At the ESP Special Interest Group (SIG)  meeting at the IATEFL conference in Brighton this year, there seemed to be some lack of agreement as to whether EAP was a type of ESP. This was shown in several presentations – and committee discussions – when ESP seemed to be contrasted with EAP.  People would say and write things such as “In ESP and EAP” and “it is true in ESP, but what about EAP?”

I was surprised, perhaps shocked, at this, as I have always worked with a model that sees EAP as a type of ESP similar to the one below. ESP is categorised into English for work (EOP – English for occupational purposes) and English for research & study (EAP – English for academic purposes). EOP is further divided into EVP (English for vocational purposes) and EPP (English for professional purposes). Each field is then often separated into a general strand (EGVP or EGAP) and a specific strand (ESPP or ESAP), but, as I have said before, I am not sure how useful the general strand is as, as far as I can see, all language use is specific (Bloor & Bloor, 1986):

I pointed out that I did not think this was how the terms were usually used. In fact the title of the IATEFL SIG is the ESP SIG and it includes EAP as well as EOP. The ESP SIG publication is also called Professional and Academic English, implying that Academic English (EAP) and Professional English (EPP) are what the SIG focuses on. I did think, though, that it was worth checking how the seminal publications on ESP used the terms. See below for examples.

From this simple survey, I think it is clear that most well-known authors in our field see EAP as clearly belonging to ESP. EAP (academic English) contrasts with occupational English (EOP or EPP).

Does it matter? I think it does. As Paltridge & Starfield (2013) point out in their introduction to The Handbook of English for Specific Purposes: “A key feature of an ESP course is that the content and aims of the course are oriented to the specific needs of the learners. ESP courses, then, focus on the language, skills, and genres appropriate to the specific activities the learners need to carry out in English” (p. 2). This involves research into the needs of the learners and the nature of the practises and language involved. I think this is particularly important in EAP, as if EAP is not seen as belonging to ESP, then this essential research may be ignored or thought unnecessary and EAP will mean simply using a textbook with EAP in the title, without any clear knowledge or thought of the needs of the students. We can do better than that for our students.

As J. D. Brown (2016, p. 5) emphasises, ESP is fundamentally linked to the specific needs of a particular group of students and “if there is no needs analysis, there is no ESP.” If ESP includes EAP, then this statement applies to EAP.

Here are some examples from seminal publications on ESP:

Anthony (2018, p. 13).

“Perhaps the most influential branch of ESP is English for Academic Purposes (EAP), which focuses on ESP in academic settings.”

Bachman (1981, p. 106):

“… whereas audio-lingualism once dominated the profession, we now find situational, notional, functional, or communicative approaches, along with LSP and its variants (language for science and technology, for academic purposes, for occupational purposes, and so on) being considered the “standard model” for FL programs.”

Basturkmen, & Elder (2004, p. 672):

“LSP is generally used to refer to the teaching and research of language in relation to the communicative needs of speakers of a second language in facing a particular workplace, academic, or professional context.”


“Major divisions in LSP are language for academic purposes, and language for occupational purposes, the latter comprising language for professional purposes and for vocational purposes” (p. 673)

Basturkmen (2010, p. 6):

Areas of ESP teaching: English for academic purposes (EAP), English for professional purposes(EPP) and English for occupational purposes (EOP).

Belcher (2006, p. 134):

“… for those immersed in ESP practice today, engaged with ESP’s growing body of research and theory, and ever-diversifying and expanding range of purposes: from the better known English for academic purposes (EAP) and occupational purposes (EOP), the latter including business medicine law, but also field such as shipbuilding and aviation…”

Belcher (2010, pp. 2-3):

