Commentary by Emma Marsden, University of York and Margaret Borowczyk, Georgetown University
IRIS is a repository of instruments used in second language research. It was created to increase access to the variety of materials used to elicit data for empirical studies (e.g. pictures, participant instructions, language tests, response options, working memory tests, videos, software scripts). These materials are so often left out of research reports, mainly due to publishers’ space constraints. IRIS allows consumers to more directly evaluate the validity of certain research and improves the speed and accuracy of replication research. It is a free, theory agnostic, database that is searchable across over one hundred different search criteria (such as ‘type of instrument’, ‘research area’, or ‘language’). IRIS currently holds more than two and a half thousand files, bundled into almost a thousand complete sets of data collection tools. Most instruments are downloaded by Ph.D. students (4,600 downloads to date), followed by Master’s students (4,400) and language teachers (2,370). This suggests that new generations of second language researchers are making productive use of this resource and building their studies on pre-trialed and peer-reviewed instruments, which will help to develop more tightly related research agendas and increase our understanding of the validity and reliability of the tools that we use. Critically, materials downloaded from IRIS can be adapted by others to suit the particular context under investigation.
The Annual Review of Applied Linguistics began to publish its first empirical articles with the 2016 issue, which focused on tasks. (Prior to this, ARAL had published exclusively reviews). All the instruments used for the studies in the 2016 issue are part of the IRIS repository. ARAL will continue to publish empirical studies (as well as review and position papers) and all instruments used for ARAL articles will be shared via the IRIS database, to benefit the second language research community. Indeed, ARAL is an official journal of AAAL, and AAAL, in line with the methodological reform movement in applied linguistics and beyond, now highlights IRIS in its publication guidelines.
The 2016 ARAL issue on tasks contains several articles that used valuable instruments, each with very wide appeal. For example, Plonsky and Kim (2016) provided a meta-analysis of 85 studies that analyzed task-based learner language, and shared their coding scheme (an Excel file) with IRIS. Their instrument makes explicit the target features (e.g. grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, pragmatics), methodological features (e.g. study designs, sampling, analyses, reporting practices), and contextual and demographic variables that entered into their analysis. IRIS contains six other meta-analysis assessment instruments, including coding schemas for meta-analyses of L2 strategy instruction (Plonsky, 2011), learner corpus research (Paquot & Plonsky, in press), test format effects on reading and listening test performance (In’nami & Koizumi, 2009), and task and rater effects in L2 speaking and writing (In’nami & Koizumi, in press). Overall, these instruments have proven to be popular, with meta-analysis assessments garnering over 100 downloads as of February 2017.
Révész and Gurzynski-Weiss (2016) contributed an article that combined introspective and behavioral data from teachers to examine what made tasks easy or difficult from teachers’ perspectives. The researchers asked 16 ESL teachers to look at slides that detailed four tasks and 1) assess the linguistic ability students would need to carry out the tasks and 2) consider how they would adapt the tasks to suit the needs of learners at lower and higher proficiency levels. As the teachers contemplated these questions, they were asked to vocalize what they were thinking about, and their eye movements were tracked to provide information about the extent to which they interacted with the task instructions and pictorial input. The slides that Révész and Gurzynski-Weiss used to elicit these data are available on IRIS. The repository contains many other think-aloud protocols which have been used in studies of semantic implicit learning (Paciorek & Williams, 2015), the reactivity of verbal reports (Bowles, 2008), strategy instruction of reading comprehension (Karimi, 2015), and numerous others. As second language research communities working with think-aloud and psycholinguistic data expand, we expect IRIS to be an invaluable resource.
