Nature – Armchair – Interview

The researcher who does not trust his or her own intuition (e.g. because he or she is not a native speaker of the language to be investigated) might decide to ask native speakers for their intuition. This would – of course – force the researcher to leave the comfortable armchair and search for native speakers who are willing to be interviewed, but it does not change the research method very significantly. Instead of suggesting felicity conditions for a speech act on the basis of his or her own intuition, the researcher asks native speaker what for them the crucial elements of compliments are. Such interviews are very different from oral discourse completion tests or from role-plays. Here, informants are not asked to produce specimens of language to be analyzed but they are asked to produce opinions and assessments of the unit under investigation. It is a meta task. Yuan (2001) carried out semi-structured oral interviews with informants who had just performed a discourse completion test.

The informants were invited to share their opinions or experiences of giving and receiving compliments in the dialect. They were also asked to recall the last two compliments they had given and received, how the compliments were responded to, who the interactants were, and the contexts in which the compliments occurred. (Yuan 2001: 275)
It appears that such an approach can indeed offer insights into native speaker perceptions of this particular speech act.