A Tenorless Genre? Forensic Generic Profiling of Workers’ Compensation Dispute Resolution Discourse


  • Alison Moore Centre for Language in Social Life, Department of Linguistics, Macquarie University, Australia
  • Kathryn Tuckwell Centre for Language in Social Life, Department of Linguistics, Macquarie University, Australia




Genre, GSP, Systemic-functional Linguistics, Realizational Strategies, Semantic Networks, Workers’ Compensation, Variation, Tenor Setting


This paper turns genre modelling to the task of exploring critical variation between instances of an emerging genre – the workers’ compensation teleconference. It attempts to tease out the role that such variation plays in the success of that genre in terms of the social process that it was designed to realize, noting however that ‘success’ must be viewed from multiple perspectives. We describe and illustrate a Hasanian GSP approach to genre description, based on collaborative research we undertook with the NSW Workers Compensation Commission (WCC) in Australia. The method proved useful for identifying what kinds of discourse strategies contribute to the successful resolution of disputes at teleconference, and we present preliminary findings which suggest an association between resolution and what we have called the ‘Orient to Process’ phase in the generic structure of these teleconferences, using a semantic network to display the crucial variation within this phase. We also address some pragmatic consequences of training arbitrators to use ‘successful’ discourse strategies in relation to issues of equity for the worker, and some theoretical consequences of adjusting the GSP framework for research on professional discourses.

Author Biographies

  • Alison Moore, Centre for Language in Social Life, Department of Linguistics, Macquarie University, Australia

    Alison Moore is an ARC postdoctoral research fellow in linguistics at Macquarie University, and research co-ordinator of the Centre for Language in Social Life. Her PhD (2003) examined shared decision making in HIV medicine, and current research explores team interaction in surgery, direct-to-consumer advertising of pharmeceuticals, psychotherapy, palliative care, and workers’ compensation. Crossing these projects is an ongoing interest in multi-stratal and multi-modal text analysis from a systemic-functional perspective, in particular the modelling of agency.

  • Kathryn Tuckwell, Centre for Language in Social Life, Department of Linguistics, Macquarie University, Australia

    Kathryn Tuckwell is a PhD student and researcher in the Centre for Language in Social Life at Macquarie University. She is completing a thesis on scientific explanations of complexity, and working on research projects on professional discourse (in workers’ compensation and palliative care) and media discourse (on bias in the reporting of war, and the direct-to-consumer advertising of pharmaceuticals). Her research and teaching interests include systemic functional grammar, multimodal analysis and the linguistic analysis of verbal art.


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How to Cite

Moore, A., & Tuckwell, K. (2008). A Tenorless Genre? Forensic Generic Profiling of Workers’ Compensation Dispute Resolution Discourse. Linguistics and the Human Sciences, 2(2), 205-232. https://doi.org/10.1558/lhs.v2i2.205