Finally, in the 2016 task issue of ARAL, Li, Ellis, and Zhu (2016) conducted a study comparing the effectiveness of task-based and task-supported instruction for the acquisition of the English passive construction. The effect of four treatments (no instruction, pre-task explicit instruction, within-task feedback with no instruction, and within task feedback with explicit instruction) was measured using a grammaticality judgment test (JT) and an elicited imitation test (EIT). Both instruments are available on IRIS. Searching for ‘elicited imitation’ shows another 45 similar materials are accessible in a wide range of languages, including Arabic, Japanese, Russian and Vietnamese. This is an indication of the growing interest in this method, not only as a measure of sensitivity to specific language features but also as a potentially reliable proxy for general language proficiency. JTs (the other instrument used by Li, Ellis, and Zhu) are, in fact, the second most downloaded instruments on IRIS (following questionnaires, which elicit data on, for example, language awareness, language background, learning strategies). JTs from 425 studies across a wide range of subfields are available, providing an incredibly varied and comprehensive assortment from which to draw. 315 of these JTs have been sourced for an IRIS ‘Special Collection’ (see the button on the Search and Download page) as they are linked to a methodological synthesis of this hugely popular technique (Plonsky, Marsden, Gass, Crowther, Spinner, in preparation). Another Special Collection on IRIS holds approximately 60 self-paced reading tests, also linked to a methodological synthesis (Marsden, Thompson & Plonsky, under review). Other researchers are welcome to develop such collections that are linked to syntheses or meta-analyses they are undertaking
Materials, including data and analysis protocols, are eligible for upload to IRIS if they have been used for any publication that has been peer-reviewed, including Ph.D. theses. In tandem with methodological reform movements in other fields, ARAL, as well as thirty other journals in the field, encourages its authors to make their materials available on IRIS. For further information, see FAQs or contact email@example.com.
Commentary by Kathleen M. Bailey, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and President, AAAL and Alison Mackey, Georgetown University and Lancaster University and editor of ARAL
Every year for almost four decades, ARAL has served a pivotal role as an official journal of AAAL. ARAL has long been a preeminent source for state-of-the-art reviews and syntheses of timely topics within the field of applied linguistics, thus providing a kind of compass indicating interests and developments in applied linguistics. It will retain this function, in addition to becoming a source for position pieces, methodological critiques, and empirical articles that stay on the pulse of new approaches to the field.
On a few occasions, ARAL’s theme has coincided with the theme of the AAAL conference, with plenary and colloquia speakers contributing articles, thereby extending their conversations across the written pages and conference spaces. For instance, in 2015, all of the speakers in the “Identity in Applied Linguistics” colloquium at AAAL contributed articles to the 2015 Identity issue of ARAL (one of which, by Darvin & Norton, won the annual TESOL Award for Distinguished Research).
New Annual Commentary paper:
In 2016, the topic of ARAL was task-based language teaching (TBLT). Now, one year later, timed to coincide with the 2017 AAAL conference and the 2017 TBLT conference, ARAL is, for the first time, publishing a [forthcoming] Commentary, made up of short responses to the TBLT issue written by leading scholars in the field (Martin Bygate, Susan M. Gass, Rhonda Oliver and Peter Robinson). These knowledgeable voices express views that are sometimes complementary, sometimes questioning and often entertaining. The Commentary will only appear online, a new move for the journal. It will appear in conjunction with the annual AAAL conference every year, giving members the opportunity to review the journal’s contents from their colleagues’ perspectives as well as their own.
In addition to the Commentary, in another new move for ARAL, short pieces by AAAL members and other applied linguists will also appear here, in the Cambridge Extra blog. The first blog after this one explains how, like almost all journals in applied linguistics, we ARAL now requests that all instruments used in empirical articles be made available on the online free, searchable IRIS materials repository. This will increase the accessibility of valid and reliable measurement tools and materials, providing a resource for existing and future generations of applied linguistics researchers. This is outlined in the blog by Marsden and Borowczyk.
Both AAAL and ARAL benefit from the recent changes to the journal’s scope and online presence. The decision to expand the scope of the journal to include reviews, position papers, and empirical articles will help keep conversations generated by the journal current and prospective, as well as retrospective, to reflect the interests of the membership. We expect that this move will expand the reach and appeal of the journal to scholars, educators, and students who might be better served by any of the new genres. Consistent with AAAL’s strategic plan, which promises to provide members with resources and opportunities for professional development and valuable benefits beyond the conference, ARAL’s commitment to making top-notch research accessible to communities of applied linguists, educators and students, and providing resources for young researchers in the form of materials and instruments, will be central in furthering our mission.
AAAL and ARAL leadership look forward to working together to reflect and promote the field of applied linguistics towards a future where it can be pedagogically impactful and theoretically robust, and we believe the new format of the TBLT issue is an exciting step in that direction.
