Is a theory of applied linguistics desirable? And if so, is it possible? My new book, Responsible design in applied linguistics: theory and practice (2017; Springer) proceeds from the thesis that applied linguistics needs a theoretical foundation. It is indeed possible to delineate its work (and specifically distinguish it from linguistics). Providing it with a theoretical foundation might additionally yield new insight into the principles that underlie applied linguistic designs. Those designs we encounter as the interventions that we call language courses, language tests and language policies.
Probably the most important requirement for conceptualizing a theoretical framework for applied linguistics is to acknowledge that this conceptualization has both a historical and a systematic (philosophical) side. So the book is no mere history of applied linguistics, but a framework for interpreting the development of applied linguistics as a discipline. It offers a systematic account of how applied linguistics has developed, articulating the philosophical premises that have informed both its emergence and its subsequent growth. It asks questions that are seldom asked: Where does the discipline derive from? Where is it heading? What directions has it already taken? Which direction should it embrace in future? What is the relative worth of all of the variation in design and methods that have been developed by applied linguists? In defining applied linguistics as a discipline of design, it takes us beyond the diffuse and sometimes contradictory conventional definitions of the field. I would therefore like to think that the framework of design principles it proposes not only helps to explain the historical development of applied linguistics, but also provides a potential justification for solutions to language problems. It presents us, I hope, with nothing less than an emerging theory of applied linguistics.
I would love to hear from you and the applied linguistics community whether this perspective has the potential of taking us forward. If you’d like to review it, or know of anyone who might be interested either in the book or in reviewing it, there are details on the book webpage: http://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783319417295. Potential reviewers will be able to access the online copy for reviewing purposes by clicking on “Access an Online Book Review Copy” which is on the right-hand side of the screen. Once their review has been received by Springer the reviewer has the option to choose to receive a print copy of the book as a ‘thank you’. Full details of the Springer online book review service may be found at: http://www.springer.com/book+reviews?SGWID=0-108-0-0-0.