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Dissertation Information


Title: Safety Talk and Service Culture: Flight attendant discourse in commercial aviation Add Dissertation
Author: Barbara Clark Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Homepage: http://www.barbaraclark.net
Degree Awarded: Queen Mary, University of London , Department of Linguistics
Completed in:
2013
Linguistic Subfield(s): Discourse Analysis Sociolinguistics Anthropological Linguistics
Director(s): Erez Levon
Colleen Cotter

Abstract: The discourse of commercial aviation flight attendants has historically received
no sociolinguistic attention. To address this gap, this thesis explores how flight
attendants use language in workplace-related contexts to construct their
professional 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 how
flight attendants use language to orient to occupationally related knowledge and
practices which contribute to the discursive construction of community.


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


Following Bucholtz and Hall (2004), I show how identity is contextually related
and situationally constructed, and emerges from discursive orientations to
professional practice, indexicality, ideology, and performance. Moreover, there
are certain intersubjective relationships embedded in the discourse which
emerge from and add detail to the situational identity constructed through flight
attendant discourse. Indexical stances and ideologies which are grounded in
institutional training frame and are heightened in the discursive performances of
the reports and forum posts. These ideologies motivate and enhance the existing
institutional, physical, and sociocultural divisions between flight attendants and
pilots, which may have consequences for intercrew cohesion in emergency
situations.