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DISCOURSE COMMUNITIES

Discourse Communities
Parker Cunningham
University of Texas at El Paso
Professor Renee Malooly

DISCOURSE COMMUNITIES

A discourse community is a very simple concept to grasp, however, it can be very
complex to some people. Put simply, a discourse community is a group of individuals who all
share a common goal and use the same methods in achieving that goal. The members of that
community have their own way of intercommunication, they attend gatherings, use the same,
unique vocabulary relating to their specific goal, and even have their own genres, or texts, to
communicate with each other. In general, a discourse community is a group of people who all
have the same intentions and objectives.
One example of a discourse community is the Golden State Warriors. Each member of
the Warriors all share the same plan and target, to win the NBA championship. And to fulfill this
goal, they assign certain roles to certain people who are best fitted for it, for example, since
Stephen Curry has the best passes and ball control on the team, he will be the Point Guard and
have the ball most of the time. The question of “who is in charge?”, is somewhat complex for the
Warriors, since they are a group with players, coaches, and owners. In regard to the players, the
Point Guard, as mentioned before, Stephen Curry, would be the on-court leader while the game is
happening. However, in the locker room and during timeouts, the coach, Steve Kerr, would be
the leader. And the owner of the team, Joseph Lacob, would be the leader of the more business
side of the team, away from the actual basketball game. There are also around five different job
titles in this community. To be specific, there are players, coaches, owners, trainers, and scouts,
in which all play an integral part in accomplishing their goal, to become the best team in the
league and win the championship.

DISCOURSE COMMUNITIES

Although a discourse community is only one subject, there are different ways to define
them. According to John Swales, discourse communities must “offer a set of criteria sufficiency
narrow that it will eliminate many of the marginal, blurred and controversial contenders.”
(Swales, 1990, pg. 469), specifically, he lists 6 characteristics that a group needs to have in order
to be a discourse community. He lists that a discourse community needs a “broad set of common
goals”, “intercommunication”, “provide feedback”, “utilize one or more genres” and even
acquire “horizons of expectations” (Swales, 1990, pg. 471-473). As one can tell, Swales
requirements are very strict in order to be seen as a discourse community. On the other hand,
Porter can be conveyed as more lenient, as he states that a discourse community is a
“constraining system” (Porter, 1986, pg. 40). Porter also argues that having to be ‘qualified’ to be
a speaker in a community only restricts actual discourse and “establishes limits and regulations”
(Porter, 1986, pg. 39). Clearly, Swales’ and Porter’s definitions and ideas on discourse
communities are conflicting and incompatible, however, holding the same base general idea.
In comparison to Swales rules specifically, the Golden State Warriors do in fact fit the
criteria. For example, the first regulation they must meet is that they all have the same goal. As
stated before, they do all have the same objective, to win the NBA championship. As for the
second requisite, having mechanisms for communication, they also meet those. Everyone on the
team has to attend team meetings, and even during games, the team can call a timeout and have
gathering to discuss what they must do to win. The third requirement is much like the one
mentioned before, use participatory mechanisms to provide feedback. As stated before, the team
has meetings and timeouts to gather feedback and change certain roles if they must do so in order
to ensure success. Possessing a genre, the fourth rule is also met by the Warriors. The team has
an official website, and even its own Twitter page, all in order to communicate. The second to

DISCOURSE COMMUNITIES

last requirement, have specific lexis, is very easily met by the team. Every player, coach and
even fans to enjoy watching them play, all know the lexis and vocabulary they use. Certain
words such as a “screen”, (which is used to help a certain player get away from their defender to
create a shot) or “rebound” (recovering the ball after somebody has missed a shot), are all a part
of the specific vocabulary the Warriors use. Finally, having a threshold level of members with a
suitable expertise, the sixth rule, is also met. Each player on the team must require the specific
skills and talent in order to make that team. However, they do have rookies and first year players
on the team who are supposed to learn from the veterans and older payers how to progress their
skills and become better. So, if all the veteran players with expertise left, only the novices would
be left, in which they would lose games, which causes losses in money and the league would
resort to disbanding the organization, leaving no discourse community. With the Golden State
Warriors meeting all six rules Swales has set in place in order, it is safe to say they are, in fact, to
be considered an actual discourse community.
In conclusion, the Golden State Warriors couldn’t be any more of a discourse community.
Many communities only barely meet the requirements needed, however, this is not true for the
Warriors, as they fit all criteria exactly and should be considered a perfect example of what a
discourse community is. Also while doing the research for this community and looking for
genres and lexis, I now know what to look for in a discourse community and learned that not all
communities communicate the same. For example, the Warriors might use Twitter to
communicate the majority of the time, while another community could use their website or even
a mailing list, you cannot just look in the same place for every community. Overall, I learned a
number of things about discourse communities and communication in general that will no doubt
help me in the future.

DISCOURSE COMMUNITIES

Reference Page
Porter, J. (1986). Intertextuality and the discourse community. In E. Wardle & D. Downs (Eds.),

DISCOURSE COMMUNITIES

Writing about writing: A college reader (p. 395-405). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martins.

Swales, J. (1990). The concept of discourse community. In E. Wardle & D. Downs (Eds.),

Writing about writing: A college reader (p. 212-227). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martins.