chapter  3
Defining AL
Pages 11

What AL actually is, has been discussed intensively over the last decades, and despite these attempts no consensus has been reached. 1980 marked the start of the journal Applied Linguistics and in the first issues several applied linguists presented their views on what AL is and what, accordingly, the journal should be focused on. Widdowson’s (1980) contribution “Models and fictions” continues to be influential in discussions on the scope of AL, and other publications, such as Corder (1973), Brumfit (1980), Grabe (2002), Davies and Elder (2004) and Kaplan (2010), have dealt with this in considerable detail. Widdowson took the issue up again in 2000, celebrating 20 years of the journal Applied Linguistics and in 2013 in the first issue of the European Journal of Applied Linguistics. In his view, “applied linguistics is concerned with language problems as experienced in the real world” (2000: 3). But he also mentions the question of who defines the problems. Not the applied linguist, who can easily create and solve the problem to his own satisfaction. Widdowson points out that there are many signs of AL as an independent discipline with its own institutions, conferences and journals, but he continues:

In spite of all of this, there is a persistent and pervasive uncertainty about the name of the enquiry. Its institutional establishment as a name does not correspond with any very stable definition of just what it is. It is a phenomenon, one might mischievously suggest, a little like the Holy Roman Empire: a kind of convenient nominal fiction. This may be no bad thing, of course: indeed it is perhaps not in spite of, but because of this uncertainty that applied linguistics has flourished.