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Special issue “ESP and Data: Approaches and Methods”

Call for papers

January 2024: Call for papers

15 May 2024: Closing date for manuscript submission

November 2024: Volume publication

Contacts: and

In the course of their work, scholars in applied linguistics (Podesva & Sharma 2013; Litosseliti 2010), and in English for specific purposes (ESP) in particular (Paltridge & Starfield 2011), have regularly raised the question of the epistemological status of the data they use and the methodological approaches to be adopted in order to characterise specialised varieties of English.

Some fields are clearly characterised by a profusion of data. This is the case in science and technology, where certain genres, such as research articles, are easily available. However, the situation is radically different for other specialised domains, where access to discourse is more constrained for legal reasons, linked to confidentiality, or for technical reasons, as is the case for studies on older, non-digitised texts. Beyond the issues of quantity and accessibility, ESP scholars have also been interested in what underpins the relevance of data in ESP. For example, the notion of authenticity (Van Leeuwen 2001; Decock and Jacobs 2021) is often presented as a fundamental criterion for the analysis of specialised discourse. Similarly, the notion of representativeness (Biber 1993; Flowerdew 2004; Handford 2010; Handford 2018; Millot 2018) is often mobilised when building corpora of specialised varieties of English.

The processing of this profusion of data has been accompanied by intense reflection on characterisation methods, with recurrent questions on the place to be given to quantitative, qualitative and mixed approaches (Blanchet 2000; Angouri 2010; Wozniak 2019; Zhang et al. 2020), although these approaches actually embrace significantly different methodologies. In quantitative analysis, corpus-based approaches, which consist in using the data to prove the existence or the absence of an upstream feature, tend to differ from the corpus-driven approaches, where features are defined a posteriori to the quantitative treatment. Moreover, research in ESP benefits not only from cross-fertilisation between sub-fields of applied linguistics (through its links with language didactics, cognitive linguistics or corpus linguistics), but also from advances in the social sciences in the field of discourse analysis (textometric analysis, indexing, annotation, text encoding protocols, text mining by artificial intelligence, etc.) At the same time, the interest in the context of production of specialised discourses raises the question of the importance of ethnographic and sociological approaches, which allow us to access specialised milieus (let us remember that if conversational analysis and semi-guided interviews are both considered as typical examples of qualitative approaches, they contribute to our understanding of specialised varieties quite differently).

This conference seeks to provide an overview of current practices in the approaches to specialised varieties of English. The papers may address different issues:

  • Are some methodologies more appropriate than others in dealing with some specialised varieties of English?

  • What are the relevant data for the analysis of specialised varieties of English?

  • How do we define authenticity and representativeness of data in specialised English?

  • Has the profusion of data in certain fields led to real theoretical advances in ESP?

  • How can advances in the social sciences and digital humanities contribute to our knowledge of specialised varieties of English?

  • How can we increase the amount of data for occluded, hard-to-reach domains?

  • What approaches and methods from the social, or even, experimental sciences, could be beneficial for ESP?

  • Is there a place for interdisciplinary approaches in the study of specialised varieties of English?


Angouri, Jo. 2010. ‘Quantitative, Qualitative or Both? Combining Methods in Linguistic Research’. Research Methods in Linguistics 1: 29–45.

Biber, Douglas. 1993. ‘Representativeness in Corpus Design’. Literary and Linguistic Computing 8 (4): 243–57.

Blanchet, Philippe. 2012. Linguistique de terrain, méthode et théorie. Une approche ethno-sociolinguistique de la complexité. Rennes : Presses Universitaires de Rennes.

Decock, Sofie, and Geert Jacobs. 2021. ‘What Counts as Good Data in Business and Professional Discourse Research and Training?’. In Good Data in Business and Professional Discourse Research and Teaching : Further Explorations, edited by Decock, Sofie and Geert Jacobs, 1–23. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.

Flowerdew, Lynne. 2004. ‘The Argument for Using English Specialized Corpora to Understand Academic and Professional Language’. In Discourse in the Professions: Perspectives from Corpus Linguistics, edited by Ulla Connor and Thomas Upton, 11–33. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Handford, Michael. 2010. ‘What Can a Corpus Tell Us about Specialist Genres?’ In The Routledge Handbook of Corpus Linguistics, edited by Anne O’Keeke and Michael McCarthy, 255–369. London: Routledge.

———. 2018. ‘Corpus Linguistics’. In The Routledge Handbook of Language in the Workplace, edited by Bernadette Vine, 51–64. London: Routledge.

Litosseliti, Lia. 2010. Research Methods in Linguistics. New York: Continuum.

Millot, Philippe. 2018. ‘L’évolution terminologique des sciences de l’information : étude sur corpus diachronique d’un nouveau domaine spécialisé’. Textes et contextes 13 (2).

Paltridge, Brian, and Sue Starfield. 2011. ‘Research in English for Specific Purposes’. In Handbook of Research in Second Language Teaching and Learning, edited by Eli Hinkel, volume 2:106–21. London: Routledge.

Podesva, Robert, and Devyani Sharma, eds. 2013. Research Methods in Linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Van Leeuwen, Theo. 2001. ‘What Is Authenticity?’. Discourse Studies 3 (4): 392–97.

Wozniak, Séverine. 2019. Approche ethnographique des langues spécialisées professionnelles. Berne : Peter Lang.

Zhang, Xue, Yuliya Ardasheva, and Bruce W. Austin. 2020. ‘Self-Efficacy and English Public Speaking Performance: A Mixed Method Approach’. English for Specific Purposes 59: 1–16.

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