Affiliation, topicality, and Asperger’s

The case of story-responsive questions


  • Emmi Koskinen University of Helsinki
  • Melisa Stevanovic Tampere University
  • Anssi Peräkylä University of Helsinki



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.

Author Biographies

Emmi Koskinen, University of Helsinki

Emmi Koskinen is a doctoral candidate in sociology at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki, Finland. In her research, she has focused on the phenomena of affiliation and face-work in storytelling interactions. Utilizing quasi-natural settings, she investigates how certain interactional deviances, such as autism spectrum disorder, narcissism, or depression, potentially are manifested in participants’ behavior and automatic physiological responses.

Melisa Stevanovic, Tampere University

Melisa Stevanovic is a senior university lecturer at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Tampere University, Finland. She has conducted conversation analytical research on the interactional management of power relations, collaborative decisionmaking, and affectivity, both in naturally occurring interactions at the workplace and mental health rehabilitation and in quasi-natural experimental settings. She has also published on the topic of social interaction deficits and experiences of interaction.

Anssi Peräkylä, University of Helsinki

Anssi Peräkylä is Academy Professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki, Finland. His current research interests include the self in social interaction, narcissism, and personality disorders, as well as social interaction in psychotherapeutic and psychiatric encounters. He is involved in both conversation analytical and experimental studies. In recent years, he has published in outlets such as the American Journal of Sociology, Social Psychology Quarterly, and Research in Language and Social Interaction.


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How to Cite

Koskinen, E. ., Stevanovic, M. ., & Peräkylä, A. . (2021). Affiliation, topicality, and Asperger’s: The case of story-responsive questions. Journal of Interactional Research in Communication Disorders, 11(1), 52–77.