English for Specific Purposes: Some Influences and Impacts

  • Ken HylandEmail author
Reference work entry
Part of the Springer International Handbooks of Education book series (SIHE)


The field of English for Specific Purposes (ESP) addresses the communicative needs and practices of particular professional or occupational groups. It draws its strength from an eclectic theoretical foundation and a commitment to research-based language education, which seeks to reveal the constraints of social contexts on language use and the ways learners can gain control over these. In other words, it challenges the theory-practice divide and makes visible academic and professional genres to students. In this chapter, I briefly point to some of the major ideas and practices that influence ESP, focusing on needs analysis, ethnography, critical approaches, intercultural rhetoric, social constructionism, and discourse analysis. I then go on to look briefly at some of the effects ESP has had on language teaching and research, arguing that it has encouraged teachers to highlight discourse rather than language, to adopt a research orientation to their work, to employ collaborative pedagogies, to be aware of discourse variation, and to consider the wider political implications of their role. Together these features of ESP practice emphasize a situated view of literacy and underline the applied nature of the field.


Needs analysis Genre Teachers as researchers Social constructionism 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of East AngliaNorwichUK

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