The structural organization of a language interview: A conversation analytic perspective

Anne Lazaraton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


This paper examines the widely-held-but largely untested-assumption that a language interview is a "structured conversational exchange". Specifically, the structural organization of twenty audio- and videotaped oral-skills course-placement interviews were analyzed for features of conversation and interviews by using conversation analysis techniques, in which talk-in-interaction is studied on a turn-by-turn, sequential basis from the perspective of the participants in the interaction. The results indicate that the interview encounters proceed through distinct phases and are composed of sequences that roughly parallel the organization of conversation. However, the responsibility for initiating the sequences and the form the initiations take differ, and thus lend to the characterization of the encounters as interviews, and interviews of a distinctive kind, for the participants. It is suggested that the analytic procedures illustrated in this paper be applied to more widely-used oral testing instruments in order to evaluate their utility in eliciting conversational interaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)373-386
Number of pages14
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1992
Externally publishedYes


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