I am an applied linguist. In my teaching and research, I explore the role of language in many domains of everyday life. I am primarily interested in how our linguistic choices (both conscious and subconscious) communicate social information to others about who we are, as people – where we are from, what we do, what we want others to think about us, and so on. And beyond matters of language and identity, I am also intrigued by how language mediates our relationships with others: for example, what is the linguistic work that we do, in order to "perform" our roles as parents, children, lovers, bosses, workers, teachers, learners, friends, community members, etc….and how do others, in turn, use language to respond to us? For instance, in what ways do other people let us know that our utterances are acceptable and appropriate…or not? In what ways do we use language to signal our alignment with (or distance from) others?
I came to language studies with an academic background in Art History, and this prior education in the Humanities has informed my scholarly perspective as an applied linguist. In a broader sense though, I have actually been a student of language my entire life. I grew up in a bilingual family. I studied French, Italian, German, and Thai in formal classroom settings. I later acquired Spanish as an adult. And I have taught English in the U.S., the Czech Republic, Thailand and Argentina. I earned a Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics from Northern Arizona University.
Currently, I am a Professor of Applied Linguistics at the University of South Florida (USF). At USF, I enjoy teaching students in our M.A.-Applied Linguistics/TESL program. I also serve on a number of dissertation committees for Ph.D. students in different disciplines. I teach graduate courses such as Discourse Analysis, Cross-Cultural Pragmatics, Sociolinguistics, Cross-Cultural Issues in Language Teaching, and Language & Technology.
I work in Tampa, but I live across the Bay in St. Petersburg, Florida. I appreciate the diversity of my city, my neighborhood, and my community. When I'm not working, I love to travel around the world.
Language, Creativity and Humor Online
These days, my main focus is on a new book project examining linguistic creativity and humor on various online platforms, such as Twitter and Tumblr. My work in this area actually started as I became interested in humorous parodies of Amazon reviews. By now many people are familiar with "funny" reviews of popularly-parodied products, like the banana slicer, the 3 Wolf Moon T-shirt, and Bic "for Her" pens. I'm especially curious about how the humor is created in these texts, as well as how they often simultaneously serve to critique some larger social phenomema. I'm also interested in how thousands of other internet users contribute to these parodies: by creating similar parodies, by circulating them on other platforms, by giving them "helpful" votes, and by posting messages about them in Amazon's comments section. The first of three articles I have written on this topic can be found in the journal, Language@Internet: "Intertextuality and authorized transgression in parodies of online reviews."
My research explores the language of online reviews. In an era of increasing interconnectivity, many of us regularly consult online reviews as we make consumer decisions.
These days, I am especially interested in the "sharing economy." Adding to a growing body of literature which has identified a strong positivity bias in Airbnb ratings and reviews, my doctoral student, Judith Bridges, and I published an article in the journal Current Issues in Tourism: "If nearly all Airbnb reviews are positive does that make them meaningless?" (The short answer is no.) Examining a set of reciprocal Airbnb reviews, Judith and I identified several of the ways in which consumers use very subtle cues to signal an unsatisfactory experience – even in reviews which, on the surface, appear to be positive.
My 2014 book, The Discourse of Online Reviews, Bloomsbury Publishing, examines a corpus of over 1,000 consumer reviews and discusses many of the discourse features that are characteristic of this rapidly growing, computer-mediated, and primarily text-based, genre. In it, I investigate the language used by reviewers as they forge connections with their audiences to draw them into their stories, as they construct their expertise and authority on various subjects, as they evaluate and assess their consumer experiences, and as they display their knowledge about the very genre in which they are participating. Adopting an eclectic approach to the analysis of discourse, which employs techniques from narrative analysis to corpus linguistics, this book explores topics such as evaluation, identity, and intertextuality, as they occur in online reviews of hotels, restaurants, recipes, films, and other consumer products.
In the article, "Right now versus back then: Recency and remoteness as discursive resources in online reviews," my focus was on how online reviewers make a lot more references to the remote past, compared to the present and the recent past. This is in direct contrast to the strong orientation to "what is happening right now" that is characteristic of many other types of social media (e.g.,Facebook, Twitter, blogs). I also found that remote past references tended to rely more on grammatical resources rather than lexical resources — for example, grammatical aspect, prepositional phrases, and adverbial clauses. The reverse is true for present-time references, which are usually conveyed via a single word: now, today, just, etc.
