Language for Specific Purposes is probably the most challenging branch
in linguistics. The term LSP has been in use for a quarter of a century now, and its
definition can be found in many issues on the subject that followed the first, classical,
edition by T. Hutchinson and A. Waters (English for Specific Purposes, CUP, 1987).
The authors illustrated their idea by a picture of a tree (see p. 16). In the
picture, English for Specific Purposes is opposed to General English, usually taught for
exam purposes. The conclusion we can come to is that ESP is teaching English for other
than exam purposes, e.g. work or study. Climbing further up HutchinsonвЂ™s tree, we can
find the division into three branches of relatively general specification: English for
Science and Technology, English for Business and Economics, and English for Social
Sciences, each of which being then further split into English for Occupational Purposes
and English for Academic Purposes, respectively, and, finally, at the top, we can see
particular outcomes: English for Medical Studies, English for Technicians, English for
Economics, English for Secretaries, English for Psychology and English for Teaching.
Further development of the basic principles of LSP found its
realization and understanding in great diversity of definitions and in a considerable
difference of opinion as to its nature, status and subject matter.
Language for specific purposes belongs to language means used by
experts communicating within their areas of expertise, that is why it is often referred to
as an occupational variety.
In European linguistic tradition there are some more terms applied to
this sphere of linguistic studies such as registers of speech, language varieties or
functional styles. There is much divergence of opinion as regards the proper term
and it is related to the general consideration of this linguistic phenomenon вЂ“ whether
it is treated as a scientific discipline, or as a professional area. The term that
connects theory and practice and backs the dictum that language is a system of
communication which is used by the people of a particular country, seems to befunctional
A functional style can be defined as a system of
coordinated and interrelated language means intended to fulfill a specific function of
communication and aiming at a definite effect. The peculiar choice of language means is
primarily dependent on the aim of communication. Each style is recognized by the language
community as an independent whole.
However, the most popular term employed in Europe is Language for
Language for specific purposes is a particular form of a
general language, adjusted in such a way as to describe a certain area of knowledge or of
activity as precisely as possible. It can be identified as a conventionalized semiotic
system based on a natural language and characterized by a cognitive function which
indicates the development of civilization, serves as an instrument of professional work
All special varieties of language can be described in terms of
universals inherent in them: semantic monosemy (words have only one meaning), syntactic
hypotaxis (the linking of dependent clauses by means of conjunctions), stylistic
(emotional) neutrality and morphological simplification (short one-root words). Additional
characteristics of LSP can be found in its identification as a particular form of general
language, adjusted in such a way as to describe a given area of knowledge or technology as
precisely as possible. It is conspicuous by special lexis (including international terms),
syntax and a frequent usage of certain grammatical forms.
The central object of linguistic discussions is term. WeвЂ™ll omit a
detailed review of this fundamental notion and state that a term is traditionally
understood as a word or a word-group, which is specially employed by a particular branch
of science, technology or the arts to convey a concept peculiar to this particular
activity. Terms constitute the bulk of special lexis, and can be described in terms of
semantic uniqueness, systemic nature, conceptual cohesion and thematic divisibility. A
scientific discipline whose object of research is terms, belonging to different subject
areas of human knowledge, is terminology.
A term is only a part of a conceptual system, which is generally
considered to be temporary, and its meaning can be described as systemic and, inevitably,
changeable. Specialist lexicons comprise professional and conventional terminology: the
former is used by professionals and activity groups, whereas the latter is created by
artificial means in order to consolidate professional, intellectual and practical
procedures. Conventional terminology contains terms of scientific and technical
nomenclature. Scientific nomenclature includes categorical, procedural and relation terms
as well as quasi-terms typical of that area, pre-terms and individual terms. Technical
nomenclature comprises terms of objects, actions and qualities.
The words of general language go through the stage of quasi-terms to
become terms. A word may function as a quasi-term or a pseudo-term in its own right, and
as such be defined as a word representing a concept but not defined explicitly, or a word
characterized like a term but without a terminological meaning. Both types of lexical
units, i.e. words converted into terms and actual terms designate concepts that form a
given subject area.
Special terminologies are registered and standardized in terminological
1. Casselman W. A Dictionary of Medical Derivations. London, New
York: The Parthenon Publishing Group, 1998.
2. Hutchinson T., Waters A. English for Specific Purposes.
Cambridge: CUP, 1987.