Explaining Complexity and Dynamic Systems Theory (CDST)

This month we published Research Methods for Complexity Theory in Applied Linguistics by Phil Hiver and Ali H. Al-Hoorie. In this post the authors explain why their book is so important for complexity research.

What are the big questions that occupy researchers in the human and social sciences? Chances are that these questions share two key features. First, many social questions, from the minute level to the grand scale of things, are interconnected. Second, their optimal solutions are constantly changing over time. As the late theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking once said, the 21st century is likely to witness a general intellectual reorientation around a complex, interconnected, and dynamic view of the world, a view that is indeed sweeping through various human and social disciplines. And, if many of the major issues of our time are complex and systemic, they need to be approached with a corresponding shift in perception. One such approach is complexity and dynamic systems theory (CDST).

Of course, once we began to adopt a CDST understanding of language learning, development, and use in our work in applied linguistics, it seemed to us that everything straightforward was ruined. Like many others, we had happily operated on the assumption of a neatly ordered and simple world. We studied phenomena by breaking them up into smaller parts, drawing boundaries between those parts, and studying them separate from their environment and in isolation. It is no wonder that before long we ended up frustrated and puzzled as to why we were no closer to understanding and capturing reality than before. While embracing a CDST view promised to bring us closer to an approximation of this complex and dynamic reality, we quickly realized that there was very little guidance for the methods necessary to do this kind of research. Many sources of information were too abstract or conceptual, but also misleading (e.g. “qualitative data are inherently better for studying complex systems”); others were far too technical (e.g. “Lyapunov functions are scalar functions that can be used to measure asymptotic equilibrium in stochastic models”) and did not seem to lend themselves to the kinds of questions that concern us applied linguists.

Methods for doing CDST research did prove elusive at first. But with just a little more digging, we became convinced that certain existing research templates, techniques for data elicitation, and methods of analysis that have a firm complexity basis in other human and social domains did hold promise. This book is the result of that journey we took to learn about already well-established designs and methods for complexity research. Based on our search, and a healthy dose of trial and error, we set out to share a variety of methods for complexity research already in widespread use by social complexivists. In the end, this is the book that we wish we had when we set out nearly a decade ago to explore the issues and questions of interest to us in applied linguistics. We hope it will function like a road map in pointing the way forward to many others who are also interested in the interrelated and dynamic reality of the human and social world.

For more information about this book please see our website

If you found this interesting, you might also like Profiling Learner Language as a Dynamic System edited by ZhaoHong Han.

Chronotopicity: The Inseparability of Time and Space

This month we are publishing Chronotopic Identity Work: Sociolinguistic Analyses of Cultural and Linguistic Phenomena in Time and Space edited by Sjaak Kroon and Jos Swanenberg. In this post the editors discuss how their book explores the concept of chronotopicity.

How often have you encountered a colleague, for instance at an international sociolinguistics conference, who started talking to you about Bakhtin? And how often did you subsequently engage in a somewhat vague and not very satisfying discussion about some of Bakhtin’s central concepts like heteroglossia or chronotopicity?

Over the last few years, chronotopicity has received renewed attention, not only in the field of literary studies where Bakhtin coined it, but also in other scientific fields. The inseparability of time and space also applies to, for example, social interaction and recently several scholars have shed new light on the possible contributions of the concept of chronotopicity to theorizing in sociolinguistics. This almost automatically led to questions on whether and how the concept could be used in empirical, mainly ethnographically-oriented sociolinguistic research.

In our edited volume Chronotopic Identity Work, we attempt to bring together a variety of empirical studies that put some flesh on the bones of the rather abstract chronotopic theorizing as presented thus far in the field of sociolinguistics. By doing so, we aim to show how Bakhtin’s concept of chronotopicity can be used for unraveling the intricate relationships between language, culture and identity in an era of globalization, digitalization and superdiversity.

Our cooperation with colleagues who agreed to face the challenge of using chronotopicity as a central concept in their research has taken us to:

  • young adults in Mongolia interacting on Facebook through mixed and inverted language practices;
  • fame-seeking identity plays by so-called baifumei (white, rich, beautiful, young women), within the Chinese ‘attention economy’;
  • changes in picturing bureaucratic personhood through descriptions with deictics in local newspapers in Indonesia;
  • touristic entertainment in a former traditional rural neighborhood in China;
  • the commodification of cultural heritage and identity work in an ethnic minority community in Enshi, China;
  • navigations of teachers and students between different language regimes in a multicultural school in Denmark;
  • normative behavior and attitudes regarding different language resources in and around school situations in the Netherlands;
  • the construction and meaning of Polish identity in an immigrant community in a superdiverse neighborhood in Belgium.

