The Oxford handbook of applied linguistics

The Oxford handbook of applied linguistics. 2nd edn. Ed. by Robert B. Kaplan. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. Pp. xxviii, 641. ISBN 9780195384253. $60.

Reviewed by Francesca Bargiela-Chiappini, University of Warwick, UK

With its two prefaces, an extended introduction, thirty-eight chapters, and a concluding essay that bravely seeks to predict possible future developments, The Oxford handbook of applied linguistics re-confirms its credentials as a respected and distinctive presence in the expanding linguistics handbook genre. Especially new to this second edition are parts of the introduction that presents an authoritative yet concise guide to applied linguistics and the addition of three new chapters.

Part 1 ‘Introduction’ was particularly useful as a reminder of the history and the trends of an eclectic field which, in the time between the two editions, has confirmed its inherent multidisciplinarity. Scholars who for various reasons have been concerned with presenting and defending applied linguistics (AL) as a unified endeavour will be at least partially reassured by the space that this volume devotes to traditional areas of enquiry that represent the backbone of AL, such as the four skills (speaking, listening, reading, and writing) (Part 2), second language learning and teaching (Parts 4 and 5), and bilingualism and multilingualism (Parts 7 and 8).

In some regards, the volume is too reliant on a conservative approach to the field, but it does do well in presenting some recent and exciting developments in AL: e.g. language for specific purposes (LSP), such as in Ch. 22, ‘Language uses in professional contexts’ (318–32), by Mary McGroarty. Other aspects of the field, such as English for specific purposes, particularly current empirical research on Business English as a Lingua Franca, or, more generally, business communication in its US and European manifestations were omitted from this current volume.

As the editor mentions in the Preface to the second edition, the book ‘is not intended to represent all areas of applied linguistics, nor is it intended to cover the entire global geography’ (xi). The result of a necessary selection process means that Anglophone countries dominate the geographic distribution of contributors. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why topics such as computer mediated communication, critical approaches to AL, qualitative and quantitative methodologies in and for AL, as well as non-western contributions to AL have not found a place in the current edition. I trust that the third edition, hopefully compiled again under Robert Kaplan’s direction, will consider reflecting the expanded scope of what remains a fast-growing and increasingly varied field of academic enterprise.