Applied linguistics: What's that?

Numa Markee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper traces the historical development of strong and weak definitions of applied linguistics. Strong definitions of applied linguistics assume that the methods and insights of theoretical linguistics are directly applicable to resolving second language teaching problems. On the other hand, weak definitions do not limit themselves to the resolution of second language teaching problems but potentially address all practical language-related problems. These definitions typically assert the autonomy of the field from the mother discipline; and they draw on a broad range of feeder disciplines in addition to theoretical linguistics, whose choice depends on which particular language-related problem is to be resolved. This paper argues that weak definitions are preferable in that they provide a most necessary element of flexibility in the theory and practice of applied linguistics which is in tune with the needs and realities of the wider profession. Finally, the paper illustrates these theoretical principles with a practical example by examining the contributions various feeder disciplines can make to designing a coherent second language curriculum.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)315-323
Number of pages9
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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