“There are, and no doubt will be, as many types of ESP as there are specific learner needs and target communities that learners wish to thrive in. Perhaps the best known of these (especially among language educators who are themselves most often situated in academia) is EAP, or English for academic purposes, tailored to the needs of learners at various, usually higher, educational levels. Less well known (to many academics) and potentially more diversified, given the breadth and variety of the worlds of work, is EOP, or English for occupational purposes. The fastest growing branches of EOP are those associated with professions that are themselves constantly expanding and generating offshoots, such as EBP, English for business purposes; ELP, English for legal purposes; and EMP, English for medical purposes. There are also numerous other less well known but equally intriguing varieties of EOP, such as English for air traffic controllers, English for tourist guides, English for horse breeders, and English for brewers. The ESP picture is further complicated by numerous hybrid permutations of EOP and EAP, combining elements of both, such as EAMP, English for academic medical purposes (for health science students); EABP, English for academic business purposes (for students majoring in business), and EALP, English for academic legal purposes (for law students). EAP, EOP, and still further combinations of both are not the whole story either, as socially conscious ESP specialists have begun to consider highly specialized sociocultural purposes too (hence, English for socio-cultural purposes, or ESCP) by addressing such needs as those of language and literacy learners who are incarcerated, coping with physical disabilities, or seeking citizenship. What Hyland (2006) has recently observed of EAP is arguably also an apt descriptor of ESP in general: its motivation to help those especially disadvantaged by their lack of language needed for the situations they find themselves in, hope to enter, or eventually rise above.”

Blok, Lockwood & Frendo (2020, p. vii7):

“As knowledge of English has become the gateway to education and employment in many contexts, different types of ESP programs have arisen to address adults’ associated learning needs. In academic settings, English for academic purposes (EAP) programs employ different models, including intensive English programs (IEPs), content and language integrated learning (CLIL),

and programs that prepare learners for “the spread of English as a medium of instruction (EMI) within communities where English is not the primary language of communication”….  In workplace and professional contexts, ESP programs may focus on English for occupational purposes (EOP, also referred to as workplace language training), where adults are seeking to develop the English language skills they need for their jobs, or English for professional purposes (EPP), where adults are pursuing greater proficiency in the language of their fields of expetise, such as business, law, government, medicine, and other professions.”

Brown (2016, p. 7):

“Books and articles on the topic of ESP often roughly subdivide those purposes or needs into English for academic purposes (EAP) and English for occupational purposes (EOP)”

Bruce (2011, p. 4):

“EAP has grown out of, and is a branch of, a slightly older field of study – that of English for Specific Purposes.”

Brumfit & Roberts (1983, p.88):

“Teaching languages for special purposes, or for specific purposes, as some specialists prefer to say, is an important sub-branch of language teaching about which we should add a few words. Though not an entirely new idea, it is only in recent years that it has taken on an identity of its own. In relation to English, it is usually referred to as ‘ESP’, and further sub-categories within it usually come to be designated by a similar type of acronym, for example ‘EAP’ — English for Academic Purposes. One of its most important branches is ‘EST’ – English for Science and Technology.”

Charles & Pecorari (2016, p. 7):

“EAP is part of a larger area of applied linguistics called English for Specific Purposes (ESP).”

Ding & Bruce (2017. p. 57):

“Jordan (1997, p. 1) suggests that the term English for academic purposes (EAP) was first used as the title for the published proceedings of the SELMOUS conference held at the University of Birmingham in 1975, and a focus on the development of study skills became central to defining this separate branch of ESP.”


“Thus EAP emerged as a variety of ESP and, in its early stages, did not appear to position itself as significantly different from its ‘parent’ discipline.” (p. 58)

Douglas (2000, p. 2):

“Typically, LSP tests have been construed as those involving language for academic purposes and for occupational or vocational purposes.”

Dudley-Evans (2001, p. 132):

“As with most branches of TESOL and applied linguistics, ESP is often divided up into various categories with mysterious acronyms. It is usually classified into two main categories: English for academic purpose (EAP) and English for occupational purposes (EO P).”

Dudley-Evans & St John (1998, p. 5):

“ESP has traditionally been divided into two main areas: English for academic purposes (EAP) and English for occupational purpose (EOP).”

ETIC (1975, p. 1):

”ETIC makes a distinction between English for academic purposes (EAP) and English for occupational purposes (EOP) as the two main branches of English for Specific Purposes (ESP).”

