Wednesday Seminar: A multilingual perspective on Languages for Specific Purposes: ESP, "anglais de spécialité", and the characterization of professional domains

Séverine Wozniak, Assistant Professor at the University of Grenoble Alpes, will give a talk on English for Specific Purposes in different professional domains.

NB! Our "Wednesday" seminar will be held on Thursday, October 24.

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This paper comes within the framework of the characterization of specialized professional domains from a multilingual perspective in applied linguistics, more specifically with reference to English for Specific Purposes (ESP) research and its French counterpart. It focuses on the work of French researchers in the field of “anglais de spécialité” (ASP), and the French approach to ESP studies, which Resche prefers to speak of in terms of “Specialized Varieties of English” (SVE) which she defines as follows:

Unlike ESP research, SVE research is not primarily focused on teaching and meeting learners’ needs, and can even be conducted without teaching in mind. A major difference is also that ESP practitioners seem to take only the synchronic axis into consideration, while SVE researchers are also increasingly interested in the insights afforded by a diachronic approach. As language specialists, researchers in SVE naturally rely on language as a gateway to a specific domain, but language as such is not the sole object of research: beyond language, researchers investigate the domain’s origins, history, culture, features, heroes and principal players, as well as their particular discursive habits. (Resche 2013: 42-43)

Given these divergences, the question arises as to how ESP and SVE research can combine to help shape our knowledge of professional domains? In order to answer this question, we first deal with the fundamental notions of professions and professional identity. We also take into account the three functions which help to characterize specialized domains as described by Petit (2010: 10): the regulatory function (the organization of the institutional functioning and management of a given domain), the operative function (the implementation of the various actions constitutive of a given domain) and the training function (the design and development of training programs designed to develop the various domain actors’ professional skills).

In this perspective, we next go on to look at the relevance of ethnography as a support discipline for ESP and ASP research, and the valuable insights it affords researchers with regard to the actual nature of professional expertise. In this context we examine the central role of fieldwork in ESP and ASP research and introduce a model which seeks to characterize specialized professional domains in the light of ethnographic studies, the purpose of which is key to our discipline, as underlined by Isani:

In terms of our discipline, if the purpose is to focus on text-linguistics from a lexico-grammatical perspective, a machine-mediated in vitro approach suffices adequately; if, on the other hand, the purpose is to study language as a form of human interaction in all the complexity of its context of situation, the in vivo approach practiced by ethnographers certainly allows for deeper insights and a fuller picture. (Isani 2014: 30)

To conclude, we present an application of this research, as represented by our commitment to the European Language for Work network, and contribution to the “Language for Work: Tools for Professional Development” (2016-2019) project, initiated and funded by the European Center for Modern Languages (CELV/ECML) in Graz (Austria). The research work carried out within the network since 2012, with the organization of several seminars and interactive workshops, has foregrounded the issue of the linguistic integration of adult migrants and a wider reflection on the definition of professional language skills.


Isani, Shaeda. 2014. Ethnography as a research-support discipline in ESP teaching, learning and research in the French academic context. ASp 66, 27-39.

Petit, Michel. 2010. Le discours spécialisé et le spécialisé du discours: repères pour l’analyse du discours en anglais de spécialité. E-rea [online] 8 (1) <>.

Resche, Catherine. 2013. Economic Terms and Beyond: Capitalising on the Wealth of Notions, Linguistic Insights 176. Bern, Peter Lang.


About the speaker

Dr. Séverine Wozniak is an assistant professor in English for Specific Purposes and has taught economic (EAP) and business (EOP) English for over 20 years at Grenoble Faculty of Economics (France). Her primary research interests lie in the areas of applied linguistics and include discourse analysis, language for specific purposes, ethnographic research methods in a specialized context and the description of specialized varieties of English. As she has also served as Vice President for International Relations and Language Policy at Pierre Mendes France University (Grenoble, France) for several years and was also the director of the Center for Modern Languages at that time, another area of interest focuses on language policy, language teaching to non-specialist students, and more particularly on the place and role of languages for specific purposes in French university programs.

Published Sep. 4, 2019 11:28 AM - Last modified Oct. 21, 2019 9:39 PM