Much of the research about online reviews has focused on English language reviews. But online reviewing is a global phenomenon, and reviews are written in many other languages as well. For this reason, my colleague, Alice Chik, and I have been comparing reviews of restaurants in Hong Kong (written in Chinese, and posted on a review site called OpenRice) with reviews of restaurants in New York (posted on Yelp). In "'I am not a foodie…': Culinary capital in online reviews of Michelin restaurants," published in the journal Food & Foodways, Alice and I explored how both New York reviewers and Hong Kong reviewers construct their culinary expertise in online reviews of Michelin-rated restaurants.
My first study of online reviews – which examined the discourse-pragmatic features of complaints (or "Rants") in hotel reviews on the popular travel website, TripAdvisor – appeared in Journal of Pragmatics.
Complaints online: The case of TripAdvisor in (2011) Journal of Pragmatics, 43, 1707-1717.
Another article, which considers features of narrativity in consumer reviews, and analyzes the discursive resources that authors of such reviews use to create a sense of involvement in their online stories of personal experience was published in Narrative Inquiry.
Narrativity and involvement in online consumer reviews: The case of TripAdvisor in (2013) Narrative Inquiry, 22 (1), 105-121.
A book chapter about reviewer identities, focusing on how authors use language to construct a sense of credibility, authority, and trustworthiness in these texts appears in The Language of Social Media: Communication and Community on the Internet, a volume edited by Philip Seargeant & Caroline Tagg.)
One of my students, Yi Zhang, and I studied some of the characteristic features of businesses' responses posted on TripAdvisor by 4- and 5-star hotels in China, following up on negative consumer reviews. In our article "Hotels' responses to online reviews: Managing consumer dissatisfaction" We found that these responses often take the format of a "traditional letter," and are addressed to the specific individual who posted the complaint – even though their intended audience consists of a much larger group of "overhearers." We also found that there were 8 communicative moves that appeared in nearly all of the responses in our sample, which means that even though this is a new online genre, it is nevertheless quite predictable and formulaic. One thing that surprised us though was that about 40% of the responses did not refer back to the original complaint, and many of these responses tended to be pretty generic, or underspecified. In other words, these responses could apply to just about any type of problem, and could be "cut & pasted" in response to a number of different reviews.
I love stories. I love to watch and listen to people who are talented storytellers, as they transform bits of human reality and experience, relying on language (and a number of other semiotic means) to make them come alive for an audience of listeners. And by "talented storytellers" I don't just mean people who are recognized artists or well-known performers… I also mean people like my next-door neighbor, or the person one seat over at the airport who is talking to their boss on the phone, or my M.A. students who come to my office and tell me about what happened earlier in the day in their own ESL classrooms.
Because I happen to work with ESL teachers, I have published a number of articles on the types of stories that ESL teachers tell.
In an early article, I described different "moral stances" taken up by novice ESL teachers in two main types of narratives: reflective and relational stories.
Moral stance in the workplace narratives of novices in (2007) Discourse Studies, 9 (5), 653-675.
Another article takes an in-depth, micro-analytic look at a "problem narrative" that one teacher tells to her supervisor during a post-observation meeting. I argue that because this teacher embeds a complaint into her story, she must engage in various forms of "facework" as she negotiates the telling of this particular story in this particular context. What I really love about this narrative is that it is such a great example of co-tellership, or how stories often get created by more than one person talking at a time.
Examining the role of face work in a workplace complaint narrative in (2009) Narrative Inquiry, 19 (2), 259-279.
I have to admit that I also really enjoy reading scholarship about narrative. I am endlessly fascinated by questions such as: How do discourse analysts and sociolinguists go about analyzing the stories that they collect? What discourse features do they attend to? What interpretive frameworks do they draw on? How do these researchers define "narrative" in the first place? In this realm, I have been inspired by the work of Michael Bamberg, Anna De Fina, James Gee, Alexandra Georgakopoulou, Janet Holmes, Deborah Tannen, and other narrative scholars.