Flowerdew & Peacock (2001, p. 11):

“EAP is normally considered to be one of the two main branches of English for specific purposes (ESP), the other being English for occupational purposes (EOP).”

Gollin-Kies, Hall & Moore (2015, p. 11):

“When people speak of Languages for specific purposes, they generally think about English for specific purposes, a subject that is usually broken down into English for academic purposes and English for occupational, vocational or professional purposes, as well as many other finer categories, such as English for business, English for engineers or even English for museum guides.”

Harding (2007, p. 6):

“In an industry that loves its acronyms, ESP has spawned more than most: EAP, EBP, EMP, EOP, EPP, EST, EVP to name just a few. We will only use the term ESP in this book. ESP is a comprehensive term and it includes English for business and English for academic purposes…”

Hutchinson & Waters (1987, p. 16):

“The tree represents some of the common divisions that are made in ELT. The topmost branches of the tree show the level at which individual ESP courses occur. The branches just below this level indicate that these may conveniently be divided into two main types of ESP differentiated according to whether the learner requires English for academic study (EAP: English for academic purposes) or for work/training (EOP/EVP/VESL: English for occupational purposes/English for vocational purposes/vocational English as a second language).”

Howatt (2004, p. 251):

“Right from the start it was recognized that a distinction had to be drawn between general-purpose learners whose aims were widely shared by others and those whose needs were specific to a particular, often tightly defined group. So far as the former were concerned, the main task for the teacher was to make the needs explicit and ensure that the language which was taught actually helped learners to cope with them. Specific-purpose students, however, presented a more complex pedagogical task which ELT had never tackled in detail before. The good old days of ‘commercial English’ or ‘technical English’, with their flavouring of specialist lexis, were long gone; students wanted their purposes to be more specifically reflected in the courses they were being asked to take (the language learning motivation of specific-purpose students can be difficult to sustain) and the demand grew for increasingly well-defined programmes as English for Special Purposes (Specific Purposes from the late 1970s) diversified into English for Academic Purposes (EAP), Occupational Purposes (EOP), Science and Technology (EST), and so on.”

Hyland (2006, p, 1):

“English for academic purposes (EAP) has evolved rapidly over the past twenty years or so. From humble beginnings as a relatively fringe branch of English for Specific Purposes (ESP) in the early 1980s, it is today a major force in English language teaching and research around the world.”


“The main interests of the ESP movement can be categorized in a number of ways. For the purposes of this discussion, we have created a set of categories. Because of their current importance, a few of these categories will be highlighted in this chapter: English for occupational purposes, particularly VESL and English for business purposes (EBP), and English for academic purposes (EAP). It is important to note, however, that this chart is far from exhaustive; there is a remarkable array of ESP courses offered throughout the world. In various cities in Italy, for example, there are project-oriented curricula for white-collar workers in the tourist industry (English for tourism). In Morocco, Hasan II University devotes many of its EAP courses to specific graduate majors such as agronomy.”

Jordan (2002, p. 4):

“ESP has two strands: English for occupational / vocational / professional purposes (EOP/EVP/EPP), which we shall only touch on, and English for academic purposes (EAP), which we shall consider in depth.”

Kennedy & Bolitho (1984, p. 3):

“There are two main divisions which help to distinguish ESP situations: English for occupational purposes (EOP) and English for academic purposes (EAP).”

Kerr (1977, p. 11):

“And so the common categorisation, ESP and general English, is replaced by a more useful classification: English for social purposes, English for academic purposes and English for occupational purposes.”

Kostka & Olmstead-Wang (2014, p. 2)

“English for academic purposes (EAP) shares many common elements with English language teaching that occurs in other settings and in its parent field, English for specific purposes (ESP.”

Johns (2001, p. 43):

“English for Specific Purposes (ESP) is a movement based on the proposition that all language teaching should be tailored to the specific learning and language use needs of identified groups of students — and also sensitive to the sociocultural contexts in which these students will be using English. Most of the movement’s practitioners are teachers of adults, those students whose needs are more readily identified within academic, occupational, or professional settings.”

