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What Is The ‘Academic Purpose’ Of ‘English’ In ‘English For Academic Purposes’?

Pilcher, Nick; Richards, Kendall



Lap Tuen Wong

Wai Lam Wong


In this chapter, we suggest abandoning the current form of EAP for a form of EAP that is actively explorative of and taught within individual subject contexts. We argue that for students to meet the ‘academic purposes’ in academic subjects requires them to think in these subjects, and that this thinking is expressed through the contextualised ‘English’ they use. Accordingly, we argue that although many of the base elements of EAP (e.g. focus on academic style, organisation of content and so on) are sound, the underlying ‘academic purpose’ of the ‘English’ in ‘English for Academic Purposes’ is linguistic, and only trains students to think ‘English for Academic Purposes’. Instead, the ‘English’ to prepare and support students in their subjects must be aligned with the ‘academic purpose’ and thinking of those subjects. We first review literature related to EAP and then review theories and empirical studies around the importance of context and thought to language. Following this, we draw on empirical data from interviews with subject content lecturers in the broad subject areas of Psychology, Nursing, Engineering, and Design regarding the ‘academic purposes’ of describing and critically evaluating an object (in this case a teapot) from their subject perspective. What these lecturers say illustrates how the ‘academic purpose’ of the ‘English’ for their subjects necessitates thinking in the subject. We argue that we need to be teaching (and students need to be learning) thinking, ‘academic purpose’ and ‘English’ in the academic subjects, and not teaching the subject of English. We propose an existential refocusing of current EAP, from its current linguistic focus, to one that explores and emulates the ‘academic purpose’ of the ‘English’ in subjects and develops this usage through training students to think in the subject.


Pilcher, N., & Richards, K. (2017). What Is The ‘Academic Purpose’ Of ‘English’ In ‘English For Academic Purposes’?. In L. Tuen Wong, & W. Lam Wong (Eds.), Teaching and Learning English for Academic Purposes: Current Research and Practices. Nova Science Publishers

Acceptance Date Feb 21, 2017
Publication Date 2017
Deposit Date Feb 24, 2017
Publisher Nova Science Publishers
Book Title Teaching and Learning English for Academic Purposes: Current Research and Practices
Keywords EAP, ESP, English, subject context,
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