University of Tasmania
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Building a quantitative linguistic profile of bridge team communication for a performance assessment of native and non-native speakers of maritime English

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posted on 2023-05-28, 11:53 authored by John, P
This doctoral thesis studies Bridge Team Communication from a quantitative, text corpus perspective. This approach seeks to model idiosyncratic linguistic patterns for native and non-native speakers of English. Working on board sea-going merchant ships provides a unique professional environment with crews being recruited from the most varied cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Multinational and multilingual crews live and work in a confined space, and they cooperate in a complex socio-technical environment by carrying out a large number of different tasks in which communication is a core skill. The shared technical knowledge required for manoeuvring ships safely around the globe needs to be communicated effectively among all participants in a safe and efficient manner using a language every crew member understands. Conversely, miscommunication may erode the team members' situational awareness and this can be a root cause in tragic maritime incidents. Maritime education and training (MET) institutions have been addressing this issue by actively training future seafarers in realistic scenarios and simulating real-life situations on board. The seafarers with responsibility for navigation of the ship (bridge teams) are trained in simulated environments with a high degree of ecological validity, thus truly reflecting the interaction on board sea-going vessels. By means of specifically defined training exercises, different nautical situations are simulated and relevant communication skills for the varying requirements taught. Applied Linguistics research opens up a whole range of possibilities to study naturalistic human interaction and language production in nautical training procedures which combine the authenticity of field studies with the controlled environment of research experiments. This doctoral research sets out to develop a quantitative model for bridge team communication as a sub-genre of the sociolinguistic language variety (or genre) of Maritime English. The overall aim is to provide a methodology for assessing verbal language performance of native and non-native speakers (in the sense of Saussure's parole) in this particular English for Specific Purposes (ESP) domain. For studying the discourse community of (future) nautical officers, a synchronic text corpus has been developed on the basis of verbatim transcripts of empirical speech events recorded in the ecologically valid simulators mentioned above. The specialised spoken corpus consists of some 107,000 word tokens and is analysed by means of corpus linguistics methods from a sociolinguistic, psycholinguistic and corpus-pragmatics perspective. Between-groups analyses investigate a series of dependent linguistic variables including vocabulary growth, word frequencies, lexical and key word densities, and part-of-speech diversity as well as linguistic proxy variables for cognitive load. Additionally, risks of miscommunication are studied pragmatically by following Searle's Speech Act theory. The analyses lead to typical statistical distributions for linguistic variables of the sampled sociolinguistic groups of native and non-native speakers of English. By comparing the observed variables with reference text corpora outside a maritime setting, benchmark values are provided to gauge maritime idiomaticity. The computed statistical distributions also provide a robust methodology for making inferences on the communicative effectiveness of bridge teams and their members. The research fills a gap of empirical research on bridge team communication and creates a quantitative model for determining idiosyncratic differences between the sub-genre of bridge team communication and other communicative settings. The findings of this research contribute towards an improved methodology for assessing verbal communicative performance of future nautical officers. Especially when considering that a high number of all incidents at sea are caused by deficient or ineffective communication, a linguistic model of bridge team communication will help to advance maritime communication standards, thus leading to a better understanding in a truly multinational work environment.


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Copyright 2019 the author Section 10.1 appears to be the equivalent of a post-print version of a published article. Material from: John, P., Brooks, B., Wand, C., Schriever, U., Information density in bridge team communication and miscommunication ‚Äö- a quantitative approach to evaluate maritime communication, WMU journal of maritime affairs, 2013. Copyright World Maritime University 2013 Section 10.2 is an accepted manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of quantitative linguistics on 17 December 2013, available online: Section 10.3 appears to be the equivalent of a post-print version of an article published as: John, P., Brooks, B., Schriever, U., 2017. Profiling maritime communication by non-native speakers: A quantitative comparison between the baseline and standard marine communication phraseology, English for specific purposes, 47, 1-14. It is an open access article under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) license ( Section 10.5 appears to be the equivalent of a post-print version of an article published as: John, P., Brooks, B., Schriever, U., 2019. Speech acts in professional maritime discourse: A pragmatic risk analysis of bridge team communication directives and commissives in full-mission simulation, Journal of pragmatics, 140, 12-21. It is an open access article under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) license (

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