The field of applied linguistics first concerned itself with second language learning, in particular errors and contrastive analysis in the 1950s and 1960s. In the 1970s with the failure of contrastive analysis as a theory to predict errors, applied linguists began to adopt Chomsky's theory of Universal Grammar to explain second language learning phenomena. In the 1990s, more and more researchers began to employ research methods from cognitive psychology.
The American Association for Applied Linguistics formed in the 1970s when it began holding separate conferences from the Linguistic Society of America. Britain and Canada have similar associations while the Association Internationale de Linguistique Appliquée serves a more international forum.
Major journals include Studies in Second Language Acquisition, Modern Language Review, Language Learning, Applied Linguistics, AILA Journal and the TESOL Journal.