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Striking the balance between formality and informality in safety-critical communication: Train traffic control calls

Andrén, Mats LU ; Sanne, Johan and Linell, Per (2010) In Journal of Pragmatics 42(1). p.220-241
Abstract
Talk in safety-critical activities displays features that distinguish it from both ordinary conversations as well as from other institutional talk, but it also shares some features with these. Formality and informality are both interactionally accomplished phenomena, although shaped through different sources. Safety rules and pre-printed forms constitute two sources of formalization, dictating how to carry out communicative exchanges in certain types of situations, irrespective of the more specific circumstances in individual cases. Sources of informalization are the participants’ need to adapt to situation-specific communicative needs, both in terms of particular situations and in terms of recurrent types of situations.



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Talk in safety-critical activities displays features that distinguish it from both ordinary conversations as well as from other institutional talk, but it also shares some features with these. Formality and informality are both interactionally accomplished phenomena, although shaped through different sources. Safety rules and pre-printed forms constitute two sources of formalization, dictating how to carry out communicative exchanges in certain types of situations, irrespective of the more specific circumstances in individual cases. Sources of informalization are the participants’ need to adapt to situation-specific communicative needs, both in terms of particular situations and in terms of recurrent types of situations.



In contemporary literature, safety-critical talk tends to be treated either in terms of strict adherence to a formal code, where all informalizations are seen as potential sources of accidents, or informalization is treated as natural and inevitable, focusing on routine conditions where they are apparently harmless. In this paper, based upon detailed analysis of telephone calls between train drivers and dispatchers on the Swedish railway network, we propose a middle ground. We suggest a contingent theory of formalization, identifying four main types of informalizations, as well as discussing when and why they may be harmless and when they may be detrimental. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
informality, safety-critical communication, formality, phone calls, train traffic control
in
Journal of Pragmatics
volume
42
issue
1
pages
220 - 241
publisher
Elsevier
external identifiers
  • WOS:000272951200012
  • Scopus:70449646334
ISSN
0378-2166
DOI
10.1016/j.pragma.2009.05.022
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
3a84e8a5-5453-4dcb-8dc3-04aad8c30856 (old id 1467999)
date added to LUP
2009-08-28 16:28:27
date last changed
2016-10-13 04:48:36
@misc{3a84e8a5-5453-4dcb-8dc3-04aad8c30856,
  abstract     = {Talk in safety-critical activities displays features that distinguish it from both ordinary conversations as well as from other institutional talk, but it also shares some features with these. Formality and informality are both interactionally accomplished phenomena, although shaped through different sources. Safety rules and pre-printed forms constitute two sources of formalization, dictating how to carry out communicative exchanges in certain types of situations, irrespective of the more specific circumstances in individual cases. Sources of informalization are the participants’ need to adapt to situation-specific communicative needs, both in terms of particular situations and in terms of recurrent types of situations. <br/><br>
<br/><br>
In contemporary literature, safety-critical talk tends to be treated either in terms of strict adherence to a formal code, where all informalizations are seen as potential sources of accidents, or informalization is treated as natural and inevitable, focusing on routine conditions where they are apparently harmless. In this paper, based upon detailed analysis of telephone calls between train drivers and dispatchers on the Swedish railway network, we propose a middle ground. We suggest a contingent theory of formalization, identifying four main types of informalizations, as well as discussing when and why they may be harmless and when they may be detrimental.},
  author       = {Andrén, Mats and Sanne, Johan and Linell, Per},
  issn         = {0378-2166},
  keyword      = {informality,safety-critical communication,formality,phone calls,train traffic control},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {1},
  pages        = {220--241},
  publisher    = {ARRAY(0xb68db98)},
  series       = {Journal of Pragmatics},
  title        = {Striking the balance between formality and informality in safety-critical communication: Train traffic control calls},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2009.05.022},
  volume       = {42},
  year         = {2010},
}