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A Multi-disciplinary Model

Another extension to the bases of the discipline is represented by the multidisciplinary or inter-disciplinary turn that applied linguistics took in the mid-1980s. Since this model of doing applied linguistics has already been extensively discussed in Chap. 3 above, I shall limit myselfhere to a few observations on its meaning and historical influence on applied linguistic designs.

The multi-disciplinary style involves bringing into the process of design not only linguistic, but also psychological and pedagogical information, and its effect is that of containing, in principle, the dominance of linguistics in applied linguistics. Positively: it constitutes an acknowledgement that our designed solutions to language problems need a wider than linguistic justification, if only because the problems are so complicated and multi-faceted. This emancipation from a design discipline that was by its very name derived from a single source, linguistics, is perhaps best represented by the work of Van Els et al. (1984).

Despite the promise of increasing sophistication, and the recognition right up to the present day of the need for multi-disciplinary solutions to the complex design problems to be addressed by applied linguistics, the model did not so much develop a strong research agenda of its own. Rather, it contributed to insight into how one might justify a multiplicity of inputs into such designs. In short, it consolidated a sophistication in applied linguistic design that was already becoming evident in the “extended paradigm” model discussed above. What is more, by arguing that inputs from linguistics alone are insufficient, it paved the way for the variety of perspectives that ethnographic and other postmodernist approaches would subsequently propose. It also contributed to sometimes heated but inconclusive debates on whether it would perhaps be more appropriate to call the discipline applied language studies (cf. Young 2005).

Where this tradition of applied linguistics diverges from those later approaches is in the role it sees for quantitative and empirical analyses. In that sense it did not yet constitute an abandonment of the positivist and modernist origins of earlier traditions of applied linguistics, but rather signaled a continuity with those paradigms underlying first generation, and at least one (technocratic) interpretation of second generation work. Yet in its emphasis on empirical investigation, it did pave the way for the style of applied linguistics that follows on its heels, and that will be discussed in the next section.

 
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