Crosslinguistic perspectives on L2 studies

A new AILA Research Network on Crosslinguistic perspectives on second language studies: terms and concepts in French and English has been approved. Twenty-one colleagues from 15 institutions in 5 countries will be working together on this topic over the next three years in a series of events including a symposium at the AILA conference in Groningen in 2020. Henry Tyne of Perpignan University and Shona Whyte are co-convenors.

Présentation en français


A main preoccupation of applied linguistics has historically been second and foreign language teaching. Indeed, the original name of the AILA organisation at its creation in 1964 was the Association internationale de linguistique appliquée à l’enseignement des langues vivantes.[1] Today, although the umbrella term applied linguistics has been extended to other disciplines and concerns, research on the teaching and learning of second or foreign languages remains a key area of our field (Long, 2017; Widdowson, 2017). In French-speaking countries like France, however, the term linguistique appliquéeis no longer used by most scholars (Carton et al., 2015; Kramsch, 2009). This terminological slippage is problematic for an international organisation named after the French acronym, which seeks to appeal to a contemporary interdisciplinary interpretation of the field.

The diversification of research objectives, methods, and applications over the past fifty years has, perhaps inevitably, led to divergences in research traditions and in the disciplinarisation and institutionalisation of particular domains of applied linguistics in different AILA member countries, particularly as far as language learning and teaching is concerned (Smith & Iamartino, 2017; compare also Cuq, 2003 and Loewen & Reinders, 2011). The result is fragmentation and often miscommunication: research communities often working in closely related fields may not be aware of relevant research and findings of interest to all; those who do communicate may not understand one another’s contributions.  As a result, time and energy have necessarily been devoted to redefining terms, or motivating and explaining research frameworks for a wider audience, sometimes at the expense of advancing research agendas: “as if we had shown more concern for staking out the territory than building the house,[2]” in the words of one French commentator (Berthet, 2011).

The crosslinguistic perspectives on L2 studies network seeks to improve collaboration across French-speaking and English-speaking scholarly communities by offering a forum for participants to review, clarify, and update terms and concepts in second language acquisition, second and foreign language teaching, educational linguistics, and language education across the two languages.

Scope of the research network

The network seeks to address questions of conceptual and terminological correspondence and distinction in the area of L2 teaching and learning research, particularly with respect to French-speaking and English-speaking scholarly communities.

The objectives are to

  • identify domains of broad agreement (concepts and theories for which satisfactory translation equivalents exist; subfields where these coincide);
  • pinpoint particularly difficult areas (crosslinguistic gaps, terminological mismatch) and propose solutions to bridge gaps there; and
  • consider the utility and feasibility of a database of French and English terms in second language studies/didactique des langues.

This enterprise, while defined in relation to a specific bilingual project (a dictionary, encyclopedia or glossary), will necessarily involve broader discussion of epistemological, theoretical, and methodological issues related to second language studies/didactique des langues, including but not limited to corpus linguistics, translation studies, intercultural approaches, language for specific purposes, and CALL research, as well as praxeological concerns. This network will thus offer opportunities to continue long-running debate in AILA on definitions and directions for the field of applied linguistics.

We are aware that our project is both ambitious and fairly specific, and would no doubt benefit from a wider perspective including other languages and research cultures. In German-speaking contexts, for example, there is also extensive overlap among the terms Angewandte LinguistikFremdsprachenforschung, Sprachlehr-und lernforschung, and Fremdsprachendidaktik. We propose, however, to begin with the French/English perspectives which are of immediate concern to initial members of the network. Naturally if progress is significant and a second term for the network seems worthwhile, it would be useful to extend the project to additional research cultures and languages (e.g., major European languages, East Asian languages).

Participants and their affiliations

Aix en Provence Marco Cappellini Aix Marseille University
Montpellier Amanda Edmonds Université Paul-Valéry, Montpellier 3
Nancy Alex Boulton Université de Lorraine
Nice Jean-Pierre Cuq ; Simona Ruggia ; Shona Whyte  Université Côte d’Azur
Paris Alice Burrows ; Jean-Paul Narcy-Combes  Paris 3 Sorbonne
  Natalie Kübler Paris 7 Didérot
Perpignan Henry Tyne Université de Perpignan Via Domitia
Réunion Christian Ollivier Université de la Réunion
Rouen Grégory Miras Université de Rouen Normandie
Cork Martin Howard University College Cork
Limerick Fiona Farr ;  Liam Murray  University of Limerick
Alberta Martine Pellerin University of Alberta, AB, Canada
Toronto Jeffrey Steele University of Toronto, ON, Canada
Berkeley Claire Kramsch University of California at Berkeley, CA, US
Pennsylvania Kevin McManus Pennsylvania State University, PA, US
Neuchâtel Alain Kamber ; Maud Dubois  Université de Neuchâtel

The 21 participants in our network include new and experienced researchers in a range of areas of second language studies: French as a foreign language (Cuq, Dubois, Kamber, Ollivier, Ruggia), corpus linguistics (Boulton, Burrows, Kübler), CALL (Cappellini, Murray, Whyte), L2 acquisition (Edmonds, McManus, Steele), as well as teacher education (Pellerin, Farr), L2 sociolinguistics and study abroad (Howard, Tyne), intercultural competence (Kramsch) and epistemology (Miras, Narcy-Combes). The French AILA affiliate AFLA is fully represented (Boulton, Kübler, Miras, Narcy-Combes, Whyte).

Plan for ReN activities

Specific details of ReN events remain to be determined and will depend on the outcome of local applications for funding and related scientific meetings. Network members have provisionally agreed to the following plan:

2018 Journée d’études/colloquium/digital symposium Limerick/Nice/Perpignan
2019 Colloque AFLA: Crosslinguistic perspectives on L2 studies (France)
Journée d’études/colloquium/digital symposium Aix/Montpellier
2020 AILA symposium Groningen


Berthet, M. (2011). La linguistique appliquée à l’enseignement des langues secondes aux Etats-Unis, en France et en Grande-Bretagne. Histoire Épistémologie Langage, 33(1), 83-97.

Carton, F., Narcy-Combes, J-P., Narcy-Combes,M-F., & Toffoli, D. (2015). (Eds). Cultures de recherche en linguistique appliquée. Paris : Riveneuve.

Cuq, J-P. (2003). Dictionnaire de didactique du français langue étrangère et seconde. Paris: CLE international.

Kramsch, C. (2009). La circulation transfrontalière des valeurs dans un projet de recherche international. Le Francais dans le Monde, 46: 66-77.

Loewen, S., & Reinders, H. (2011). Key concepts in second language acquisition. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Long, M. (2017). Instructed second language acquisition (ISLA): geopolitics, methodological issues, and some major research questions. ISLA, 1(1): 7-44.

Smith, R., & Iamartino, G. (2017). History of Language Learning and Teaching: Perspectives on Innovation. AILA Congress, Rio de Janeiro, July.

Widdowson, H. (2017). Disciplinarity and disparity in applied linguistics. BAAL conference, Leeds, September.

[1] International association of linguistics applied to the teaching of modern languages

[2] « comme si l’on s’était davantage soucié de borner le terrain plutôt que de construire la maison » (Berthet, 2011: 96)