Martha Crago bids farewell to Applied Psycholinguistics
This is the end of my seventeen years as an editor of Applied Psycholinguistics. I began as an avid reader of the journal and then started to work as a co-editor with Usha Goswami in 2001. When we took over that year, we started by changing the journal’s cover. Looking back, I find it sort of silly to worry about a cover. I think we and Cambridge University Press saw it as our way of declaring a new editorship. The cover, in fact, remained red but now a human head was portrayed on it with the eyes, ears and mouth highlighted and many unrecognizable alphabet-looking figures printed all across the head that was depicted in shades of white and pink. As I look at it now, I believe it is a man’s head. This did not occur to me at the time. What I do remember is that Usha and I decided to state very explicitly on the cover that this was a journal of “psychological and linguistic studies across languages and learners”, believing that this widened its purview over that indicated by the single word ‘psycholinguistics’. We hoped that it would attract articles about a greater variety of languages and learners.
By 2005, Usha had returned to do her research with increased vigor and I remained as a sole editor. Guess what? The press and I changed the cover again. This cover caught my eye as I fondly pawed through my hard copies before writing this introduction to my farewell virtual journal. This time the cover was still red, although a deeper, brighter red. However, now there are two heads in profile as though in dialogue and reference to each other. One has stronger bigger features and one has smaller more refined ones. Are they a man and woman? These heads are darker, in shades of red and black, but mostly black. Curiously, I don’t remember discussing gender and race as we designed the cover. Printed across this cover are words from various languages and in different scripts and the editor’s name, has changed from a central location in quite large print to tiny print at the bottom of the cover.
These covers tell us a few things as they change from their early muted red to more self-assured deeper brighter red, from the unrecognizable letters and a single white male head to words and recognizable languages and scripts and two darker shaded people, one male and one female, poised for interaction, and, lastly, from the central positioning of the editors’ names to a single one who seems to be moving away, almost falling off the page. Indeed, I am moving off and was, over the years, moving places. The covers trace my moves from an English language university in Montreal to a French language one in the same city and then one in Atlantic Canada and now this past year back to my original home base at McGill University. It makes me wonder where the next editor, Rachel Hayes-Harb, will be as the years pass and which kind of cover design she and the press will choose next. In fact, will there even be a cover on a fully electronic journal?
In the end, what matters most is what is between the covers. In this virtual issue, I have tried to select a sampling of some of the riches found inside the covers of Applied Psycholinguistics during the time that I was an editor. The first article is, of course, one by Usha Goswami and her colleagues, printed in 2003. It is in the topic area of reading, a research area that was strongly represented in the journal from the outset and remains that way today. Her article concerns non-word reading across orthographies with a brilliant design to tease apart the effects of orthography from that of words and their meaning. From that same year, you will also find one of the many very frequently cited articles written by Bialystok and her colleagues. This one highlights the importance of phonological awareness in reading. Following it, I have changed perspectives and included a study by Deacon and her colleagues that focuses on words and the ways in which their various roots relate to children’s ability to read. Moving on, Oller and colleagues expand our understanding of reading by using a language and literacy based approach to the topic. Interestingly, their work was published just as that year’s new cover introduced real words and languages. Now the fun begins. In the next three articles, Kieffer and colleagues, McBride-Chang and colleagues and Wang and colleagues, in turn, explore morphological awareness and reading comprehension, morphological awareness and vocabulary and finally a sweep across phonology, orthography and morphology in one single study. We have gone all the way from non-words and orthographies to grammatical awareness as well as to how grammar and phonology interact with orthographies in reading.
The separation of the words ‘psychological’ and ‘linguistic’ on the cover in 2002 led me to choose the next two articles. In the first of these, White and colleagues address gender and number in a well- argued linguistic study. This is followed by the work of her student and my postdoc,Theres Gruter, who brings to light the singular role of object clitics. These authors were my colleagues at McGill University where Lydia White and her students conducted numerous studies using a generative approach to second language acquisition.
The use of two different experimental methodological approaches to language are described in the next two articles, one by Ellis and colleagues and the other by Kidd. The first uses eye-tracking methodology to great advantage and the second is an excellent example of priming studies. To contrast with those studies, I chose to follow them with two studies that investigate social environments. Scheele and colleagues look at the home environments of bilingual children and Pearson addresses a series of social factors related to dual language learning.
Finally, the last four articles are close to my own area of research. Rice and colleagues do an excellent job of characterizing developmental language disorders and Johanne Paradis’ work in this and her other articles in the journal opens our eyes to bilingual children with specific language impairment. Mable Rice was one of a group of wonderful researchers who mentored me from a distance when I began my own research career and Johanne was a brilliant postdoc who taught me more than I taught her. The next article by Mayberry is one of her many very well-crafted studies of sign language. This one focuses on the timing of learning and its findings have striking implications for other languages and learners. To accompany it and to bring this virtual journal to a close, I chose a study on the progression from gestures to early words by Oezcaliskan and colleagues. For me, these last two articles remind us that the ear, mouth and eye on that early 2001 cover do not do an adequate job of representing the richness of language and neither do the two heads on the cover of 2005. This is because our hands can talk and they also accompany talk and lead to talk.
No matter what the covers have looked like, the breadth and range of the work inside them have been a real joy for me. In one single journal the authors of Applied Psycholinguistics have taken us, as readers, across many different languages and language processes, research methodologies, types and ages of learners and theoretical approaches. There have been studies for many different kinds of readers as well as works that pull and tug each of us out of our own disciplinary comfort zone into new and varied research spheres and different ways of understanding the extraordinary phenomenon of human language learning. Psycholinguistics is, after all, one of the great multidisciplinary adventures of science. I am humbled to have worked with all the people who have contributed to bringing that adventure to you. My thanks go to the authors, to the editorial board members, to the associate editors who have worked exceptionally hard as the journal continued to increase in popularity, to a host of talented publishing editors and staff at Cambridge University Press and finally, to two people whose names never appeared in print on either of the two covers, Amy Buckland and Susy Bienstock. Each one of them, during their time as the journal’s coordinator, made a remarkable difference to the work of all the others.
This collection of articles is freely available for a limited time. Click here to read.