With recent scholarship on "small stories" in mind, I wrote an article for a special issue on "Narrative Research in TESOL" in TESOL Quarterly 2011. In this paper, I argue that research in TESOL – in particular, those studies having to do with teacher and learner "identities" – would benefit from a more discourse analytic approach (which considers not only what is said, but also how it is said), as well as from considering a broader range of narrative activities (as opposed to the predominant focus, which tends to be on narratives elicited in research interviews).
TESOL, teacher identity, and the need for "small story" research in (2011) TESOL Quarterly, 45 (3), 535-545 [special issue: "Narrative research in TESOL"].
Post-Observation Talk(Teachers & Mentors)
For anyone who has ever taught anything in an educational setting, it is likely that they have participated in a teaching observation. Typically, these classroom observations are followed by some version of what I call a "post-observation meeting." The post-observation meeting is a speech activity in which the teacher and the observer meet and discuss what happened during the class that was observed. Often there is some type of feedback given to the teacher, although these events do not necessarily need to be evaluative in nature.
My earliest article on this topic investigated the ways in which suggestions and advice were given by mentors to teachers during post-observation meetings...as well as why those "suggestions and advice" were not always heard as such by the teacher participants in the meetings. This study took place in an Intensive English Program, and eventually became the basis for my dissertation.
Very carefully managed: Advice and suggestions in post-observation meetings in (2004) Linguistics and Education, 15 (1-2), 32-58.
Another article, based on my dissertation, considers the discourse strategies used by mentors (over the course of several semesters) to "shift the patterns of participation" and to specifically elicit more talk from teachers in the post-observation meetings.
Transforming practice: Changing patterns of participation in post-observation meetings in (2007) Language Awareness, 16 (3), 153-172.
I have also written a few pieces about teacher narratives in post-observation meetings: these have been published in the journals, Discourse Studies and Narrative Inquiry.
Moral stance in the workplace narratives of novices in (2007). Discourse Studies, 9 (5), 653-675.
Examining the role of face work in a workplace complaint narrative in (2009) Narrative Inquiry, 19 (2), 259-279.
The result of a long-term research collaboration with colleague, Alfredo Urzúa, we have written about the different functions of reported speech and reported mental states in teacher discourse.
Reported speech and reported mental states in mentoring meetings: Exploring novice teacher identities in (2009) Research on Language and Social Interaction, 42 (1), 1-19.
We have also explored reflection and professional identity in novice teachers' future-oriented professional discourse.
Reflection and professional identity in teachers' future- oriented discourse in (2008) Teaching and Teacher Education, 24 (7), 1935-1946.
Finally, a co-authored piece with Vietnamese Fulbright scholar, Phuong Le, takes a speech act theoretic approach to post-observation discourse.
Feedback in post-observation conferences: Mentor discourse and intern perceptions in (2011) Teacher Development, 15 (4), 453-470.
Pragmatics and Teacher Education
In 2008, as the MA-TESL program at USF was considering a curricular revision, I conducted a nationwide survey in order to answer the following question: "What do programs similar to mine do to prepare their MA-TESL students for teaching L2 pragmatics?" My research assistant, Donna Sharpless, and I conducted this survey by telephone, and we talked to faculty from nearly 100 programs. The findings really surprised us! This article appeared in TESOL Quarterly in 2009.
The role of pragmatics in MA-TESOL programs in (2009) TESOL Quarterly, 43 (1), 5-28.
I have to say that I am pleased to see that this important topic is finally beginning to receive more scholarly attention. As the findings of the above-mentioned survey indicated, we, as a field, need to be doing much more with preparing teachers on how to address pragmatics in their language classrooms. Addressing this gap in the literature, in 2011, Zoreh Eslami guest-edited a special issue of TESL-EJ on "Pragmatics and Teacher Education." This special issue has a number of interesting articles about diverse responses by language teachers to learning about pragmatics, including articles written by my colleagues, Noriko Ishihara and Heidi Vellenga. My own contribution to this issue (co-authored with doctoral student Amy Fioramonte) presents the main points which former students report to have "taken away" from a course that I teach about cross-cultural and L2 pragmatics. The article ends with a list of implications for language teacher educators.
Full Text Online: Integrating pragmatics in the MA-TESL curriculum: Reflections from former students in (2011) TESL-EJ, 15 (2), 1-22 [special issue: "Incorporating Instructional Pragmatics into ESL/EFL Teacher Education"].