Read the TBLT issue here
Blog post by Louise Cummings, Nottingham Trent University.
The case study has had something of a bad press in recent years. How often do we hear that they provide low-quality evidence of the effectiveness of an intervention in speech and language therapy? The emphasis on evidence-based practice in healthcare has seen the case study relegated to the bottom of the hierarchy of evidence. From this lowly position, the case study is seen to fall of scientific objectivity and rigour which are the hallmarks of other types of investigation, most notably systematic reviews and randomized controlled trials. The result is that researchers, teachers and practitioners in a wide range of disciplines feel almost duty-bound to preface their use of case studies with a health warning – these studies are of limited scientific value and should be treated as such. I have no intention of issuing health warnings or adopting an apologetic approach to the use of case studies. Indeed, I believe they offer immeasurable benefits in instructional and research contexts in communication disorders and elsewhere. These benefits are threefold.
First, case studies are the most effective way of introducing students of communication disorders to the key skill which all clinicians must possess, namely, clinical decision-making. Speech and language therapists must make decisions on a daily basis about how best to assess and treat their clients, when to terminate a course of therapy and refer clients to other medical and health professionals, and how to measure the outcomes of intervention. Of course, it is true that clinicians acquire and refine most of their skills of clinical decision-making ‘on the job’. But it is also possible to get a head start on this process by interrogating the basis of decisions that are taken in the management of actual clients. This is where the case study comes into its own. By exploring the basis of the full gamut of decisions which clinicians must make in relation to a client, students can begin to assimilate the very essence of this most elusive of clinical skills. The case study is not just the most effective, but the only, method by means of which this can be achieved.
Second, case studies provide an invaluable opportunity for students of communication disorders to put their skills of linguistic analysis into practice. The narrative produced by an adult with a traumatic brain injury or the conversational exchange between a client with aphasia and his or her spouse is the richest possible data on which to fine tune these skills. I will not be alone in lamenting the lack of such data in modern research articles in communication disorders, the emphasis of which is on the reporting of largely quantitative results in the shortest space possible. It is something of an irony that as electronic publications have surpassed print publications, in journals at least, the extended extracts of language often seen in older research papers have all but disappeared in more modern articles. If anything, an electronic format should make the inclusion of client narratives and conversational exchanges more, not less, likely to be published. There is simply nowhere for the student of communication disorders to get this practice other than through case studies.
Third, all medical and health professionals are encouraged to see the client first, and their medical condition or other disorder second. This is no less the case for speech and language therapists who must learn that aphasia, dysarthria and other communication disorders sit alongside an array of factors which can influence a client’s adjustment to communication disability. Case studies are the best context in which to appreciate the complex interplay that exists between communication disorders and these factors.
For all these reasons, I have championed a case study approach to communication disorders in my recent book Case Studies in Communication Disorders (Cambridge University Press, 2016). I urge other researchers, teachers and practitioners in speech and language therapy to do likewise.
Click here for a free extract
Blog Post by Douglas Kibbee, author of Language and the Law: Linguistic Inequality in America
Early in the fall of 2016 several news agencies speculated that Donald Trump might be suffering from early onset dementia. Could this be related to his adamant monolingualism? During his campaign Donald Trump rebuked Jeb Bush for speaking Spanish, telling him to talk English, he’s in America (2015). In the campaign against Hilary Clinton, Trump dismissed bilingual communities, refusing to advertise in languages other than English. America will not be made great by making it monolingual. Monolingualism is not just a threat to national security and economic competitiveness. It’s a threat to public health.
One of the greatest weaknesses of our educational system is the decline in foreign-language education, confirmed in a recent report by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (The State of Languages in the U.S. A Statistical Portrait, https://www.amacad.org/multimedia/pdfs/publications/researchpapersmonographs/State-of-Languages-in-US.pdf). The Academy’s report describes a decline in offerings of foreign language education and the widening gap between American education and the rest of the developed world. In the U.S. only a fifth of K-12 students are enrolled in languages other than English, compared to more than half of European students. Middle schools offering other languages have dropped from 75% to 58%, effectively foreclosing the possibility of advanced competency. At the same time, the benefits of dual-language immersion are substantial : by the eighth grade students in dual-language immersion programs are a full year ahead of their counterparts in English language skills. A study by researchers at Carnegie-Mellon University placed Mr. Trump’s English skills at a 5th-6th grade level, by far the lowest of any of the serious candidates from either party.
