What applied linguistics is and does

What is applied linguistics?

A former Chair of BAAL put it like this:

Applied linguistics addresses the most pressing and controversial areas of contemporary language use, including intercultural communication, political and commercial persuasion, the impact of new technologies, the growth of English, language in education, and foreign language teaching and learning.

Guy Cook (2003, p.XXX)

Here is one more answer, this time in a video originally prepared for an Open University module, ‘Applied linguistics and English language’:

 

What does applied linguistics do?

Here are some examples of applied linguistic projects being carried out by BAAL members:

Trolls’ vicious abuse 

Trolling, or cyberbullying, can cause significant distress for victims. It has been cited as a factor in recent cases where schoolchildren have taken their own lives. Dr. Claire Hardaker, a linguistics expert at Lancaster University’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, analysed almost 4,000 abusive messages posted on Facebook and Twitter, identifying seven strategies trollers use to intimidate their victims. Her research, which draws on detailed analyses of online communication, can improve our understanding of trolling and ultimately help combat it.

First Scots degree in sign language

British Sign Language (BSL) is the first language of most deaf people in the UK, yet there has been a shortage of qualified sign language interpreters in Scotland and the UK more broadly for many years. This means that deaf people who access public services such as the NHS are often reliant on their second language –English– to communicate, which may result in communication difficulty and take unwarranted time. Particularly in the case of a medical emergency, every second counts. Prof. Graham Turner, a specialist in Interpreting and Translation at Heriot-Watt University, took action to address this problem by launching the first degree in BSL interpreting in Scotland. Not only of benefit to deaf people as the end users of BSL interpreting, the course will qualify its students for a job market with very high demand, meaning that graduates’ job prospects will be strong.

Dealing with neighbour disputes

There are areas of miscommunication between staff (police and mediators) and members of the public which this research set out to redress. Conversation analysis was applied to 600 hours of audio-recordings of neighbour-related crime interviews and telephone encounters in a project led by Prof. Elizabeth Stokoe at Loughborough University. Four areas of miscommunication were identified – for example, it was found that mediators and police officers struggled to respond to racist, ageist, sexist, or otherwise prejudiced clients or suspects. Analysis revealed strategies that maintained, or failed to maintain, impartiality in such cases. Analysis also revealed techniques that led to confessions (police) or client generation (mediation). On this basis, new methods were developed for role-play communication skills training for mediators and police officers.

[last updated January 2019]