LINGUIST List 24.1488

Tue Apr 02 2013

Diss: Anthro Ling/Discourse Analysis/Socioling: Clark: 'Safety Talk and Service Culture...'

Editor for this issue: Lili Xia <>

Date: 01-Apr-2013
From: Barbara Clark <>
Subject: Safety Talk and Service Culture: Flight attendant discourse in commercial aviation
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Institution: Queen Mary, University of London Program: Department of Linguistics Dissertation Status: Completed Degree Date: 2013

Author: Barbara L. Clark

Dissertation Title: Safety Talk and Service Culture: Flight attendant discourse in commercial aviation

Dissertation URL:

Linguistic Field(s): Anthropological Linguistics                             Discourse Analysis                             Sociolinguistics
Dissertation Director:
Erez Levon Colleen Cotter
Dissertation Abstract:

The discourse of commercial aviation flight attendants has historically receivedno sociolinguistic attention. To address this gap, this thesis explores how flightattendants use language in workplace-related contexts to construct theirprofessional identity and community. I draw on interactional sociolinguistics(Goffman 1981; Schiffrin 1994; Tannen 1993) and sociological research(Marschall 2002; Van Maanen and Barley 1984; Williams 1986) to address howflight attendants use language to orient to occupationally related knowledge andpractices which contribute to the discursive construction of community.

Data come from two sources: 1) A corpus of 150 textual incident reportssubmitted by flight attendants to a US government agency which includesummaries and proposed causes of the incidents in flight attendants’ own words.2) A corpus of 105 unique discussion threads containing 4,043 posts to awebsite hosting several discussion forums aimed primarily at flight attendants.The forums are not affiliated with either government bodies or airline employersand are a virtual space for flight attendants to discuss aspects of their job awayfrom occupational demands.

Following Bucholtz and Hall (2004), I show how identity is contextually relatedand situationally constructed, and emerges from discursive orientations toprofessional practice, indexicality, ideology, and performance. Moreover, thereare certain intersubjective relationships embedded in the discourse whichemerge from and add detail to the situational identity constructed through flightattendant discourse. Indexical stances and ideologies which are grounded ininstitutional training frame and are heightened in the discursive performances ofthe reports and forum posts. These ideologies motivate and enhance the existinginstitutional, physical, and sociocultural divisions between flight attendants andpilots, which may have consequences for intercrew cohesion in emergencysituations.

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