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    The vital need for ontological, epistemological and methodological diversity in Applied Linguistics

    Dewaele, Jean-Marc The vital need for ontological, epistemological and methodological diversity in Applied Linguistics. In: Wright, C. and Harvey, L. and Simpson, J. (eds.) Voices and Practices in Applied Linguistics: Diversifying a Discipline. York, UK: White Rose University Press, pp. 71-88. ISBN 9781912482160.

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    When Robert C. Gardner started second language (L2) motivation research with Anglo-Canadian learners of French L2 in the 1960s, he used the quantitative methods of social psychology. Affective Second Language Acquisition (SLA) research continued in this tradition, relying on questionnaires and statistical analysis of data. Around the turn of the 20th century, more voices were heard defending alternative ontological, epistemological and methodological choices in the study of motivation, “investment” or “language desire” (Norton, 1995; Kramsch, 2006). The present contribution considers the criticisms formulated by some poststructuralist researchers (Pavlenko, 2002, 2013) and by some researchers inspired by Dynamic System Theory (Dörnyei, MacIntyre and Henry, 2015) against quantitative research in affective SLA research, and the pushing for an emic, qualitative perspective. Despite coming from very different philosophical and ontological backgrounds, the arguments of poststructuralists and DST researchers against the quantitative tradition in affective SLA are strikingly similar. Both argue that homogeneity is an illusion, that it is impossible to establish clear causality, that learners’ systems do not develop linearly, and that learners’ system are very rich, complex and linked to the social context. This complexity and interactions between variables means that it is impossible to disentangle the effects of independent variables. It also means that traditional statistical methods are reductionist because they cannot capture the complexity of the phenomena and that group averages are meaningless. Finally, poststructuralists and DST researchers argue in favour of longitudinal (emic-qualitative) approaches, favouring case studies in order to obtain the appropriate level of granularity in the data. As a consequence, generalization becomes impossible because of the uniqueness of every L2 learner. I argue that such views are perfectly legitimate but that if these views were to become dominant they could constitute a threat to the applied linguistic research and the foreign language teaching community that applied linguists are supposed to serve. I argue that the pendulum risks swinging too far and that the field needs diversity in order to flourish. This includes studies using etic-quantitative, emic-qualitative or mixed methods approaches (Schrauf, 2017) in order to capture the complex, multidimensional and dynamic interactions of independent variables within individual learners and groups on affective dependent variables.


    Item Type: Book Section
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Creative Arts, Culture and Communication
    Depositing User: Jean-Marc Dewaele
    Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2020 15:53
    Last Modified: 09 Aug 2023 12:47


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