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English Language in Specific Contexts


English is predominantly a language of international business and it has a key role to play in many transactions and interactions. Various professions necessitate a given choice of language specifically to serve their communication interests and professional needs. A doctor may for instance not mingle freely with a lawyer or Clerics by use of professional jargons. Here, they may opt to code-switch or communicate using a language in a general other than a specific sense. In this juncture, I am going to discuss English for Specific Purposes paying close attention to three professions and their kind of English. These are The legalese language, the medical language and the Secretarial Language.


Kharkiv defines legalese as the style of English used by lawyers and other legal professionals in the course of their work. Legalese, therefore, contains features which relate to terminology linguistic structures, linguistic conventions and punctuation. 

According to him, the development of legal English is closely related to the history of Great Britain in the legal transaction of which it is based on the common law. Dating back to the Norman Conquest, English remained the spoken language for the majority of the population while almost all the writing was done in French and Latin.

Law language has influence from Latin and French following the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, Anglo-Norman French became the official language of England. It thus became the language of legal proceedings for about 300 years.

Many words used in modern law jargon are derived from the Anglo-Norman. Examples are Property, Estate, Chattel, Lease, Executor and Tenant. The influence of Latin is realized in many legal phrases such as Ad hoc, inter alia, and ultra vires.

Mixed language doublets in legal English is also a notable feature of legalese. Among the examples of mixed language doublets are; breaking and entering, "fit and proper", "lands and tenants "(English and French)," will and testament "(English and Latin), and then "let and hindrance" (English only).


Legalese is a term characterized by verbosity, Latin expressions, nomination, embedded clauses, passive verbs and lengthy sentences.


Sentences often have apparently peculiar structures. For example Provision for termination hereinafter appearing or will at the cost of the borrower forthwith comply with the same. The influence of French grammatical structures is a contributory reason for this factor.

Punctuation is used insufficiently especially in conveyances and deeds, we can observe the conspicuous absence of punctuation. Historically, there was a widespread idea among lawyers that the meaning of legal documents was contained mainly in the words used and their context. In modern legal drafting, punctuation is used to clarify their meaning.

Foreign phrases are at times used instead of English phrases. Examples include unteralia instead of, among others.

Use of modifiers is dominant in the law language. For instances; the same, the same, the aforementioned etc. In most legal discourses, it is an interesting feature because very frequently, they are used as adjectives to determine the noun, but not to replace them. For instance; the said Moses Makhakha.


Law English contains words and titles such as employer and employee, leaser and lessee, in which the reciprocal and opposite nature of the relationship is indicated by the use of alternative endings such as: -er, -ee. 


Phrasal verbs in the legal context are often used in a quasi-technical sense. Parties, for instance, enter into a contract, put down deposits, serve (documents) upon other parties, and write off debts and so on.


It is therefore seen that legal language is difficult to understand due to the usage of a large number of difficult words and phrases. It employs a lot of technical terminologies which seems to be unfamiliar to the layman such as; waive, restraint of trade, restriction covenant promissory estoppels etc. Since much of their vocabulary is derived from French and Latin, nonprofessionals in this sense are excluded from many of the legal discourses.



Medical language in an ESP sense is the standardized means of communication within the healthcare Industry. The importance of fluency in medical terminology which applies to all hospital personnel, including allied healthcare professionals cannot be overstated.

The medical language uses specific clinical proceedings and enables anyone involved in the process of treatment and care to perform more efficiently for the patients' benefit very often within the clinical environment. Medical terminology is composed of abbreviations and it makes understanding much faster and easier, Bianca, (2013).

Majority of terms used by medics are derived from Greek and Latin and the science-based vocabulary follows a systematic methodology. Each term contains two or three components and such components can be further be broken down into parts.

Most medical terms consist of three basic components: root word (the base form of the term), prefixes (letter groups in front of the root word), and suffixes (letter groups at the end of the root word). Placed together, these three components define a particular or a specific medical term. For example:

The term subhebaric, which means "situated under/on the ventral side of the liver" and refers to the inter bolar branches of the portal vein. It is a medical term that consists of the aforementioned three components.


