The theoretical concept of “academic language” came from research related to the education of speakers of other languages. Cummins (1981, 1984) made a distinction between “basic interpersonal communicative skills” (BICS) which are the language skills that are needed for casual, face to face communication, and “cognitive/academic language proficiency“(CALP), which refers to the specific literary language that is required in academic settings. Cummins described CALP as being more cognitively demanding than everyday interactions, and decontextualized, requiring students to use language in situations where they have relatively few contextual cues (like the intonation, facial expressions and gestures of BICS). In addition, academic language depends on a “preferred” set of language skills based upon accepted school practices. These skills include such things as discipline-specific vocabulary and phraseology, standardized grammar, discourse structures, and particular pragmatic conventions such as using a formal tone or register in both speaking and writing, using specified structures and procedures for completing work, and demonstrating compliance through certain body postures, facial expressions, tone of voice, ways of setting text on paper, etc.
Grigorenko, Margaret, "A Brief Introduction to Academic Language" (2015). Education Faculty Publications. 73.
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