Главная страница «Первого сентября»Главная страница журнала «Английский язык»Содержание №1/2007



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 Hutchinson’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 – 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 be functional styles.

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 Specific Purposes.

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 and training.

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. We’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 dictionaries.


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.

3. Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited, 2001.

4. Lukszyn J. Jezyk specjalistyczny a myslenie zawodowe, вЂ