We think this collection of sociolinguistic analyses through the lens of chronotopicity clearly illustrates how the concept can be used in empirical research and how it contributes to the understanding of identity work in relation to the context of time and space.

Sjaak Kroon and Jos Swanenberg

Department of Culture Studies & Babylon, Center for the Study of Superdiversity, Tilburg University (The Netherlands)

a.p.c.swanenberg@uvt.nl

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Multilingualism, (Im)mobilities and Spaces of Belonging edited by Kristine Horner and Jennifer Dailey-O’Cain.

New Ways of Looking at Language Learning Motivation

This month we published Contemporary Language Motivation Theory: 60 Years Since Gardner and Lambert (1959) edited by Ali H. Al-Hoorie and Peter D. MacIntyre. In this post the editors explain how the idea for the book came about.

The idea behind this book was born during the second Psychology of Language Learning conference (PLL2) in Jyväskylä, Finland. At the conference, which took place in August 2016, Ali and Peter realized that the 60th anniversary of the seminal paper by Gardner and Lambert (1959) entitled “Motivational variables in second language acquisition” (Canadian Journal of Psychology, 13, 266-272) was on the horizon. That 1959 paper was brief, only seven pages in length, but it is one of the most influential papers in applied linguistics because it helped establish motivation as a valuable subject for study, on par with aptitude.

At the PLL2 conference we were able to approach several potential authors to invite them to join this project. To our delight, we received a favorable response from everyone we spoke with, and they encouraged us to go ahead with the project. People appreciate the impact that Robert Gardner, the Father of second language motivation, has had on our field.

While still at the conference, we also approached Laura at the Multilingual Matters desk to pitch this idea. As always, she offered all necessary assistance and encouragement to speed up the process and complete the paperwork and other preparations. The project was born!

Now, as the physical copy of the book comes into our hands, the project has reached a milestone. We hope that it will inspire new ways of looking at language learning motivation in the Gardner tradition. There seems to be a resurgence of interest in all things motivational just now, so perhaps this is coming at the best possible time to inspire new research with a strong connection to well-established theory, methods, and findings. That Gardner’s contribution to all three areas has been sustained over some 60 years is a notable achievement – worth celebrating, and worth continuing.

We think it is worth carrying on the work of looking at the social psychology of motivation for language learning, and the new book suggests a number of exciting new directions for those studies to take. Maybe we will need a 70th anniversary edition as well.

 

For more information about this book please see our website

If you found this interesting, you might also like Motivational Dynamics in Language Learning edited by Zoltán Dörnyei, Peter D. MacIntyre and Alastair Henry.

The 1963 Coral Way Bilingual Program: Looking to the Past and Moving into the Future

This month we published The Coral Way Bilingual Program by Maria R. Coady. In this post the author explains how the book came together.

Among bilingual educators in the US, the name “Coral Way” is a virtual household word. Whenever scholars think about the start of dual language programs, they accurately cite the Coral Way School and its contributions to the field. Yet few know the real stories, people, and energy that went into opening the country’s first publicly funded dual language program – referred to in 1963 simply as “the bilingual program.” This book changes that.

In 2017, I began to read and revisit the early work by Dr. Richard Ruiz and Bess de Farber at the University of Arizona, who collected archival data and oral histories from former teachers, students, and “Cuban Aides” at Coral Way Elementary. An under-examined archive was housed there, but few in our field knew about it.

Coral Way School in 1963

Next I dug deep into archives that hadn’t yet been examined. I unearthed the sole dissertation on Coral Way students from 1968 by Dr. Mabel Richardson. I examined memos, notes, reports and grant applications archived in New York at the Rockefeller Dimes Archive Center on the Ford Foundation. I collected new oral histories from Coral Way teachers and students who participated in the program between 1961 and 1968. The story of Coral Way came more clearly into focus.

The journey I undertook led me across the US and Europe, to newspapers and obituaries, and to academic journals from the 1960s to today. I was astonished that the voices of our antecedents – our bilingual educator roots – remained virtually absent from current conversations, accomplishments, and challenges in bilingual education.

