1981; Goffman 1981) in contrast with the smaller, formally defined units, such as sentences, clauses, phrases, morphemes and phonemes, that were the stock in trade of their predecessors. At the same time, the newly articulated units like speech acts, interaction sequences, moves, exchanges and transactions are functionally instead of formally defined.

It should be clear from its functional emphasis that the first intention of this second style of doing applied linguistic designs was to broaden the idea of what it was that was being learned in language classrooms. The content of the language instruction had broadened, with grammatical units up to and including the sentence yielding to a focus on larger units, such as texts and discourse types.

One of the interests of this tradition is therefore to show how a stretch of discourse coheres or hangs together (Halliday and Hasan 1976) - or fails to do so - in learners’ use of texts in the target language, and to make such insight relevant for language course design. Such studies (discussed by Connor 1994: 682-684) seek to describe the texts that learners produce, or the texts that need to be understood by them (Visser and Weideman 1986). This kind of text analysis derives from functional linguistics, which means that it harks back to the work of the Prague School, and, more recently, that of systemic linguists like Halliday (1978, 1985; cf. too De Beaugrande 1984). One of the most widely used research tools for measuring the texture and quality of texts, and which illustrates such perspectives, is Halliday and Hasan’s (1976) work Cohesion in English. This taxonomy of cohesive devices has enabled researchers to investigate, for example, the possible relationship between the cohesiveness of authoritative academic texts and the quality of students’ writing. Other research has revealed the text connectives and markers used by skilful authors to make their writing effective. The value of this work, according to Connor (1994: 684), is that the “principles of successful text organization are teachable to students.” The claim is that students can in fact be taught to make texts more cohesive, and, if this is indeed so, it means that the research potentially has great relevance for the teaching of writing. In South Africa, Hilton Hubbard’s earliest work (e.g. Hubbard 1993) on student writing is a good exemplification of this tradition.

Within this tradition there is, in other words, a systematic research agenda to justify or develop the application or value of socially relevant units of language for language teaching. Another example that became even more influential in the design of language teaching and assessment is to be found in the early work done under the auspices of the Council of Europe, in which we see an attempt to apply the linguistic concepts of functional linguistics and sociolinguistics to the justification of language teaching designs. Instead of grammatical units, this work, encapsulated best in Wilkins’s (1976) articulation of socially meaningful notions and functions , presented course designers with a taxonomy of language functions for a new, communicative kind of language teaching and learning.

Chapter 6 above (cf. too Weideman 2007c) has shown how mainstream communicative fanguage teaching (CLT) sought to have language teaching informed by technical-scientific analyses both of learners’ needs and of syllabus and course design, as in the work of Munby (1978). The research done in this respect attempts to give this particular (British) interpretation of CLT some scientific support and refinement, at least in so far as it could be accomplished in linguistic terms (cf. also Wilkins 1976). This modernist direction of language teaching design is at odds with the other interpretation of communicative language teaching referred to above (Chap. 6). In that so-called humanistic direction (cf. Roberts 1982; Weideman 1985, 1986), probably best represented in early CLT by Jakobovits and Gordon (1974), one finds the revolutionary (but, interestingly, not yet stridently political) direction, that foreshadows critical, postmodern applied linguistics, the sixth tradition of working in the discipline, to be discussed below.

As I have already argued (Chap. 6; cf. too Weideman 2006, 2007c), mainstream CLT itself was justified theoretically after the fact. Its theoretical defense was articulated only after its designed solutions for language teaching had already gained credence and acceptability. It therefore amounts to a misrepresentation of the historical process that gave birth to CLT to claim that its mainstream fnterpretation springs from the theoretical ideas of Hymes (1971), Pride and Holmes (1971) or Halliday (1978). Moreover, to posit a continuity between theory and practice, or even between theory and design, is evidence more of a modernist bias than a reference to actual processes and events (Weideman 2006, 2007c). There is no doubt that the writings of Hymes and others may eventually have provided some theoretical justification for the design of language teaching in CLT from a sociolinguistic point of view, but this came after the prototype designs and their practical implementation were already in place. I have already referred above to Hymes’s (1985: 15) own observation that his use of the term communicative competence not only came simultaneously with its use by others, but - significantly - that it “seems to have been introduced independently in the study of teaching and learning”.

The extended paradigm model constitutes a departure from the ‘scientific’ origins of applied linguistics, but does not yet signal a clear break with technocratic fnterpretations of the design responsibilities of the discipline. With the benefit of hindsight, we can, however, say that the breakthrough was that design began to precede justification, though that may not have been apparent at the time to those working within this tradition.

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