Applied linguistics goes beyond ideal matters of linguistic meaning and into the real world of human interaction It relates theory (and theories) to practice So its concerns reach into questions of ‘being’ itself The influential philosophy of the human sciences, critical realism, begins with questions of being It views the non-human properties of the social world as real entities, especially the reasons and accounts that people offer to interpret the material and immaterial aspects of their worlds If applied linguists were to take these accounts more seriously, applied linguistics might contribute more directly to improving the human condition After locating applied linguistics within its implicit theories of knowledge, this article outlines critical realism as a philosophy, comparing it with the work of prominent social theorists, and arguing for its clear relevance to applied linguistics The article presents six areas in applied linguistics that might be reformed the hegemonic nature of theories, dictionary-making, language planning, linguistic nomenclatures, the treatment of standard and non-standard varieties, and the delivery of second language programs The author ends by arguing that if critical realism were to become a guiding philosophy for applied linguistics, then the epistemology ethically suited to the field would be a much more inclusive theory of knowledge than the one that presently dominate

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