The medical language also includes so-called combining vowels like "I" or "o", which helps ease the pronunciation between a word root and the prefix or the suffix. For instance, in the term Osteopathy, Oste-is the word, -o- is the combining vowel and -pathy is the suffix. Similarly, Cardiovascular is the word where “cardi" is the root word and "vascular" is the suffix.


Medical terminology allows all medical professionals to understand each other and communicate effectively. When anyone understands what a condition, medicine or procedure is, they are able to fulfil their roles accordingly.


A morphological perspective of the medical jargon, therefore, observes medical terminology as often using words created using prefixes and suffixes in Latin and ancient Greek. In medicine, their meanings and etymology are informed by the language of origin.



A secretary or a personal assistant is a person whose work consists of supporting the management including executives using a variety of project management, communication or organizational skills. Secretaries need to be aware of their language and specifically terms and phrases to be used in meetings, writing official documents, handling customers and responding to phone calls.

To begin with, I would discuss the terminologies which should be mastered by any secretary at any level of duty. Such terminologies include:


Ad hoc- from Latin meaning, "For the purpose of"

Adjourn- to hold a meeting over until a later date.

Adopt minutes- minutes are adopted when accepted by members and signed by the chairperson.

Apology- excuses are given in advance for inability to attend a meeting.

Agenda- A schedule of items drawn up for discussion at the meeting.

AGM- Annual General Meeting. All members are eligible to attend this meeting.

Chairman- Leader of a meeting.

Terms of reference- defines the specific task of a working party or a given ad hoc committee.

Subcommittee- A committee appointed by a larger one to undertake a specific task.

Standing orders- Most common in Senates. Referring to rules on the way in which their business is to be conducted.

Standing Committee- One which has an indefinite term of existence.

Sine die- With no appointed date.


Other terminologies of Secretarial use include Consensus, constitution, convince, committee, collective responsibility, guillotine, honorary post, Chairman's agenda, decision, executive, lobbying, minutes, motion, mover, seconder, observers, in attendance, modus operandi, nemcon, business, other business, point of information.


Secretaries on the telephone are expected to use specific language characteristic of courteousness and being polite. They should speak clearly, give a name of the institution in a friendly voice, sound helpful and positive, ask the caller to repeat a name or number if they didn't hear well, apologize immediately if required and remember not to bang the call while hanging up.

For example: “Good morning, Kibabii university- Finance. What can I help you?"


Secretarial language tends to have a pronunciation focus. For instance, when communicating in English, the more accurate the pronunciation of the language, the easier the understanding. Secretaries should, therefore, try as much as possible to avoid first language influence.


Secretaries use a specific language when helping visitors on a specific occasion. For instance, "I would like to attend the official graduation ceremony. Can you please explain to me the procedure I have to follow?" To this visitor, a secretary will keep in mind keywords such as graduation square, pavilion, official invitation, University stamp, don’t forget and security inspection; for the case of Kibabii University.


Also to note is that, secretarial writing exhibits an absolute level of professional observance. A secretary must be hardwired in the official formats of letter writing, curriculum vitae, Minutes, agenda, report writing and other institutional writings. This presents a positive face of any management as opposed to those managements whose secretaries are clumsy, incompetent and unprofessional.


To conclude with, it has been seen clearly that, English Serves Specific Purposes as one switch from a profession to another. The general sense of such specific purposes can however not be underscored since any Language user must observe common grammatical patterns and linguistic conventions. The specific usage of the language across professions is what distinguishes them and this is what makes them unique.



  1. Robert, III. et al. (2011).Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised in Brief (2nd Ed.).Philapedia, PA: Da Capo Press.

  2. Secretaries Job Information. National Careers Service. (2012)National Career Service:

  3. Betts, J. (2013).Anatomy and Philosophy: Houston.

  4. Steven, H. (2010) DICTIONARY OF LEGAL TERMS: Definition and explanations for non-lawyers. Oxford university press.