My goal in writing The Coral Way Bilingual Program was not only to document a legacy but, more importantly, to carry the stories of our past into the present and future. I hope this book is a start to connecting these places in time and to advancing our knowledge on behalf of bilingual and multilingual students and families.

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Profiles of Dual Language Education in the 21st Century edited by M. Beatriz Arias and Molly Fee.

Multilingualism – An Asset or A Threat?

We recently published Multilingualism, (Im)mobilities and Spaces of Belonging edited by Kristine Horner and Jennifer Dailey-O’Cain. In this post the editors explain the themes covered in the book.

Like many others in our profession, the two of us are highly mobile people. Each of us changed countries in order to take up our current academic positions – Kristine commutes between the small European country of Luxembourg and the UK, and Jennie relocated from the United States to Canada – and of course our work as linguists is full of regular trips both of the “long-haul” and “short hop” variety.

Even as much of the world we live in considers this kind of mobility of privileged white professional academics as unremarkable, though, the mobility of other kinds of people – such as those from the global South – is often considered far more problematic. While some of us can claim the right to call ourselves “skilled worker immigrants” or even “expats” (a term that conjures up a sort of glamorous yet highly temporary “just passing through” lifestyle), others are dismissed by the societies we live in as “foreign workers” or “migrants”.

It is not all that different with multilingualism. Some forms of it are regarded as an asset or even as an essential skill (such as learning English or French in school and making use of those languages in an eventual work setting), while others can often be deemed problematic or even threatening to national unity. In the end, whether language is a resource, a barrier, or even a site of struggle will tend to come down to who you are, which languages you speak, and especially which contexts you are trying to use those languages in.

Our new book is about what mobility means in different circumstances, some of the different ways that language plays a role in those situations, and how complex social processes play a role in how these occasions and uses of language in those instances are perceived. In addition to our introduction, it includes nine previously unpublished research papers based on fieldwork in Africa, Asia, Australasia and Europe, and three insightful commentaries from experienced researchers that help tie the different papers together. Before publication, many of the contributing authors had the opportunity to discuss work in progress at workshops in Sheffield, England and Cape Town, South Africa. These meetings led to thought-provoking discussions that led us to reflect further on our positionality as scholars. This process was pivotal to the development of the book.

Divided into three thematic sections, the book explores the contestation of spaces and the notion of borders, examines the ways that heritage and authenticity are linked or challenged, and interrogates the intersections between mobility and hierarchies as well as the ways that language can be linked to issues of belonging. We believe that future research will benefit from connecting scholarship in sociolinguistics more closely to scholarship in migration studies and globalization studies. This book is a step along this pathway.

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Sociolinguistic Perspectives on Migration Control edited by Markus Rheindorf and Ruth Wodak.

Are Spanish L1 Users More Direct than English L1 Users in the Workplace?

We recently published Exploring Politeness in Business Emails by Vera Freytag. In this post the author explains what inspired her to write the book.

For several decades, there has been the view in cross-cultural pragmatics that Spanish L1 users reveal a higher level of directness than English L1 users, irrespective of a particular language variety. This view was established and reconfirmed in a wide range of comparative studies by means of data elicitation methods such as the Discourse Completion Task.

Having lived in both language cultures for some time and worked with both English and Spanish L1 users, I was increasingly interested in the question of whether directness and politeness are language-dependent dimensions and to what extent contextual factors play a role in one’s use of linguistic strategies and their perception in terms of directness and politeness. Specifically in the workplace context, does it matter if the sender and recipient know each other well? Does it matter whether the sender is of higher, lower or equal hierarchical status compared to the recipient? Does the communication channel matter? Does it matter whether the sender and recipient are of the same or opposite sex?

When I was given the chance to collect 600 English and Spanish business emails of a Community of Practice that I had worked for for six months, I was excited to immerse myself in this email corpus and investigate the contextual complexities that underlie the event of writing email directives. During the time of data analysis and the challenging task of finding explanations for my – partially unexpected – findings, I soon learned that there are many more factors apart from language that appear to influence the choice and perception of a particular directive strategy. I also learned that the complexity of language use and perception can only be examined through a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods both with regard to the collection and interpretation of the data.

Finally, the book reflects my attempt to shed some light on the interdependencies of language and culture in computer-mediated workplace directives and aims to contribute to the field of cross-cultural pragmatics by providing new insights.

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Objects, Bodies and Work Practice edited by Dennis Day and Johannes Wagner. 

