Vol. 8. No. 1 R-8 June 2004
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Applied Linguistics

Guy Cook (2003)
Oxford University Press
Pp. X + 134
ISBN: 9 780194 375986
£ 7.90


Oxford Introductions to Language Study is a series dedicated to publishing introductory books on linguistics in such fields as Pragmatics, Second Language Acquisition and Historical Linguistics. One of the most recent publications in the series is Applied Linguistics by Guy Cook (2003). This series is dedicated to filling the "need for a more general and gradual introduction to language: transitional texts which will ease people into an understanding of complex ideas" (Widdowson in Cook 2003: VII). The series, therefore, is meant to provide a general and coherent introduction to a field of Linguistics, not only to the linguist whose interests may be expanding into a new field, but also to the novice linguist and general public. These publications have not been developed to replace other introductory books, but to bridge the gap to more in-depth academic introductions to the respective field of Linguistics.


Applied Linguistics (Cook 2003) is organized as others in the series, being divided into four parts: Survey, Readings, References and Glossary.

The Survey is the largest section of the text (81 pages), and provides a simple, yet "not simplistic" (VIII), overview of the majors areas of work and research in Applied Linguistics. Cook further breaks the survey down into eight chapters that deal with such issues as the need for and scope of Applied Linguistics (Ch. 1), views on 'correctness' in language description and use (Ch. 2), English language teaching (Ch. 3) and the past, present and future directions of Applied Linguistics (Ch. 8).

The Readings section (33 pages) is a collection of texts taken from the specialist literature in the field of Applied Linguistics. Broken down into eight chapters along the lines of those in the survey, the 20 texts in this section allow readers to delve further into issues introduced in the survey while, at the same time, familiarizing themselves with the language of linguistic literature.

For those interested in still further readings, the References section provides annotated references to books and articles related to the subjects addressed in the Survey. For each of the eight chapters, references are given and are accompanied by a short commentary explaining how they relate to the issues of each chapter.

The Glossary, the final section of the book, provides definitions of key terms used in the book with page references to their use in the Survey.[-1-]


At its inception in the late 1950's, Applied Linguistics was principally concerned with language teaching, especially second / foreign language teaching, to the point that the two terms basically became synonymous (Strevens 1992: 11). Over time, the field grew and expanded to include other sub-fields unrelated to second / foreign language teaching, such as language policy and planning, forensic linguistics, clinical linguistic, critical discourse analysis, translation and interpretation, and lexicography. However, this close association with second / foreign language teaching still remains, and it is thus not surprising that some introductory books to applied linguistics deal exclusively with language teaching (Roger T. Bell's An Introduction to Applied Linguistics: Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching (1981)). Other introductory books present a somewhat larger scope to the field, yet still dedicate a large amount of space to second / foreign language teaching (W. Grabe and R. Kaplan's Introduction to Applied Linguistics (1992)).

In his introductory book to applied linguistics, Guy Cook opts to present a wide, yet general, overview to the field, rather than placing detailed emphasis on certain dominant fields. For novice linguists or the general public, Cook's main audience, this overview allows for a larger, more complete view of the field of Applied Linguistics as a whole, and how the sub-fields relate to each other.

The author's efforts to provide a general introduction to Applied Linguistics, all within 134 pages, limit the amount of detail and complexity in the book's content. Nevertheless, the reader has a clear, general introduction to the entire field, with some more complex and detailed notions available in the extracts in the Readings section. And if interest or curiosity requires more information, the References section can direct the reader to pertinent sources.

The book's content spans a wide range of concepts, from the pertinence and need for Applied Linguistics to languages in the contemporary world, context and culture, language and communication, and poetics. However, in terms of content, Cook's work can be distinguished from other introductory books in several ways. First, Cook does not present the history of Applied Linguistics, preferring to focus on current and future issues. Second, he addresses the issue of language teaching, but in a limited scope, not allowing the issue to dominant the book's content.

Cook's writing is clear and easy to understand. In Chapter 1, when introducing what applied linguistics is, the author does not use a complex formal definition, nor a summary of the history of the field as a starting point. Cook prefers, rather, to introduce the field of Applied Linguistics by highlighting the importance of language in society and daily life. He then procedes to put forth typical questions concerning language issues in every day life that average people often ask themselves, thus introducing the issues with which applied linguists deal. The appeal of this approach for the novice linguist or general public is that they see the usefulness of Applied Linguistics, rather than getting lost in theoretical explanations which they might perceive as irrelevant or might not grasp.

Overall, the explanations throughout the book are clear and do not require the reader to have a certain level of acquired linguistic knowledge. The explanation of basic concepts in the text, along with the glossary, makes the book accessible to new comers to the field of linguistics. [-2-]


Applied Linguistics by Guy Cook presents a short, informative introduction to the field of applied linguistics. While the wide scope, yet limited depth, of the book does not allow its use as the principal text for an academic course in Applied Linguistics, it has its place in the field. For the general public or novice linguistics, this book provides an easy to understand introduction to the field, facilitating possible further, more advanced introductory readings to the field. For the academic linguist, Guy Cook's book would serve as a very useful bridge to more advanced introductions to Applied Linguistics.

Douglas L. Rideout
Université de Montréal
Department of Linguistics and Translation


Bell, Roger T. (1981). An Introduction to Applied Linguistics: Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching. Batsford Academic and Educational Ltd.

Grabe, W. & Kaplan, R. (1992). Introduction to Applied Linguistics. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.

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