BP3: Looking Further into Discourse Community Scholars

Blog » BP3: Looking Further into Discourse Community Scholars

Posted on 13 Mar 2013 01:36

Over the past few weeks, we have been reading, writing, and discussing discourse communities and scholars’ works in the field. These authors offer their definition of the broad term ‘discourse community’ as well as present examples to support their claims.

In his article “The Concept of Discourse Community”, John Swales uses the HKSC (Hong Kong Study Circle) as an example of a discourse community. He chooses this community, in my view, for, mainly, two reasons. The first, as he clearly states at the beginning of section 2.4 of his article, is because he wishes to lift the stereotype that discourse communities are purely academic, and the HKSC is a hobby-based community. Second, Swales himself is a member of the community, and enjoys it. Thus it is pleasurable for him to provide this example. He is trying to display how the HKSC fits in as a discourse community.
Swales uses his personal involvement in the community as a research tool. He provides excerpts from journals/ newsletters of the HKSC. Additionally, he described how he wrote an article some time ago, when he was not yet a full member, and how it was not so acceptable to the members of the community. Through Swales research, we can observe that communities, even nonacademic ones, can be considered discourse communities (provided that they fit Swales’ model). We can also draw out that being fully accepted into a community, even if it is one’s hobby, may be difficult.

Taking a different approach than Swales, Ann Johns categorizes three different types of communities: social, political, and recreational communities, professional communities, and academic communities. She uses a cycling community as an example of a recreational community. Her husband is her source of research, as he belongs to the international community of cyclists. She also mentions the publication “Bicycling” as a magazine read by her husband and the greater cycling community. Johns’ goal here is to portray how there are many different types of communities, and that members could have conflicting values, but may have similar interest.

When analyzing these examples of research, Swales uses a more concrete example, as he is a part of the discourse community he discusses. Both scholars seem to agree upon the fact that discourse communities do not have to necessarily refer to academic communities. Additionally, both display that the communities use some type of text-based means of communication, and that they have some type of system of unified values or hobbies, no matter how different each member.

For my own discourse community research project, I plan on investigating my own community. This already fits with Swales method of research, since he was an insider of the community he chose to present. Moreover, I followed his criteria for a discourse community to prove that my choice was in fact a true discourse community. I plan on gathering texts, like Swales, to research my community, as well as interview people, other members, of the community in order to gain further insight into my studies.

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