General and specific EAP

Authored by: Ken Hyland

The Routledge Handbook of English for Academic Purposes

Print publication date:  January  2016
Online publication date:  January  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138774711
eBook ISBN: 9781315657455
Adobe ISBN: 9781317328100


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What sets English for academic purposes (EAP) apart from general language study is its focus on specific, purposeful uses of language. Cummins (1982) refers to specific purposes texts as using ‘context-reduced’ language which tends to be abstract, and seems to rely less heavily for its coherence on an immediate context than the language of everyday interaction. EAP students are studying English for a particular practical need which means curriculum designers study target language features in specific academic contexts, and teachers focus on these features in their classrooms. The idea of specificity, then, has come to influence the kinds of data researchers collect, the ways they collect it, and the theories they use to understand it. Equally importantly, a focus on specificity has shaped the field’s heavy dependence on a strong research orientation, and led to the development and sharpening of key concepts such as genre, authenticity, discourse community, communicative purpose, and audience. But while the notion of specificity is at the heart of most definitions of EAP, debates continue over just how specific its purposes should be.

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