Balancing institutional authority and children’s agency

The Hebrew verb lircot (to want) in speech-language therapy sessions


  • Bracha Nir The University of Haifa
  • Irit Mayost-Abramovich The University of Haifa
  • Gonen Dori-Hacohen University of Massachusetts Amherst



speech-language therapy, Hebrew, children’s agency, institutional, authority


Background: The study investigates how clinicians achieve balance between the needs of the institution and the promotion of the child’s agency and volition.

Method: Our data are taken from the opening segments of 16 sessions recorded by 8 speech clinicians during their meetings with 11 children with some form of speech and language disorder. We focus on four segments, and our analysis is based on the combined insights of three approaches to the analysis of talk: conversation analysis (CA), dialogic syntax (DS), and discourse pragmatics (DP).

Results: The extended and integrated analyses of the segments illustrate different ways in which the clinicians and the children negotiate intersubjectivity in the speech-language therapy (SLT) session, focusing on the use of the verb for ‘to want’ in Hebrew.

Discussion and conclusion: The study demonstrates that while clinicians may perceive their action of employing question constructions with the verb for ‘to want’ as addressing the interlocutor’s will, their interactional practices may in fact achieve the opposite.

Author Biographies

Bracha Nir, The University of Haifa

Bracha Nir (PhD in Linguistics, 2008; MA in Cognitive Studies of Language and Language Use; BA in Linguistics, Tel Aviv University, Israel) is a senior lecturer at the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Haifa, Israel. She is a functionalist linguist working in the frameworks of socio cognitive discourse analysis and text psycholinguistics, focusing on form–function relations in language, in extended discourse, and in dialogic interaction (both mundane and institutional). Her studies explore the role of context in shaping meaning and structure in the different domains of grammar (from morphology to syntax to text), in constraining language use from a developmental, cross-linguistic perspective, and in serving various functions of intersubjectivity. Currently, she is Editor of Constructions and Frames, a forum for construction-based approaches to language analysis.

Irit Mayost-Abramovich, The University of Haifa

Irit Mayost-Abramovich (MA and BA in Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of Haifa) is a speech and language therapist, who has been working with children and their families for the past 16 years. Her clinical work focuses on the assessment and treatment of toddlers, as well as school-age children, who have speech, language, and communication needs. In her MA project, she identified various patterns of language use, participation, and institutional dialogue in the openings of therapeutic interactions between SLTs and young children. Her work focuses on how the clinicians operate in the intersubjective space of the SLT session, and how they attempt to achieve the goal of securing the verbal co-operation of the child. Her findings demonstrate the complexity of managing epistemic authority and power in the SLT interaction.

Gonen Dori-Hacohen, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Gonen Dori-Hacohen (PhD 2009, University of Haifa, Israel; MA in Communication and Journalism, the Hebrew University; MA in Sociology, UCLA; BA from the Open University of Israel) is an associate professor at the Department of Communication at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is a discourse analyst, studying interactions in the media and in mundane situations, focusing on the intersection of interaction, culture, politics, and the media. Currently, he studies civic participation in Israeli radio phone-ins, American Political Radio Talk, and other arenas of public participation, such as online comments.


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How to Cite

Nir, B., Mayost-Abramovich, I., & Dori-Hacohen, G. (2021). Balancing institutional authority and children’s agency: The Hebrew verb lircot (to want) in speech-language therapy sessions. Journal of Interactional Research in Communication Disorders, 10(2), 153–178.