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50th Conference: Mapping Applied Linguistics

PhD student Alexandra Shaitan has written a blog about Dr. Meara's 50th Anniversary Talk.

Dr. Paul Meara

Written by PhD student Alexandra Shaitan

It was a great honor to be among the audience of prominent academics including current academics working at Birkbeck College, research students and alumni who gathered at Birkbeck, University of London on the 12th of June, 2015 to celebrate the Department's of Applied Linguistics and Communication 50th Anniversary.

Professor Paul Meara, who was a founder member of the Department of Applied Linguistics at Birkbeck, serving as Acting Head of Department in the 1980 and as the Head of Department from 1988-1990 and who is best known for his work on vocabulary acquisition, delivered a very interesting talk on "Mapping Applied Linguistics".

"...the definition of Applied Linguistics has been defined and redefined throughout its history"

What is Applied Linguistics? As Professor Meara rightly acknowledges, the definition of Applied Linguistics has been defined and redefined throughout its history. To support his argument, he lists a number of academic publications that appeared in the International Journal of Applied Linguistics dated from 1993 to 2014.

Davies (2007) defines Applied Linguistics as the use of language-related research in a wide variety of fields, including language acquisition, language teaching, literacy, literary studies, gender studies, speech therapy, discourse analysis, censorship, professional communication, media studies, translation studies, lexicography, and forensic linguistics.

According to Grabe (2010), over the years, the term applied linguistics has been defined and interpreted in a number of different ways, and that exploration is still continued in the 21st century. In the 1950s, the term was commonly meant to reflect the insights of structural and functional linguists that could be applied directly to second language teaching and also in some cases to first language literacy and language arts issues as well. Applied linguistics has many of the markings of an academic discipline.

"...bibliometric maps aimed at summarizing the main trends in a research field such as Applied Linguistics"

By deploying elaborately constructed visual maps, Professor Meara delivered a presentation highlighting different ways of using citation data that enables researchers to produce bibliometric maps aimed at summarizing the main trends in a research field such as Applied Linguistics. The maps discussed during the presentation originated from the co-citation data from the papers that appeared in the journal of Applied Linguistics between 1980 and 2010. In addition, a special emphasis had been given to some practical issues that may arise when one works with citation data. Also, Professor Meara illustrated some problems in how the resulting maps should be interpreted.

Moreover, the paper discussed informal and formal approaches related to citation analysis bringing to the fore bibliometrics, knows as the co-citation analysis. While elaborating on the bibliometrics, Professor Meara provided some practical tips to the co-citation mechanics.

"...639 papers were published between 1980 and 2009"

A special attention has been given to the Journal of Applied Linguistics. It has been reported that as many as 639 papers were published between 1980 and 2009, roughly 18 papers per volume.

Moreover, while reporting on the academic research conducted and published in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000, Professor Meara presented the research clusters, accompanied by the names of the academics who have made a significant influence in the constantly expanding research field of Applied Linguistics.

A special attention has been given to the Journal of Applied Linguistics. It has been reported that as many as 639 papers were published between 1980 and 2009, roughly 18 papers per volume. Moreover, while reporting on the academic research conducted and published in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000, Professor Meara presented the research clusters, accompanied by the names of the academics who have made a significant influence in the constantly expanding research field of Applied Linguistics.

In concluding his talk, Professor Meara informed the audience of an “upcoming movie” called “Applied Linguistics” starring Mike Long and Rod Ellis, with Michael Halliday, Stephen Krashen and a cast of thousands which we all, of course, look forward to “seeing”.

Overall, my peers and I (PhD students) learnt a lot from this talk and were honored to be in the audience.

References:

Davies, A (2007) An introduction to applied linguistics: from practice to theory. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Grabe, W (2010) Applied Linguistics: A Twenty-First-Century Discipline. In Kaplan, R. B (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Applied Linguistics, 2nd Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

See the recording of the talk here.

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