Mancil (1980, p. 7)

The ESP Journal is dedicated to the dissemination of information concerning all aspects of ESP – vocational, occupational and academic.

Master & Brinton, 1998, p. viii):

“Our solution was to include in the ESP volume those submissions that were specifically linked to an acknowledged subdivision of of ESP; such as English for academic purposes (EAP), English for science and technology (EST), and English for vocational purposes (EVP).”

McDonough (1984, p. 6):

“This simply states that English for specific purposes has two main branches: English for academic purposes and English for occupational purposes.”

Orr (2002, p. 1):

“The ESP that is primarily taught or researched consists of spoken and written discourse in academic and workplace settings, which is unfamiliar to most native and non-native speakers and thus requires special training. Specific-purpose English includes not only knowledge of a specific part of the English language but also competency in the skills required to use this language, as well as sufficient understanding of the contexts within which it is situated.”

Paltridge & Starfield (2013, p. 2):

“English for specific purposes (ESP) refers to the teaching and learning of English as a second or foreign language where the goal of the learners is to use English in a particular domain. The teaching of English for specific purposes, in its early days, was largely motivated by the need to communicate across languages in areas such as commerce and technology. This has now expanded to include other areas such as English for academic purposes (EAP), English for occupational purposes (EOP), English for vocational purposes (EVP), English for medical purposes (EMP), English for business purposes (EBP), English for legal purposes (ELP), and English for sociocultural purposes (ESOP).”

Robinson (1991, p. 2):

“A major distinction is often drawn between EOP (English for occupational purposes), involving work-related needs and training and EAP (English for academic purposes), involving academic study needs.”

Strevens (1977):

“All SP-LT (special purpose language teaching) courses are either occupational or educational in nature.”

Swales (1985, p. xii):

“ESP itself is often divided into a set of operating categories that further specify the specific: English for academic purposes, English for occupational or vocational purposes and English for professional purposes.”

Widdowson (1983, p. 9):

“ESP is not only divided off into an enclave within the wider boundaries of English teaching, it is also parcelled up into subdivisions within itself. It is common, for example, to distinguish English for occupational purposes (EOP) from English for academic purposes (EAP). Each of these is then subject to further sub-division. Thus within EOP we might have English for airline pilots, for waiters, for secretaries, for telephone receptionists, and so on; and within EAP we might have English for different areas of academic study: physics, engineering, architecture, economics, and so on. And then we can go on to make further refinements, distinguishing, for example, between different types of secretary, or telephone receptionist, between different areas within academic disciplines, and so on.”


Anthony, L. (2018). Introducing English for specific purposes. London: Routledge.

Bachman, L. F. (1981). Formative evaluation in specific purpose program development. In R. Mackay & J. D. Palmer (Eds.), Languages for specific purposes: Program design and evaluation (pp. 106-116). Rowley, MA: Newbury House.

Basturkmen, H. & Elder, C. (2004). The practice of LSP. In A. Davies & C. Elder (Eds.), The handbook of applied linguistics (pp. 672-694). Oxford: Blackwell.

Basturkmen, H. (2010). Developing courses in English for specific purposes. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan .

Belcher, D. (2006). English for specific purposes: Teaching to perceived needs and imagined futures in worlds of work, study, and everyday life. TESOL Quarterly, 40, 133-156.

Belcher, D. (2010). What ESP is and can be: An introduction. In D. Belcher (Ed.), English for specific purposes in theory and practice (pp. 1-20). Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

Blok, S., Lockwood, R. B. & Frendo, E. (2020). The 6 principles for exemplary teaching of English learners: Academic and other specific purposes. Alexandria, VA: TESOL International Association.

Bloor, M. & Bloor, T. (1986). Languages for specific purposes: Practice and theory. Dublin: Trinity College Dublin.

Brown, J. D. 2016). Introducing needs analysis and English for specific purposes. London: Routledge.

