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A Framework of Design Principles for Applied Linguistics

Apart from the concrete comparisons that have been drawn above (What can the design of artefact x tell us about the design of artefact y?), the subsequent discussion (following Weideman 2013b) will argue that we may be able to abstract general principles of applied linguistic design from our insights into the workings of the typically different designs of language policies, language tests, and language courses .

Terminal functions of an applied linguistic design

Fig. 11.1 Terminal functions of an applied linguistic design

How we achieve such abstraction is a philosophical challenge to the discipline. The foundational question is: How do we conceptualize applied linguistic design principles? A first point of orientation is to be found in the characterization of applied linguistics as a design discipline. ‘Design’ is used here in its original meaning of giving shape to, planning, or forming, which is a technical activity (Schuurman 1972), in the sense that the characteristic of such activity is to design, shape, form, influence, facilitate, arrange or plan. Following Schuurman, one may conclude that the concrete outcomes of such activity have two terminal functions, a qualifying or leading function (the technical), that guides, stamps and characterizes the artefact, and a founding function, as in the following diagram (Fig. 11.1) (Weideman 2009b: 244).

Please confirm the inserted call-outs for Fig. 11.1 and Table 11.1.This one looks OK to me, but Table 11.2 needs to revert to its original form; the rendering below deviates too substantially from the original.

That the analytical mode of reality is the founding function i s clear from the historical development of applied linguistics: a course, test or policy cannot be designed if it is impossible to find some theoretical insight on which to base the design, enabling it to be defended in terms of an analytical perspective, or justified by theory. One might make all manner of plans to solve language problems, but in order to qualify as an applied linguistic plan, it must have made the detour into building a scientific foundation for the technically qualified design of the artefact. That foundation is its (theoretical) rationale i called a ‘construct’ in the case of a language test. It is a theoretically defensible foundation in the sense of being justifiable in respect of current (or new, or even peripheral, non-mainstream) theory.

Both of these terminal modes of applied linguistic artefacts, it should be noted, are modes of experience, not concrete entities. As aspects or functions of those entities they have a critical function to guide (in the case of the technical) the design of the artefacts, or to provide the theoretical basis of those designs (the purpose of the analytical), yet in themselves they are not concrete artefacts, but rather modes of reality. As modalities, they are special among other modalities only because they are the terminal functions, the qualifying and founding aspects, of the designs under discussion.

As has been concluded above, design principles are common across different kinds of applied linguistic designs (language courses, language tests and language plans). That insight conceptually allows us to focus on the relationship between the two critical or terminal (founding and qualifying) functions of the designs, considering especially the principles that emanate from the technical function of design?ing, shaping, forming or planning . The connectedness of the qualifying technical function to the founding analytical function is evident, conceptually, in the notion of a technical rationale for the design of an artefact. In this analogical conceptualization, the leading technical function is conceived of as being connected to the analytical, as expressed in the concept of technical defensibility or rationale. Yet the leading technical function of an applied linguistic artefact is connected not only to this single dimension of experience, but also to other dimensions. In fact, in the previous section, we observed several design principles: the technical validity (of language tests and courses), the technically stamped differentiation in the same artefacts , and the designed and planned transparency, accountability and fairness of tests and policies. Those concepts - technical accountability, validity, and differentiation and organization - derive from the conceptual links between the technical mode of experience, on the one hand, and, on the other, the political or j uridical sphere (applied linguists are accountable in public for their designs), the physical mode (of force, or cause and effect), and the organic function of reality (where notions of differentiation and organization originate). These concepts and ideas are analogical concepts, showing the relation between one leading dimension (the technical function of design) with others, in this case: the juridical, the physical and the organic or biotic .

In the remainder of this discussion, I shall therefore explore the further connections that the technical aspect of reality has with all other dimensions of our experience. In doing that, there is another benefit. The conceptualization of the link between the technical dimension and other facets of experience may potentially enable us to formulate further design conditions for applied linguistic designs, since on the basis of each such analogical technical concept or idea we may be able to articulate normative moments that might serve as applied linguistic design principles .

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