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Aviation English: analysis of corpus data and tentative proposal for a learner corpus

Since 1998 the aviation community, fostered by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), has been undergoing a global standardization process concerning language use in international communications. English has gradually become the official language of aviation. Major difficulties with this highly specialized and constrained language, also known as Aviation English or Airspeak, put air-ground communications at severe risk. In case of danger, standardized phraseologies, i.e. regulated pronunciation of numbers, acronyms, abbreviations, and a finite number of possible messages structured in a concise and unambiguous way, are fundamental, however not sufficient. Previous research have highlighted that real ATC messages diverge from ICAO standards. In this regard, the present investigation is twofold. Firstly, it aims to verify if ATC messages included in two chosen corpora, namely Air Traffic Control Simulation Speech Corpus (ATCOSIM) and Air Traffic Control (ATC) Corpus confirm previous research results or if their structure fulfills ICAO standards. To carry out the analysis, a list of lexico-grammatical and pragmatic features typical of everyday conversations, and, thus, which should not occur in air-ground transmissions are identified by referring to ICAO Manual of Radiotelephony (2007) and Procedures for Air Navigation Services – Air Traffic Management (PANS-ATM) 4444 (2007) and then compared among the corpora. Results show that real ATC utterances are not compliant with standards in many respects. Possible motivations for their employment are, therefore, determined. In the second part of this paper a learner speech corpus of Aviation English is proposed. Taking ATCOSIM and ICLE corpora as a reference, a set of design criteria are discussed and a tentative description of the would-be corpus is provided.

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Introduction With the birth of the civil aviation in the 50s, the English language was adopted by the aviation community and gradually became its official language. Since then, as a consequence of the internationalization of air navigation, English has gained a vital role in air-ground communications and has also become the lingua franca in most working fields, such as science, medicine, technology and economy, which were increasingly developing worldwide. In order to guarantee air safety and to help operators from different countries to understand each other quickly and correctly, it has been necessary to establish a common standardized communication code, the air traffic control (ATC) phraseology, for routine situations and also to closely attend to the plain language to be used in all cases not covered by phraseology. The organization in charge of overseeing this elaborate and delicate issue is the International Civil Aviation Organizazion (ICAO) by means of a dedicated team of operational and linguistic experts, the Proficiency Requirements in Common English Study Group (PRICESG), formed in 2000. The Study Group has been founded with the aim to analyze aviation language, highlighting possible weaknesses that could cause troubles in communication, and to make a list of recommended practices to be included in the Manual on the Implementation of ICAO Proficiency Requirements (Doc 9835 AN/453) published in 2004. The introduction of the Manual constitutes a fundamental step toward the achievement of a fully harmonised and safe sky, since it provides reliable specifications as concerns air navigation. If such regulations were in force in the 70s, maybe the Tenerife accident in 1977 would not have happened, avoiding the tragic loss of 578 lives. However, ATC phraseology is only one of the aspects of language playing a role in miscommunication. A high percentage of incidents and accidents in previous years were, indeed, dependent on the difficulty encountered by pilots and air traffic controllers to elaborate messages in plain English (or English for General Purposes, or EGP), e.g. to explain that some unexpected event, neither included in phraseology nor concerning any technical aspects, and hence not belonging to Aviation English, hinders a manoeuvre. It is, therefore, necessary for air traffic operators to achieve full competence not only in ATC phraseology and English for Specific Purposes (ESP), but also in General English (or EGP). Several have been the training programs and testing systems developed in the last decades, and many aviation schools have seen the light as an answer to the evergrowing aviation industry. Nevertheless, only recently national authorities have emphasized the relevance of regulated and validated testing services, which in turn implies the need for testers to demonstrate testing competence and for operators to receive dedicated training in all three areas of language (phraseology, ESP and EGP) with special regard to speaking and listening skills, given the nature of ATC messages. Furthermore, being air navigation an international industry, involving both native and non-native speakers, and, most importantly, considered the extremely high technicality of the vi

Laurea liv.II (specialistica)

Facoltà: Lettere e Filosofia

Autore: Sara Alizieri Contatta »

Composta da 96 pagine.


Questa tesi ha raggiunto 356 click dal 02/08/2011.


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