Revisiting Applied Linguistics and Language Education in the Digital Era: Scope and Future Directions

Revisiting Applied Linguistics and Language Education in the Digital Era: Scope and Future Directions

Viet Quoc Hoang, Khang Nguyen Van
DOI: 10.4018/979-8-3693-2603-9.ch014
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In response to linguistic development, applied linguistics has become a specialized field capturing linguists' attention. It addresses real-world language problems, especially in education. With its applied concept, it has broadened its mission, targets, and scope, positioning itself as an interdisciplinary field between linguistics and education, exploring critical issues in language use. Simultaneously, technological advances have significantly influenced the landscape of applied linguistics. An extensive survey of the current literature in the field shows some topics of interest, such as technology-enhanced language learning, computational linguistics, and technology-assisted language assessment, having expanded the paradigms of applied linguistics. This chapter situates applied linguistics as influenced by linguistics, education, psychology, and sociology, presenting the recent expansion of the scope of applied linguistics, and discussing its future direction.
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The Primary Interests In Linguistics

Linguistics is a fundamental study specializing in the study of language. It emerged very early as an independent science in many places worldwide. With such a long history, linguistics has undergone various stages, and research interests have been increasingly supplemented, expanding the scope of linguistics within and across disciplines. As Isac and Reiss (2013) noted, linguistics is widely considered one of the most fiercely debated subjects in academia. It is deeply infused with the intellectual contributions and conflicts of poets, theologians, philosophers, philologists, psychologists, biologists, anthropologists, and neurologists, as well as the significant input from grammarians.

The history of linguistics can indicate its development over time. Before the twentieth century, linguistics evolved as a theoretical area exploring language and is interconnected with literature (Fitch, 2017). The traditional interests of theoretical or general linguistics are mainly phonetics (speech sounds) and phonology (sound system of a specific language), morphology (word structure), semantics (meaning), and pragmatics (meaning in context). Linguistics then further developed with subfields like cognitive linguistics, grounded on the relationship between the human mind and language (Bui, 2022), and functional grammar, basically examining language patterns (Le & Bui, 2021). At this stage, the initially proposed areas of linguistics were challenged as they were no longer considered distinct fields. For example, functional grammar describes language as a system of meanings, accompanied by forms (Halliday & Matthiessen, 2014).

Regarding Plato’s question “Why do words have meaning?” The debate became extensive with at least three directions: The name of an object is determined by its nature; hence, words have meaning; the naming of an object is a matter of convention, an agreement among users; and analysis of the components that make up a word is necessary for understanding. Since then, the relationship between sound and meaning (expression and what is expressed) in language signals remains a subject of ongoing and, at times, intense debates, including opinions that are self-acknowledged as if they were personal discoveries (Fitch, 2016).

Aristotle believed that language originates from habit, speech is an expression of experiential thought, and writing is the expression of speech. Different races have different languages and writings, but the reflection of human thought is similar, and the vocabulary of a language is a sign of thought (Hudry, 2015), forming the basis for the later development of cultural linguistics and cognitive linguistics. According to Sharifian (2017), the emergence of cognitive linguistics may herald the return of cultural linguistics in a new form. The theories grounding cognitive linguistics recognize that cultural knowledge is not only the foundation of vocabulary but also central to grammar. Bui (2019) argued that behind language always lies a cultural background, and language cannot be separated from culture, suggesting that language includes the beliefs of those who use it.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Multidisciplinary: An approach that involves contributions from multiple distinct disciplines or fields of study to address a specific issue, problem, or research question.

Technological Advancements: The continuous improvement, innovation, and progress in technology, leading to the development of new tools, systems, devices, and processes that enhance efficiency, effectiveness, and capabilities in various fields.

Language Education: The process and practice of teaching a second or foreign language.

Sociolinguistics: The study of the relationship between language and society. It explores how language use is influenced by social factors (e.g., culture, identity, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status).

Language Analysis: The examination and study of language to understand its structure/form, meaning, and use. This analysis can be applied to various aspects of language (e.g., syntax, semantics, pragmatics, and discourse).

Applied Linguistics: The study of language as it affects situations in real life, for example in education or technology.

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