Applied linguistics it seems to be a not very easy concept to define, because many people would think different things when it comes to applied linguistics. Indeed, for many years those who carry out applied linguistics seem do not agree upon a universal definition. However, what it is true for all of them is the fact that there is a gap that needs to be filled in terms of defining applied linguistics. The definition of the problem is probably due to the lack of agreement on what is to be applied? There are people who claim for a dictionary definition which say that applied linguistics has a core, and they do not accept supposed definitions.
For example, Widdowson claims that applied linguistics has a core and he rejects the claim that says that applied linguistics is a mixture of many disciplines. On the other hand Widdowson and Cook believed that “the task of applied linguistics is to mediate between linguistics and language use”. Another definition of applied linguistics by Guy Cook is “the academic discipline concerned with the relation of knowledge about language to decision making in that real world”. However, the scope of applied linguistics is still not very clear.
It is important to mention that the definitions of Applied Linguistics have been closely related with its scope, and most of the initial definitions were closely related with an educational branch, particularly because its scope was the researched pedagogy of language teaching. During the 1950s, the focus was on structural and functional linguistics, which could be applied to language teaching and literacy in first and second language. Years later, more and more focus where added, as language assessment, language policies and second language acquisition, all these, focused on learning rather than teaching.
Real world problems rather than theoretical explorations where also included, language assessment, second acquisition, literacy, multilingualism, language minority rights language planning and policy teacher training. Nevertheless, language teaching remains important. During the last two decades many subfields, beyond language teaching and language learning, have been incorporated: language assessment, language policy and planning, language use in professional settings, translation, and lexicography, multilingualism, language and technology and corpus inguistics.
So basically this means that applied linguistics has not been limited to language teaching only. In fact, according to Zoltan Dornyei (CUP 2009, 3) “it is a somewhat eclectic field that accommodates diverse theoretical approaches and its interdisciplinary scope includes linguistic, psychological and educational topics”. It is during the 1990s when Applied Linguistics finally assumes the incorporation of supporting disciplines, such as psychology, education, anthropology, sociology, political science, among other.
These incorporations help even more to make a difference between Linguistics and Applied Linguistics, as Juliane House (CUP 2009,5) states “Applied linguistics is not ‘linguistics applied’, because Applied Linguistics deals with many more issues than purely linguistic ones, and because disciplines such as psychology, sociology, ethnography, anthropology, educational research, communication and media studies also inform applied linguistic research. “
In other words ‘Linguistic applied’ is just the application of linguistic models, while Applied Linguistics studies the whole picture, including the analysis of many others disciplines like psychology, neuroscience, sociology, law, medicine, etc. and also models and theories. As these disciplines were included, the universe of language-related problems grew. So Guy Cook (2003:20) enlightened linguists pointing out that there is a systematic way to classify the kind of problems we are concerned with in order to solve them. In other words, we need to refer to specific instances to more general conceptual areas of study.