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The Scope of Special Needs EduLinguistics

A Proposal for the Definitions and Classification of Special Language Needs

Michele Daloiso    Università degli Studi di Parma, Italia    



The present essay focuses on the use of the term ‘Special Educational Needs’ (SEN) in language teaching research. In the first part some issues about the definition of SEN are discussed, particularly the fact that this ‘umbrella-term’ seems to be applied to a (too) wide range of students with different difficulties and conditions. The author then discusses a number of theoretical issues arising from the use of the concept of SEN in language teaching research. In fact, while pedagogy is entitled to elaborate methodologies to answer ‘educational needs’, language teaching research has a more specific scope, namely ‘language (and (inter)cultural) needs’. Thus, research on the teaching of languages to SEN students is useful, and even necessary, only if they have a specific language need. In the light of these considerations the second part of the essay introduces the notion of ‘Specific Language Needs’. A classification of this category of students is proposed which integrates current knowledge in clinical research within the model of ‘communicative competence’.

Nov. 1, 2013