chapter  1
Introduction
Pages 7

While linguistics as a scientific discipline has a long tradition, going back to antiquity with Babylonian, Hindu and Greek traditions, Applied Linguistics (AL) is fairly young. When and where it started is a matter of debate (Kaplan 2010) and depends on the definition used. There is a long tradition of research on the history of foreign language teaching (see Kelly (1969) on 25 centuries of language teaching and Howatt (1984) on the history of English teaching), but much less on AL. It has been argued that AL resulted from the application of behaviorist principles to language teaching, resulting in the “army method” in the first half of the twentieth century in the United States. As Thomas (1998) mentions, there is a general feeling that, in particular, research on Second Language Acquisition (SLA) has a very short history. In 1988, Rutherford wrote: “Serious research in second-language acquisition has a relatively short history … L2 acquisition study would be difficult to trace back more than perhaps fifteen years” (404). Similar remarks can be found in other introductory books on SLA. Thomas (1998) refers to this as the ahistoricity of SLA research: “Because L2 theorists consistently ignore the past as discontinuous with the present, no one tries to investigate what knowledge previous generations may have obtained about L2 learning or what questions they may have raised” (390). She shows that there are in fact connections to thinking about how second languages are learnt that go back to Augustine in the fourth century. Stern (1983) points out that there must be some relationship between teaching and some, rudimentary as it may be, theory of acquisition: “It is not clear how language instruction could take place without there existing, minimally, a rudimentary L2 acquisition theory in this sense” (119). The present book is not going to fill this gap completely, but it does present at least a description of the field at a moment in time that future historians in AL can use as a beacon. At the same time, the description does not go back much further than the time span Rutherford mentioned. The history of views on language and the relation between those views and how languages are learnt and taught is beyond the scope of this study. The aim of this book is to present the present state of the field of AL within a historical context for the decades between 1980

a field, three and history in the field to elucidate where in this case he comes from and what has shaped his preferences and paradigms. The second is the motivation for the time span covered and the third is a definition of the area studied. I will briefly summarize my academic past and some publications that

were pivotal in my career. My first contact with the field of AL dates from the mid 1970s, when I took a course with that title at the University of Nijmegen. In 1977, five members of staff, Theo van Els, Theo Bongaerts, AnneMieke Janssen-van Dieten, Charles van Os and Guus Extra, had published their Handboek voor de toegepaste taalkunde: Het leren en onderwijzen van moderne vreemde talen [Handbook of Applied Linguistics: The Learning and Teaching of Modern Foreign Languages]. An English version titled Applied Linguistics and the Learning and Leaching of Foreign Languages was published in 1984 by Edward Arnold. In their book, the authors defined AL as “the learning and teaching of foreign languages”. My development was further shaped by a minor program on language psychology, offered by the Faculty of Social Sciences, and partly taught by Willem (Pim) Levelt. Part of the course was on Ulrich Neisser’s book Cognitive Psychology (1967), which made a deep impression on me and sparked my interest in cognitive processing. During those years I taught Dutch as a second language to adult migrants with no qualification or training. After my graduation (Doktoraal, equivalent to MA) in 1977 I got a position at the phonetics department in Nijmegen, which led to my 1982 PhD thesis “Visuele feedback van intonatie” [“Visual feedback of intonation”], which reports on a number of experiments on the effectiveness of visualization of intonation contours in learning the pronunciation of a foreign language. In 1982, I was appointed as associate professor in the departments of

Dutch language and culture and applied linguistics. For the courses I taught I used Clark and Clark’s Psychology and Language: An Introduction to Psycholinguistics (1977) and Hakuta’s Mirror of Language: The Debate on Bilingualism (1987). I was interested in how bilinguals process words in different languages and conducted experimental work on the bilingual lexicon. The research that I did on language attrition with colleagues like Bert

Weltens and Marion Grendel was sparked by Lambert and Freed’s The Loss of Language Skills from 1982. In 1989, Levelt’s Speaking: From Intention to Articulation was published.

This book has been extremely important in my development. It inspired me to work on bilingual processing models, which have kept my interest until the present day. In 1997, Diane Larsen-Freeman published her ground-breaking article on

complexity theory and language learning that became the beginning of a completely new way of thinking. This marked one of the most significant paradigmatic changes in my career. Inspired by Paul van Geert, professor of