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3.3 Applied Linguistics

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Studying applied linguistics it is easy to develop a wonder for “what is applied linguistics versus just linguistics?” Most often, the basic distinction is that applied linguistics looks at the theories than underlie language acquisition in non-native language context and theoretical linguistics looks at the principles that govern language. PhD programs in both applied linguistics and theoretical linguistics adhere to this distinction. However, there is much variety depending on the definition of applied linguistics.

Applied linguistics programs generally look at bilingualism, non-native language acquisition, conversation analysis, culture and language connection, language assessment, translation and interdisciplinary approaches to sociolinguistics, and psycholinguistics. But applied linguistics is also used to described forensic linguistics, neurolinguistics, linguistic anthropology lexicography and language planning and policies. And some applied linguists develop speech recognition and speech synthesis software. Saying that a program studies “Applied Linguistics” really depends on the definition of “applied.” For instance, Iowa State University offers a PhD in Applied Linguistics and Technology. But for purposes of the Linguistics PhD Programs – Application and Review there are two distinctions under the applied linguistics: Educational Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition.

Educational Linguistics specializes in language learning and teaching and by extension educational policy, planning, cultural contexts in which non-native languages are acquired and learned. For example, the University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education offers a PhD in Educational Linguistics. Clearly, Penn recognized early the varied implications for applied linguistics study in educational contexts.

Second Language Acquisition (SLA) is another distinction made under the applied linguistics umbrella. PhD programs in Second Language Acquisition make detailed study of non-native language acquisition and use. For example, the University of Arizona offers an interdisciplinary course of study with 14 departments. Students focus on SLA analysis, use, processing, and pedagogical theory.

In summary, the distinctions between theoretical and applied linguistics are blurred as theoretical linguists develop useable applications and applied linguists study the theoretical underpinnings of language. SUNY Stony Brook has a theoretical focus and second language acquisition. Still, theoretical linguistics departments are generally concerned with language for its own sake and applied linguistics departments are generally concerned with implications of language acquisition and use.

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Written by applelinguist

January 7, 2010 at 9:37 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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