Language Learning and Technology
Co-authored with a graduate of the SLAIT PhD program, Victoria Russell, this paper introduces a Web-based tutorial designed for teaching Spanish language learners about L2 pragmatics, specifically about making complaints and requests.
Full Text Online: A web-based tutorial for the instruction of Spanish pragmatics in (2011) IALLT Journal, 41 (2), 27-55.
This paper, co-authored with SLAIT doctoral candidate, Shenggao Wang, provides a review of 43 empirical studies, which have examined Web 2.0 technologies (tools such as social networking, blogs, wikis, etc.) in various second and foreign language learning contexts. Full Text Online: Web 2.0 and Second Language Learning: What Does the Research Tell Us? in (2012) CALICO Journal, 29 (3), 412-430.
As a qualitative researcher, I have always been drawn to case study research. I guess that's because a successful case study essentially "tells a story" – about a person, context, or phenomenon. When I was a graduate student, it seemed like published case studies were few and far between. Fortunately, that has changed, as applied linguistics journals have been publishing more and more case studies in recent years. In this case study that I conducted several years ago, I examined the forms of participation of a Generation 1.5 student in a university IEP.
Comments from the classroom: A case study of a Generation 1.5 student in a university IEP and beyond in (2007) Canadian Modern Language Review, 63 (3), 345-370.
For me, the many studies on corrective feedback are among the most interesting research in the field of instructed Second Language Acquisition (SLA). As language teachers, we often hold strong beliefs about error correction…but to what extent are those beliefs reflected in our classroom practice? In an article co-authored with SLAIT graduate Jane Harvey, we explored a form of “action research,” in which our SLA students replicated Lyster & Ranta’s 1997 study on corrective feedback. We were impressed by the profound changes in teachers’ awareness about corrective feedback that were brought about by their involvement in this research replication.
Raising teachers' awareness about corrective feedback through research replication in (2010) Language Teaching Research, 14 (4), 421-443.
This study was inspired by work from Conversation Analysis on the discourse phenomenon of “formulations.” Formulations are when one speaker “paraphrases” the utterance of another speaker. In particular, I remember reading an article by Charles Antaki in Discourse Studies which analyzed the various functions of formulations in psychotherapy – and that made me wonder about their use in educational contexts. I decided to tackle this question by looking at formulations in the publicly-available Michigan Corpus of Spoken Academic English (MICASE). This study appeared in the journal, Text & Talk.
Exploring two explicit formulations in university discourse in (2010) TEXT & TALK, 30 (6), 749-771.
April 28, 2016. Mining review data for consumer perspectives. Global Allies/The Getty's Group 2nd Annual Fast Forward Event (Chicago).
March 17, 2016. Inside the language of online reviews. Switchfly 8th Annual Thought Leadership Summit (Napa Valley).
January 26, 2016. Online reviews: Opportunities for communication. Annual Hostelworld Conference (Dublin).
October 14, 2015. Understanding the Science and Art of Online User Reviews. Skift Global Forum (NYC).
March 28, 2015. Can you Trust Online Reviews? Rudy Maxa's World.
March 13, 2015. Loudsourcing: Inside the Mad, Mad World of TripAdvisor. Outside Magazine (April).
December 17, 2014. The Poetry of Yelp: How the Reviews Site Became a Massive Platform for Creativity. Fast Company.
November 29, 2014. The Art of the Amateur Online Review. The New York Times.
November 6-7, 2014. The discursive construction of identities in online consumer reviews. School of Language, Culture and Society, Oregon State University (Corvallis, OR).
October 15, 2014. The discourse of online consumer reviews. Homegrown Humanities Series, University of South Florida (Tampa, FL).
October 9-10, 2014. The good, the bad, and the worst: Analyzing evaluation in online reviews. MLC Speaker Series, Georgetown University (Washington, DC).
April 3, 2014. Analyzing the discourse of online reviews. Linguistics Colloquium, Department of Linguistics, University of Florida (Gainesville, FL).
May 24, 2013. Forms of intertextuality in online consumer reviews. Fifth International Roundtable on Discourse (Discourse and Digital Practices), Department of English, City University of Hong Kong.
Department of World Languages
University of South Florida