Language and action in the cockpit: a view from the Theory of Distributed Cognition

Dilso Corrêa de Almeida


Many of the maneuvers performed by pilots during a flight are the result of instructions received from air traffic control. The execution of these maneuvers requires the engagement of different cognitive processes, of which language is a component of vital importance. This article presents a theoretical-conceptual model, the Theory of Distributed Cognition, as an adequate basis for the investigation of linguistic experiences occurred in the interaction with technological artifacts that exist in the pilot’s work environment. From a view of cognition as a distributed phenomenon, I explain how an air traffic control instruction can take different forms of representation, propagate through the environment and manifest itself in the actions resulting from its compliance.


distributed cognition; language and technology; language in aviation.

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