L2 Writing Teacher Education in EFL Contexts

We recently published Second Language Writing Instruction in Global Contexts edited by Lisya Seloni and Sarah Henderson Lee. In this post the editors reveal what to expect from the book.

This book explores the complexity of L2 writing teacher education in English as a foreign language (EFL) contexts where teachers face a number of challenges to enhance learners’ opportunities to write in their L2 based on the disconnect between mainstream English as a second language (ESL) pedagogies around writing instruction and the local needs of students, language policies, and language practices in EFL contexts. By highlighting L2 writing teacher literacy across 12 countries, we aim to expand the current, but limited, discussion on what it means to teach L2 writing in contexts where writing is often perceived as a tool to develop language (specifically grammar and vocabulary) by both teachers and students. Doing so allows us to move beyond the monopoly of related research conducted in English-dominant contexts and re-envision L2 writing teacher education as contextually and culturally appropriate.

The chapters of this book, written by L2 writing specialists and practitioners across the globe, share local voices from contexts where the teaching of writing is not always prioritized and draw readers’ attention to various theoretical and pedagogical issues related to the realities faced by language teachers in non-English dominant contexts when it comes to L2 writing instruction, including teacher expertise, teacher preparation and development, L2 writing feedback, and contextual variations. Through the detailed account of language policies, curricular guidelines, teacher knowledge and classroom practices around L2 writing, we demonstrate the significant differences that exist between English-dominant and non-dominant countries in terms of teaching L2 writing. We do this by showcasing challenges and opportunities experienced around L2 writing teacher preparation and development and making L2 writing teacher education in such contexts more visible in the broader literature.

It is our hope that readers will journey through the complete collection and discover the particularities that inform English teachers’ beliefs, attitudes, and practices related to L2 writing instruction in global contexts and move away from “the uncritical embracement of Western-based L1 or L2 writing pedagogies” (p. 2). Moreover, we hope this book promotes the reflective practice required for positive change by encouraging readers to consider the unique realities and needs of their own language teaching and learning contexts and possible research agendas that would make L2 writing teacher education in their context more visible.

 

For more information about this book please see our website

If you found this interesting, you might also like L2 Writing Beyond English edited by Nur Yiğitoğlu and Melinda Reichelt.

How Best to Conduct Multilingual Ethnographic Research

We recently published Learning and Using Languages in Ethnographic Research edited by Robert Gibb, Annabel Tremlett and Julien Danero Iglesias. In this post the editors explain how the book can help researchers with their multilingual ethnographic research.

Are you a researcher who needs to learn a new language or use another language you already know in order to carry out interviews or fieldwork for a PhD or other research project? If so, there are many important questions you are likely to be asking yourself: What’s the best way for me to try and learn the new language? How long will it take me to become fluent enough to conduct the research successfully? What issues am I likely to encounter when working in another language? How can I prepare myself to address these effectively? Just like the contributors to this volume, you’ve probably searched the existing literature on ethnographic research for answers to such questions and found that it has surprisingly little to say about the learning and use of different languages for research purposes.

Learning and Using Languages in Ethnographic Research aims to help researchers like you to make more informed choices when conducting multilingual ethnographic research. In the book, researchers at different stages of their career offer frank and often moving personal accounts of how they attempted – not always entirely successfully! – to learn and use different languages in their work. The contributors are all concerned in particular with reflecting on how their experiences were shaped by wider structures of power, hierarchy and inequality. Drawing on their combined experience, the volume ends by providing some ‘top tips’ for those intending to learn or use another language in order to carry out ethnographic research.

By breaking the silence that still tends to surround language-related issues in fieldwork, the book aims to help researchers to feel more confident about handling language-related matters in their own work, and also to encourage them to add their own voices to what is a long-overdue debate about the multilingual aspects of ethnographic research!

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Critical Reflections on Research Methods edited by Doris S. Warriner and Martha Bigelow.

The Politics of Language and Identity

This month we published Choosing a Mother Tongue by Corinne A. Seals. In this post the author describes an encounter with language, identity and politics on a visit to Ukraine in the winter of 2017.

While I was writing Choosing a Mother Tongue: The Politics of Language and Identity in Ukraine, I was constantly reflecting on language choice and use, especially when I would find myself at a Ukrainian community event with a Ukrainian language conversation happening to my left and a Russian language conversation happening to my right. However, the power of the politics of language and identity struck me particularly during a visit to Ukraine in the winter of 2017.