As a policy issue, the decline in foreign-language education may reflect a fundamental misconception of education’s role. The fragmentation of education represented by home schooling and the charter school movement is a means to make education confirm what students (and their parents) already believe, rather than to challenge them to understand a diverse world. Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee to be Secretary of Education, spins this as a rejection of “one size fits all” education, but in fact it’s a rejection of very foundation of education. Self-segregation by race or religion is on the rise, while students avoid exposure to other ways of thinking, including language. Eva Moskowitz, CEO of one of the largest charter school groups (Success Academy in New York) bragged to the American Enterprise Institute about dropping foreign language education at her schools, serving, or disserving, 10,000 students in New York.
Apart from the social, economic and political consequences, monolingualism turns out to be bad for public health. Scientific evidence for a bilingual cognitive advantage has been building. Numerous studies have demonstrated that knowing two languages significantly improves transferable brain skills, an advantage psychologists call the “executive function system” of the brain. The development of this sytem, located in the prefrontal cortex, is described by Canadian psychologists Ellen Bialystok and Fergus Craik as “the most crucial cognitive achievement in early childhood”. The executive function system allows children to focus their attention, to distinguish relevant from distracting information, and to remember more accurately sequences of colors or shapes.
The scientific evidence is sometimes contested and certainly merits more, and more sophisticated, research, but it is clear that over one’s lifetime there are advantages to bilingualism. Most clearly, Bialystok and her team found that for bilinguals the onset of dementia was delayed by over four years, compared to the onset age for monolinguals. The advantages of lifelong bilingualism were confirmed in recent PhD research by Henrietta Boudros of Central Michigan University.
Computer brain games to maintain cognitive function have become a multibillion dollar industry, but the claims of the commercial applications are largely unsubstantiated. A recent review of the research concluded “the evidence larely does not support claims of broad cognitive benefits from practicing the sorts of cognitive tasks used in most brain-training software” (Simons et al 2016, 172). In short, the computer brain games make you better at playing computer brain games, but have little or no proven effect on cognition.
Instead Simons and his team found that “the development of such capacities appears to require sustained investment in relatively complex environments that afford opportunities for consistent practice and engagement with domain-related challenges” (2016, 112) – exactly the challenges that learning and maintaining a second language provide.
Instead of mocking foreign language knowledge we, as a nation, should encourage it, both in educating our children and in supporting our bilingual communities. We have done this in the past, as my book demonstrates; now more than ever it is essential that we embrace bilingualism. Denial of language education and the suppression of bilingualism is not just a threat to national security, to international economic competitiveness, but also to public health. It’s never too late to start learning another language, Mr. Trump. Maybe Russian?
Blog Post written by James Mckellar, Cambridge University Press
The Study of Language by George Yule has proven itself to be the student and instructor choice for first courses in language and linguistics because of its accessible approach to, what is often, a complicated subject. The book has been recognised internationally for being easy to follow, simple to understand, and fun to read, with its quirky anecdotes and examples of languages from around the world.
Cambridge University Press are proud to announce the publication of the 6th edition and would like to share with you some of the new material and key features. The Study of Language clearly explains the major concepts in linguistics through all the key elements of language. The sixth edition has been revised and updated throughout, with substantial changes made to chapters on phonetics, grammar and syntax, and the addition of 30 new figures and tables and 80 new study questions. To increase student engagement and to foster problem-solving and critical thinking skills, the book also includes 20 new tasks. An expanded and revised online study guide provides students with further resources, including answers and tutorials for all tasks, while encouraging lively and proactive learning. This is the most fundamental and easy-to-use introduction to the study of language.
A significant teaching challenge faced by instructors is that of providing a survey of language as an area for study within a short period of time (typically a single semester) for students with no or very little prior knowledge of the subject. Yule’s approach condenses technical terminology into concise bite sized chapters, allowing flexibility in teaching.
