Re-Examining Alignment in a “Failed” L2 Autobiographic Research Interview

Prior, Matthew T. (2014). Re-examining alignment in a ‘failed’ L2 autobiographic research interview. Qualitative Inquiry, 20(4), 495-508.


Contributing to a “social studies of interview studies,” this article addresses the treatment of “failed” autobiographic interviews. Taking a discursive constructionist approach, the author re-examines a problematic second language (L2) English interview with an immigrant man from Cambodia. Analysis focuses on the interactional management of (mis)alignment and how it contributed to the shape and outcome of the activity. By turning away from failure to accomplishment, and attending to the ways in which interviewee and interviewer use their differential linguistic and cultural expertise as topic and resource, the multi-layered activity takes on a new light that allows recognition of what was understood, shared, and ultimately achieved. The application of these insights for interview practice and analysis are discussed.


Analyzing Storytelling In TESOL Interview Research

Kasper, G., & Matthew T. Prior (published online, May, 2014). Analyzing storytelling in TESOL interview research. TESOL Quarterly.


Autobiographic research interviews have become an accepted and valued method of qualitative inquiry in TESOL and applied linguistics more broadly. In recent discussions surrounding the epistemological treatment of autobiographic stories, TESOL researchers have increasingly called for more attention to the ways in which stories are embedded in interaction and thus are bound up with the social contexts of their production. This paper advances these efforts by demonstrating an empirically grounded approach to storytelling as interaction. Drawing on the research tradition on storytelling in conversation analysis, the article offers a sample analysis of a story produced in an L2 English interview with an adult immigrant in the United States. By engaging sequential conversation analysis, membership categorization analysis, and occasioned semantics, it examines the interactional practices through which the storyteller and story recipient launch, produce, and end the telling of a story that furthers the purpose of the autobiographic interview. By following closely the participants’ coordinated actions as they unfold in time, we trace how the parties accomplish the storytelling as an intelligible and meaningful activity through sequence organization and turn design. We conclude with recommendations for extending storytelling research in TESOL to meet the evolving needs and interests of the field.

You want vocal “fry” with that?


In June, 2014, I was invited to say a few words about vocal fry on the local NPR affiliate, KJZZ. That was a lot of fun. Here’s the link to the broadcast:

Vocal fry (aka glottal fry, creaky voice, froggy voice, glottalization) has been all over the news in recent years:

Although vocal fry tends to be negatively evaluated and associated with young women (e.g., the Kardashians, Britney Spears), it really has a much longer history. Look at any old Hollywood film, and you’ll see vocal fry is rampant in the speech of “tough” female roles (think Bette Davis, Mae West, or Joan Crawford) or evil characters such as the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz. Of course, vocal fry isn’t always associated with women. Often the male villains (e.g., Vincent Price) in old movies used vocal fry to convey their sinister character. Another interesting fact is that vocal fry if found often in the speech of British men. It is so prevalent now that it can be heard by both men and women on almost any radio or TV broadcast.

There is no single cause or purpose for vocal fry, but research does point out several interesting and conflicting facts:

  • Up to two-thirds of American women use it.
  • It conveys a sense of confidence and and represents an image of an upwardly mobile, sophisticated woman.
  • It lowers the female pitch, bringing it closer to male range (and thereby conveys more power and authority).
  • It is associated with muscle tension–but this often due to an underlying pathology, which is NOT the same vocal fry that people are talking about in popular culture.
  • It can be used for comedic effect.
  • It can be used to represent sexuality and desirability.
  • It can make the speaker sound laid-back.
  • Women listeners tend to rate vocal fry more harshly.
  • It is used when expressing complaints.
  • It is not random but often occurs at the end of an utterance, signaling completion and even inviting the listener to empathize with the speaker’s perspective.
  • Because it tends to be negatively evaluated by employers, there is concern that it can influence hiring decisions.