Thursday, January 19, 2017

ESP Historical Debates

ESP Historical Debates

The field of EAP (English for Academic Purposes)
Jordan (1997)
The surveys cover a wide range of topics but do not deal with theory and ideas in detail.
The literature has tended to focus primarily on practical issues, a point noted by Dudley-Evans & St. John (1998): “It is interesting and significant that so much of the writing has concentrated on the procedures of ESP and on relating course design to learners, specific needs rather than on theoretical matters” (p.1)

ESP (English for Specific Purposes)

Dudley-Evans & St. John (1998)
Where there has been discussion of ideas in the literature, this discussión has mostly focused on which descriptions of language can best inform ESP.

Approaches to language description in ESP
One early approach was based on counting the frequency of linguistic forms in a given register. Barber (1962/1985) identified the frequency of a number of syntactic forms in written scientific prose by analysis of a corpus of texts from a mixture of scientific disciplines (electronics, biochemistry, and astronomy) and genres.

The approach was later critiqued for failing to identify the purposes for which the forms were used.

Subsequent analyses (for example Tarone, Dwyer, Gillette, and Icke’s 1981 study of passives in astrophysics) aimed to identify both linguistic  forms and the purposes for which they were used (Flowerdew and Peackock, 2001).
The history of ESP’s adoption of such approaches has been a recurrent focus of interest in the literature. It is reported in Robinson (1991). Dudley-Evans and St. John (1998), and Flowerdew and Peackock (2001).
Swales’ seminal work, Episodes in ESP (1985), reflects the preoccupation of ESP with practical aspects of course and materials design and with language descriptions.
Generally, ESP has not been much concerned with the debates and issues emerging in recent years in the field of second language acquisition (Dudley-Evans & St. John, 1998; Bloor, 1998). Published reports of research focusing on language acquisition in ESP have been limited. One exception is the study of interlanguage use in relation to discourse domains by Selinker and Douglas (1985). It has also been noted that few studies have set out to investigate the effectiveness of ESP courses (Dudley-Evans & St. John, 1998).

The objective of ESP teaching
In the early years of ESP, the objective was seen in terms of imparting linguistic knowledge with ESP functioning to reveal the facts about the linguistic features of subject-specific language (Swales, 1985)

Later it was seen in terms of training students in communicative repertoires characteristic of target situations (Munby, 1978)

More recently, proposals include the notion that ESP should teach students concepts from their discipline, as well as language, in order to develop their “underlying competence” (Hutchinson & Waters, 1985)
The role of ESP in society
Ideological worries are surfacing and calls are being made for critical ESP.
Master (1998) argues that inasmuch as English dominates today’s world and is the established lingua franca of science, technology, and business, ESP “holds a pivotal position in regard to the use or abuse of his power” (p. 716).

Adapted from the book Ideas and Options in English for Specific Purposes, by Helen Basturkmen, 2006.

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