On the epistemological status of applied linguistics


As a result of today’s political and economic pressures, academic disciplines can no longer distance themselves entirely from the mundane practical problems of the societies that aliment them. They even cannot restrict themselves to just describing or interpreting those problems. Nowadays, all academic disciplines are increasingly required to justify the resources allocated to them and to shift their focus from problem understanding to problem solving.

This paper discusses the epistemological status of Applied Linguistics. It will argue in favour of the position that Applied Linguistics is neither an autonomous discipline nor a loosely connected set of issues and interests. Rather, it will be argued here that Applied Linguistics is a particular, focused way of „doing linguistics”, namely: „linguistics as problem solving”. To develop this argument, the presentation will, firstly, give a brief historical survey of the development of the field designated as ”Applied Linguistics” and its spread around the world (Section 1), secondly, present some aspects of the relation between theory and practice both in epistemology in general and in linguistics (Section 2), discuss two influential positions that deny any independence of Applied Linguistics of Theoretical Linguistics (Sections 3 and 4), present examples for praxis as a trigger of theoretical developments (Section 5) and ultimately give arguments for a theoretically autonomous Applied Linguistics, conceptualized as an interdisciplinary way of doing linguistics with a practical purpose, i.e. with solving practical problems with language and communication (Sections 6 and 7).


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