The Features of Maritime English Discourse

Daniele Franceschi


The aim of the present paper is to illustrate the linguistic features of Maritime English (ME) both as a type of specialized discourse in academic and professional sectors and as a vehicular language used to facilitate communication at sea. It is shown that this specific subset of English covers a wide spectrum, ranging from the language of highly technical written genres to simplified and standardized uses typical of spoken contexts. The analysis is conducted on data from the fields of maritime engineering, marine electronics and maritime law as well as on the transcription of an authentic conversation between a ship and a radio station and on the Standard Maritime Communication Phrases drafted by the International Maritime Organization. Despite some common representative characteristics of both written and spoken ME at the lexical-semantic level, the two registers appear as distinct from a wider pragmatic and textual perspective. The former exhibits greater variability and complexity due to the fusion of different writing styles, “languages” from other domains and textual functions, while the latter is generally marked by linguistic adjustments reducing it to a restricted language, limited in its scope and goal. The resulting image of ME is that of a multi-faceted language with a number of distinct features serving different purposes. Future studies on specialized discourse need to highlight the internal nature of the various domains under investigation in order to provide finer-grained descriptions of their organization.

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International Journal of English Linguistics   ISSN 1923-869X (Print)   ISSN 1923-8703 (Online)

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