Judged is” (Levinson, 1983, p. 294 in

Judged from a constructivist,  practice-oriented  view  of  interaction  and  competence, it can be argued that  OPIs bear little resemblance to a natural conversation (Johnson, 2001; McNamara, 1997;  Young & He, 1998). In a truly spontaneous/informal conversation, the meaning is co-constructed by the participants (Young, 2002), “each of whom contributes  linguistic  and  pragmatic  resources  to  a particular speech event/ situation” (Young & He, 1998, p.5).

None of the participants has a pre- determined role in initiating or terminating a topic or in holding the floor.  Their contributions are dependent on each other, “due to the context-shaped and context-renewing nature of turns at talk” (Heritage, 1984 in Roeve, 2014, p.10).

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That is, conversation is not a “structural product in the same way that a sentence is” (Levinson, 1983, p. 294 in Johnson, 2001); it is the outcome of the interaction of two or more participants whose contributions are shaped by their respective goals and a number of social factors in a given situation/speech event. Because every manifestation of the speaking ability is context-bound and co-constructed by all participants in a speech event, the speaking ability is not a trait residing within an individual (McNamara, 1997; Johnson, 2001; Young &He, 1998); it is “local” or “practice- specific” and acquired  via  “participating  with  more  experienced others in  specific  interactive  practices” (Young & He, 1998, p.7). In sum, in addition to speaking ability, context specific skills and experience are called upon in order to successfully communicate in a speech event (Johnson, 2001). Nevertheless, in its attempt to elicit a  ”ratable sample”of a candidate’s speaking ability (Lier, 1989, p.

496 in Johnson, 2001, p.50), OPI adopt a “one sided pattern” of question and response with a  predictable “turn allocation and distribution” (Young 2002, p. 251) .

In an OPI,  the  rater’s turn consist solely of questions,  while the responsibility for the outcome of the conversation rests  with the candidate (McNamara, 1997; Young, 2002). In other words, it is the candidate who does most of the speaking, yet it is the rater who controls the floor. “The rater has a plan and conducts and controls the interview largely according to that plan” (van Lier 1989, p. 496 in Johnson, 2001). This is one of the reasons that McNamara (1997) calls a candidate’s performance in the OPI a “solo performance” (p.

454) , i.e., an “extensive monologic production” (Roever, 2011, p.471). 


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