I had been in L’viv (Western Ukraine), traveled to Kyiv (Central Ukraine), and had just arrived back again in L’viv to the same hotel and same restaurants in which I had spent time during the first part of the trip. However, while I had been very conscious of my language use when first in L’viv (sticking to Ukrainian to align with the preference of most people in this city), I had just been in Kyiv where language choice and use was more fluid and where my hosts were Russian dominant speakers. Additionally, my trip back to L’viv had been during a snowstorm, and in an exhausted state I was not as conscious of my language use.

L’viv during the snowstorm

When I went to grab a quick dinner at the restaurant next to where I was staying, I was bemused by the insistence of the maître d’ that she couldn’t understand me. “Surely,” I thought, “there must be something I’m doing wrong if this hasn’t happened to me before.” It was then that I realized I had been speaking to her in Russian (due to having just returned from Kyiv), but I was in a Crimean Tatar restaurant in L’viv.

This context is significant, as the Crimean Tatars have repeatedly been displaced by both the Soviet and Russian governments in history and had just been displaced again from Crimea not long before my trip to Ukraine. Recognizing my major faux pas, I switched to Ukrainian and apologized before repeating my request in Ukrainian. The maître d’ smiled slightly, nodded in acknowledgement, and proceeded with our conversation.

A Ukrainian poem in L’viv about language and identity by famous poet, Lesya Ukrainka

Now, Russian and Ukrainian are similar enough that most people can at least loosely understand one if you speak the other. So, this was highly unlikely to be a case of not having proficiency in a language. Rather (and as further informed by our interaction), this was a political statement reflecting linguistic history and identity. It was more important for the maître d’ to uphold her linguistic principles than to make the transaction. However, my awareness and acknowledgement of this, as well as my subsequent linguistic alignment with her, meant that all was again equal.

This is one of many examples that speaks to the strength of connection between language and identity, as well as the importance of being aware of current and historical events related to language and politics wherever you are.

Corinne Seals (Mykytka), Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

corinne.seals@vuw.ac.nz

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Language, Identity and Education on the Arabian Peninsula edited by Louisa Buckingham.

Travelling to Frankfurt Book Fair

The Frankfurt Book Fair is one of our most important events each year to promote our publications, meet with our bookselling and distribution contacts, learn about the future trends in publishing, and generally take the pulse of the industry for the next year. It is always an exhausting week, with back-to-back meetings set every 30 minutes for three days, and socialising and networking opportunities in the evenings.

With such a punishing schedule at the fair, we have always felt that we should make the travel as pleasant and as relaxing as possible, and so in recent years we have taken a scenic drive with an overnight ferry trip and lunch stops in the beautiful Rhine valley to enjoy. Following a car accident that left my car unusable just weeks before the fair this year, we were left with a decision to make. Should we fly to the fair? In the 22 years that I’ve been visiting the fair, I have only flown twice, and the memory of Frankfurt airport full of tens of thousands of book trade contacts trying to leave the city after the fair is firmly etched on my memory, so we decided to return to travelling by train. In the five years since I last travelled by train, connections and frequency of trains along the route have improved, and as such we were easily able to leave Bristol in the early morning, and with just one cross-London underground trip and a change of trains in Brussels, we arrived in Frankfurt by the mid-afternoon to set up our stand. During this time we were able to sit back and relax, eat at our seats in the train, and spread our work out and prepare for our meetings in a very civilised manner. We were even lucky enough to have our own compartment on the Brussels-Frankfurt leg of the journey, which felt very like a step back to the age of Agatha Christie. Thankfully though there were no mysteries to be solved!

Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof

After three days of successful meetings at the fair, we again boarded the train at Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof, and were able to write up all of our post-book fair reports during the first leg of the journey, before a quick lunch at Brussels Midi. The train connections worked seamlessly, and we were back in Bristol in time for dinner on the Saturday evening.

We may have saved a few hours had we travelled by air, but by taking the train we saved ourselves the trouble of first travelling to the airport, then the hassle of check-in, security, and then waiting in departures, before a cramped flight and another wait for bags. Coupled with the environmental benefit of travelling by train, it really wasn’t a difficult choice and it’s one that we will most likely choose to make again in the future!

Tommi

Ever wondered what the Frankfurt Book Fair is like? In 2017 Laura and Tommi filmed every aisle of every hall! You can watch the video here.