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Ut Teng Lau

ENGL 1113
The Concept of Discourse Community
John Swales
Framing the Reading
John Swales is a professor of linguistics and co-director of Michigan
Corpus of Academic Spoken English at the University of Michigan.
He spent time working with nonnative speakers of English and help
them succeed as readers and writers in the university.
This excerpt is from Swales’ book called Genre Analysis. It is about
what a discourse community is and how it is different from a speech
community. In here, he defined six characteristics of a discourse
One of the most important of Swales’s characteristics is genre.
Genres are types of texts that are recognizable to readers and
writers, and that meet the needs of the rhetorical situations in which
they function.
Genres develop over time in response to recurring rhetorical needs.
Swale demonstrates that discourse communities all use genres, and
they develop their own conventions for those genres in light of their
desired goals. For example, a team of biologists will use many
genres that are recognized outside of their discourse community,
including research logs, notebooks, lab reports, conference
presentations, and published scholarly papers. However, they often
will have developed discourse-specific conventions guiding the
production of these genres (for example, the Council of Science
Editors’ rules for documentation in published papers.) The genres
and conventions will continue to change as a result of new
2.1 A Need for Clarification
Introducing several writers and thinkers that he wanted to refer to.
Herzberg defined discourse community into three parts: it is a
means of maintaining and extending the group’s knowledge and of
initiating new members into the group. Swale considered Herzberg
ideas not directly assist with the logically prior ones of how we
recognize such communities in the first page.

The participatory mechanisms will vary according to the community: meetings. by opportunity and frequency of communication. Thirdly. conversations and so forth. Membership .2 Speech Communities and Discourse Communities A speech community is seen as being composed of those who share functional rules that determine the appropriacy of utterances. A discourse community has a broadly agreed set of common public goals. Skip 2. speech communities are centripetal (they tend to absorb people into that general fabric of society). whereas discourse communities are centrifugal (they tend to separate people into occupational or specialty-interest groups). A discourse community uses its participatory mechanisms primarily to provide information and feedback. Discourse community tends to be a specific interest group.Skip “Several other proponents of the ‘social view’. while believing that discourse community is a powerful and useful concept. 3. by common research methodology. for members communicate with other members in distant places. Literary takes away locality and parochiality.” Swales used Porter’s point that discourse communities should not be determined by shared objects of study. since a discourse community consists of a group of people who link up in order to pursue objectives. the primary determinants of linguistic behavior are social while they are functional for a sociorhetorical one. The first reason is concerned with medium. 2. A second reason is the need to distinguish a sociolinguistic grouping from a sociorhetorical one. telecommunications. The goals are public though members may have hidden purposes.3 A Conceptualization of Discourse Community Six characters: 1. 2. and are more likely to react and respond to writings rather than speech from the past. A discourse community has mechanisms of intercommunication among its members. or by genre and stylistic conventions because those current definitions are vague. correspondence. Definition of speech community will not result in making an alternative definition of discourse community unnecessary. newsletters. recognize it currently raises as many questions as it answers. For a sociolinguistic one.

5 Remaining Issues The issue of whether a community’s discourse and its discoursal expectations are constitutive or regulative of world-view is a contemporary reworking of the Whorfian hypothesis that each language possesses a structure which must at some level influence the way its users view the world. a discourse community has acquired some specific lexis.implies uptake of the information opportunities. Discourse communities have changing memberships. 4. This specialization may involve using lexical items known to wider speech communities in special and technical ways. There is main mechanism. It is 6. An example would be subscribing a magazine. The discourse community has developed a genre-specific set of conventions for describing items of Hong Kong postal history. .4 An Example of a Discourse Community The discourse community is a hobby group and has an ‘umbrella organization’ called the Hong Kong Study Circle. or ‘forum’ for intercommunication. 5. On the other hand. These may involve appropriacy of topics. 2. A discourse community has developed and continues to develop discoursal expectations. A discourse community has a threshold level of members with a suitable degree of relevant content and discoursal expertise. then it becomes difficult to maintain the position that discourse conventions can be employed in a detached. and the roles text play in the operation of the discourse community. The aims of the HKSC are to foster interst in and knowledge of stamps of Hong Kong and of their uses. 2. This discourse community meets all six of proposed defining criteria. Memberships varies nationally and occupationally. Bizzell observes ‘ If we acknowledge that participating in a discourse community entails some assimilation of its world view. the forms. distance between members geographically ethnically and socially presumably means that they do not form a speech community. instrumental way’. Nothing in common except their shared hobby interest. In addition to owning genres. A discourse community utilizes and hence possesses one or more genres in the communicative furtherance of its aims. function and positioning o f discoursal elements.

Thridly. the definition is utopian and ‘oddly free of many of the tensions.The first reason for that is that it is possible to deny the premise that participation entails assimilation. Secondly. Examples of a lab course and a design course that the lab course was norm-developed while the design course was norm-developing. an academic class is unlikely to be a discourse community. Except in exceptional cases of well-knit groups of advanced students already familiar with much of the material. . A prospective son-in-law may pretend to be an active and participating member of a bridgeplaying community in order to make a favorable impression on his prospective parents-in-law. to deny the instrumental employment of discourse conventions is to threaten one common type of apprenticeship and to cast a hegemonical shadow over international education. discontinuities and conflicts in the sorts of talk and writing that go on everyday in the classrooms and departments of an actual university. Swales proposes that neither assimilation of world-view nor a threshold level of personal involvement as criterial for a discourse communities. The next issue is whether certain groupings like academic classes constitute discourse communities. individuals may belong to several discourse communities and that individuals will vary in the number of discourse communities they belong and hence in the number of genres they command. Finally.