Table of Contents
Preface, 1. The origins of language, 2. Animals and human language, 3. The sounds of language, 4. The sound patterns of language, 5. Word-formation, 6. Morphology, 7. Grammar, 8. Syntax, 9. Semantics, 10. Pragmatics, 11. Discourse analysis, 12. Language and the brain, 13. First language acquisition, 14. Second language acquisition/learning, 15. Gestures and sign languages, 16. Written language, 17. Language history and change, 18. Regional variation in language, 19. Social variation in language, 20. Language and culture, Glossary, References, Index.
To find out more about the 6th edition click here ,To read a free extract click here
Blog post based on an article in Journal of Child Language, written by Carla Hudson Kam
It is obvious that language learning in children is affected by input: children exposed to English learn English and children exposed to Mandarin learn Mandarin. But the relationship between the input children receive and what they learn is more specific than that.
For instance, we know that children whose caregivers produce lots of complex sentences produce complex sentences earlier than children who hear fewer of them. Children’s input comes from sources beyond their caregivers’ natural speech, however, and researchers have become increasingly interested in input from these other sources. My co-author and I were interested in the prevalence of a specific type of information in children’s books but needed to know which books we should analyze (if you’re interested in books as input, presumably you should analyze books that children are actually being exposed to).
We conducted a survey of parents and caregivers asking about the English-language books they were reading to their child, to help us select our books for analysis. Although we initially created this dataset to conduct our own research, we quickly realized the potential the dataset had, and so decided to share it with the wider research community.
The resulting database – which we call the Infant Bookreading Database (or IBDb) – includes responses from 1,107 caregivers of children aged 0-36 months, who answered questions about the five books they were reading to their child most often at the time. The dataset also includes demographic and language development information, so the data can be analyzed separately for children of different ages, genders, or language skill levels, or for the caregiver’s age, gender or education level.
There were 2,227 unique titles listed by caregivers, and 1,617 are identifiable (meaning we could figure out exactly which book the respondent was referring to). One of the most striking things about the identifiable titles is how much variation there is in which books children are hearing. Only one book was listed by more than 200 respondents (Goodnight Moon by M. Wise Brown), two were listed more than 100 but less than 200 times (The Very Hungry Caterpillar by E. Carle and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See? by B. Martin and E. Carle), and only four books were listed 50-99 times (so by at least 4.5% of our sample). The overwhelming majority of titles were only listed by one or two respondents. So while there are a small number of fairly popular books that show up again and again in our data, most books are being read to only one or two children in our sample.
Read Introducing the Infant Bookreading Database (IBDb) for free.
The IBDb is available for download for use by researchers (and anyone else who is interested) at linguistics.ubc.ca/ubc-ibdb/.
Blog post based on an article in Language in Society, written by Pia Pichler and Nathanael Williams
How do we ‘authenticate’ our own identities? Can hip-hop help us in this process? If so, what might we ‘invoke’ and what are the implications for social class and various other aspects of identity?
In this article we look at the spontaneously occurring conversation of four ethnically mixed, working class young men from South London. The data recorded by these young men soon led us to appreciate the significance of hip hop talk to the authentication and identification processes within this group. We found that the data contains many phonological, grammatical, and lexical markers that are indexical of what we call Hip Hop Speech Style (HHSS). However, our data also shows how difficult it is to differentiate between HHSS and the kind of multiethnolect spoken by many young Londoners.
Our own study aims to demonstrate the value of moving the study of authenticity in relation to hip hop from a consideration of (the indexicality of) linguistic style towards a focus on discourse and ideological meanings. A limited number of studies have approached the topic of hip-hop authenticity with an analytic focus on discourses/ideologies rather than linguistic style and even fewer studies have investigated what we might call ‘third sphere’ of hip hop, that is, interaction among Hip Hop fans and activists.
In our analysis we focus on terms and expressions that not only index, or, in other words ‘invoke’ or ‘point to’ various aspects of hip-hop culture, but that also need to be understood in relation to wider macro-sociological concepts. These cultural concepts in turn ‘index’ or ‘invoke’ unconscious sociocultural knowledge and allow speakers to position themselves in relation to these concepts and to one another. This often indirect relationship between linguistic forms and social meaning, and between different levels of indexicality, is at the core of indexicality studies.
