Affiliation, topicality, and Asperger’s
The case of story-responsive questions
Keywords:storytelling, story reception, affiliation, topicality, autism spectrum disorder, Asperger syndrome
Objective: In storytelling environments, recipients’ questions have mainly been described as non-affiliative. This article examines how the topicality of story-responsive questions relates to the recipients’ displays of affiliation. Furthermore, we investigate whether there are differences between the practices of neurotypical participants (NT) and participants diagnosed with Asperger syndrome (AS) in this regard. While aiming to uncover the practices of story-responsive questions in general, we also seek to shed light on the specific interactional features associated with AS.
Method: Our method is qualitative conversation analysis. Drawing on a dataset of Finnish quasi-natural conversations, we compare the interactional consequences of story-responsive questions asked by NT- and AS-participants.
Results: We show how the NT-participants in our data use a specific set of practices to manage the topical relevance of their questions, while the AS-participants’ production of otherwise very similar questions differs precisely with reference to these practices.
Discussion: We argue that the different ways in which the NT- and AS-participants treat the topicality of their questions influence the relative affiliative import of the questions in subtle, but yet significant ways.
Conclusions: The affiliative import of story-responsive questions can only really be seen in retrospect, since, in their subsequent turns, the questioner can cast their action as having prepared the ground for affiliation.
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