Bruce, I. (2011). Theory and concepts of English for academic purposes. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Brumfit, C. J. & Roberts, J. T. (1983). An introduction to language and language teaching. London: Batsford.

Charles, M. & Pecorari, D. (2016). Introducing English for academic purposes. London: Routledge.

Ding, A. & Bruce, I. (2017). The English for academic purposes practitioner: Operating on the edge of academia. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Douglas, D. (2000). Assessing languages for specific purposes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dudley-Evans, T. (2001). English for specific purposes. In R. Carter & D. Nunan (Eds.), The Cambridge guide to teaching English to speakers of other languages (pp. 131-136). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dudley-Evans, T. & St John, M. J. (1998). Developments in English for specific purposes: A multi-disciplinary approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

ETIC (1975). English for academic study: Problems and perspectives. London: British Council.

Flowerdew, J. & Peacock, M. (2001). Issues in EAP: A preliminary perspective. In J. Flowerdew & M. Peacock (Eds.), Research perspectives on English for academic purpose (pp. 8-24). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gollin-Kies, S., Hall, D. R. & Moore, S. H. (2015). Language for specific purposes. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Harding, K. (2007). English for specific purposes. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Howatt, A. P. R. (2004). A history of English language teaching (2nd ed.) Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hutchinson, T. & Waters, A. (1987). English for specific purposes: A learning-centred approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hyland, K. (2006). English for academic purposes: An advanced resource book. London: Routledge.

Johns, A. M. (2001). English for specific purposes (ESP): Tailoring courses to students’ needs – and to the outside world. In M. Celce-Murcia (Ed.), Teaching English as a second or foreign language (3rd ed., pp. 43-54). New York: Heinle.

Jordan, R. R. (2002). English for academic purposes: A guide and resource book for teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kennedy, C. & Bolitho, R. (1984). English for specific purposes. London: Macmillan.

Kerr, L. (1977). English for special purposes, In S. Holden (Ed.), English for specific purposes (pp. 11-12). London: Modern English Publications.

Kostka, I. & Olmstead-Wang, S. (2014). Teaching English for academic purposes. Alexandria, VA: TESOL

Mancil, G. S. (1980). From the editors [Editorial]. The ESP Journal, 1, 7-9.

Master, P. & Brinton, D. M. (1997). Introduction. In P. Master & D. M. Brinton (Eds.), New ways in English for specific purposes (pp. vii – x). Alexandria, VA: TESOL.

McDonough, J. (1984). ESP in perspective. London: Collins.

Orr, T. (2002). The nature of English for specific purposes. In T. Orr, (Ed.), English for specific purposes (pp. 1-6). Alexandria, VA: TESOL.

Paltridge, B. & Starfield, S. (Eds.). (2013). The handbook of English for specific purposes. London: Blackwell.

Robinson, P. (1991). ESP Today: A practitioner’s guide. London: Prentice-Hall International.

Strevens, P. (1977). Special purpose language learning: A perspective. Language Teaching & Linguistics Abstracts, 10, 145-163.

Swales, J. M. (1985). Episodes in ESP. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

Widdowson, H. G. (1983). Learning purpose and language use. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

2 thoughts on “Is EAP ESP?

  1. The individual questions the conventional use of terms within the IATEFL SIG (ESP SIG), arguing that the title encompasses both English for Academic Purposes (EAP) and English for Occupational Purposes (EOP or EPP). The writer emphasizes the importance of recognizing EAP as a part of ESP, as the specific needs of learners in academic settings should guide ESP courses. The lack of acknowledgment of EAP within ESP could lead to neglecting essential research and understanding of students’ needs. The summary also includes examples from seminal publications, supporting the integration of EAP into ESP.

    • I agree. I do know, though, that some people do not want to consider EAP as part of ESP. Why? For me ESP is about student needs and interests. If you do not consider EAP to be ESP, you can ignore this and use a generic EAP textbook, with no real attention paid the students. This is useful for organisational purposes and publishers like it!

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