Thus, when the young men talk about ‘white girls from The Hills’, or ‘hipsters moving into the hood’, or, in reference to the local gang, ‘dhem man will spray the matic out da Porsche’, they not only evaluate the authenticity of their own and others’ identity performances in relation to hip-hop culture, but hip-hop culture in itself is presented as indexical of various aspects of larger-scale practices and structures.
The speakers position ‘white posh girls from The Hills’, ‘hipsters moving into the hood’, ‘white boys from Cambridge’, as well as the pop star Miley Cyrus in opposition to hip-hop culture. What is interesting is that many of these individuals take part in cultural practices that in themselves index allegiance with hip-hop or street culture, for example, by producing World Star Hip Hop videos, by moving to or living in the hood or in rough London estates, by having extensive knowledge about hip hop, or by ‘twerking like a mutha *****’. These attempts to index hip-hop or street authenticity, however, are not accepted by the group.
Read the full article ‘Hipsters in the hood: Authenticating indexicalities in young men’s hip-hop talk‘ for free through 30th November 2016.
The Applied Linguistics Reading Pack from Language Teaching has been a popular collection of articles since 2011, generating more than 30,000 downloads. Providing an overview of key content for anyone looking for an MA or PhD topic or anyone taking on a new group of MA or PhD students, the pack and the journal itself have been an essential resource for language professionals and a starting point for all things related to the discipline of applied linguistics.
Hand-picked by Language Teaching editor Dr Graeme Porte, this collection has recently been updated to include new articles, research and replication studies, and is also a useful sampler of the journal. This new package can be accessed by visiting cambridge.org/LTAPACK.
State-of-the-art articles: Critical survey articles of resent research
Review of washback research literature within Kante’s argument-based validation framework
Liying Cheng, Youyi Sun and Jia Ma
Research Timelines: Graphic overviews of the most significant bibliographies in the area
Research Timeline: Form-focused instruction and second language acquisition
Learning vocabulary through meaning-focused input: Replication of Elley (1989) and Liu & Nation (1985)
Thinking Allowed: Research Agendas and Classroom Applications of Research
International teaching assistants at universities: A research agenda
Research into practice: Grammar learning and teaching
Interactive alignment: A teaching-friendly view of second language pronunciation learning
For more Language Teaching, visit the journal home page or learn more about the journal’s thematic sections.
Photo: Krista Kennell – Shutterstock.com
Blog post based on an article in Perspectives on Politics, written by Jennifer Jones
Over the course of her historic presidential campaign, reactions to Hillary Clinton’s speeches and debate performances have focused less on what she says, and more on how she says it. In 2016 alone, Clinton’s style of speaking has been criticized for coming across as unrelaxed, hair-raising, nagging, and grating.
As a leader, Clinton is compared against traditional masculine qualities that we have come to associate with leadership—strength, determination, self-confidence, decisiveness and more. She is criticized when she fails to display these masculine qualities and yet she is criticized and disliked when she fails to display her warmth and femininity—a classic “double-bind” that women in politics and other leadership positions often confront.
By tracking her subtle linguistic behavior over time, my research shows how these forces manifest in Hillary Clinton’s self-presentation. My findings suggest that as the Democratic nominee transitioned from First Lady to U.S. Senator to Secretary of State, she spoke in an increasingly “masculine” way.
James Pennebaker and colleagues find that language encodes gender in very subtle ways—not by what we say, but how we say it. Women tend to use higher rates of pronouns (you, theirs), especially first-person singular pronouns (I, me) than men. Women also use common verbs and auxiliary verbs (is, has, be, go), social (friend, talk), emotional (relieved, safe, kind), cognitive (think, because), and tentative (I guess, maybe) words at higher rates than men. Men tend to use first-person plural words (the royal “we”), articles (a, an, the), prepositions (of, to, under), big words (over six letters), words associated with anger (destroy, kill), and swear words ([redacted]) more frequently than women.
Utilizing this insight, I examine whether Clinton talked “like a man” as she navigated a path toward political leadership by conducting a quantitative textual analysis of 567 interview transcripts and candidate debates between 1992–2013.
Read Jennifer Jones’ article on the linguistic styles of Hillary Clinton, “Talk ‘Like a Man’: The Linguistic Styles of Hillary Clinton, 1992-2013” for free through election day on 8th November, 2016.