Applied Linguistics

Using Language-related Research to Solve Problems

applied linguistics

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The term applied linguistics refers to the use of language-related research in a wide variety of fields, among which include language acquisition, language teaching, literacy, literary studies, gender studies, speech therapy, discourse analysis, censorship, professional communication, media studies, translation studies, lexicography, and forensic linguistics.

In contrast with general linguistics or theoretical linguistics, applied linguistics tackle "real-world problems in which language is a central issue," according to Christopher Brumfit's article "Teacher Professionalism and Research" in the 1995 book "Principles and Practice in Applied Linguistics." 

Similarly, in a book titled "Applied Linguistics" from 2003, Guy Cook declared applied linguistics to mean "the academic discipline concerned with the relation of knowledge about language to decision making in the real world." 

Mediating Theory and Practice in Language

Applied linguistics seeks to understand how to practically apply linguistic theories to the modern vernacular. In general, then, it is used to draw insights from language studies relevant to such decision making.

The field of study itself gained popular relevance in the 1950s, according to "An Introduction to Applied Linguistics: From Practice to Theory" author Alan Davies. Beginning as a postgraduate qualification, the initial target was "largely language teaching" and "has always been practical, policy-oriented." 

Davies cautions, though, that for applied linguistics, "there is no finality: the problems such as how to assess language proficiency, what is the optimum age to begin a second language," and the like "may find local and temporary solutions but the problems recur."

As a result, applied linguistics is a constantly evolving study that changes just as frequently as modern usage of any given language, adapting and presenting new solutions to the ever-evolving problems of linguistic discourse.

Problems Addressed by Applied Linguistics

From difficulties learning a new language to assessing the validity and reliability of language, applied linguistics covers an interdisciplinary domain of problems. According to "The Oxford Handbook of Applied Linguistics" by Robert B. Kaplan, "The key point is to recognize that it is the language-based problems in the world that drive applied linguistics."

One such example comes in the form of language teaching problems wherein scholars try to determine which resources, training, practice, and interaction techniques best solve the difficulties of teaching a person a new language. Using their research in the fields of teaching and English grammar, linguistic experts attempt to create a temporary-to-permanent solution to this issue.

Even small variations like dialects and registers of modern vernaculars present problems that can only be solved through applied linguistics, affecting translation and interpretations as well as language usage and style.