Discourse Communities & Communities of Practice

Blog » Discourse Communities & Communities of Practice

Posted on 12 Mar 2013 20:20

John Swales explains and defines the discourse community while Mary Bucholtz discusses the communities of practice. In fact, discourse community is similar to communities of practice. Both Swales and Bucholtz express their ideas in the same way, which give specific examples to prove their opinions of discourse community and communities of practice. Bucholtz uses the example of a group of high school students. On the other hand, Swales uses an example called “Hong Kong Study Circle,” whose goal is to learn and foster interest of stamps; Swales is also a member of the community.

In Mary Bucholtz’s article, she chose a social group of six high school girls who called themselves “nerd girls.” She discussed the communities of practice, which share experience and information to other group members. The reason Bucholtz picked the “nerds” to study was that she mainly focused on language and identity in her essay. She thought language should be the main point for communities of practice. Thus, the communications of the six nerd girls’ is a proper instance to prove her thesis, which is a pattern of language usage of a community. She also revealed the traditional mainstream norms of sociolinguistics, which was mainly based on man. Identity is also a main factor of practice communities. To detail such fact, she did research from different social categories and studied on central group members. In addition, she also analyzed the marginal members to argue the usage of language. The “nerd girls” are considered as “anti-club”, who subvert school values and refuse others. This kind of example strongly illustrates the effect of language use and identity. Bucholtz also generalized that language use is part of practice.

In Swales’ article “The Concept of Discourse Community,” he defines discourse community as “Groups that have goals or purposes, and use communication to achieve these goals.” He listed the six characteristics as the acquirement to be a discourse community which followed by an example. The reason he picked “Hong Kong Study Circle” is that it is a proper instance to prove the requirement of the six characteristics to be a discourse community. Swales revealed and argued the difference between speech community and discourse community. He listed a few examples and quotations to express the difference between these two communities. A speech community is “a community sharing knowledge of rules for the conduct and interpretation of speech (Hymes page 470). On the other hand, a discourse community shares information and uses communication to achieve their shared goals. Swales chose this kind of data because it’s obviously show the difference between the two communities, which can help readers recognize the difference. He also concluded that discourse community doesn’t have to be academic genres but includes a wide realm.

There are many similarities between these two articles. Even though they separately discussed discourse community and communities of practice; they are similar to each other. A discourse community is a group of people who usually use language for group thinking and activity. Therefore, it focused on language. On the other hand, communities of practice use language as one aspect. Thus, both of them rely on language use. They both represent examples to prove their opinions and use data to help demonstrate the purposes. In addition, both argued speech community and gave quotations from other resources.

Both of these two articles are useful and helpful to improve my own project in the future. What I learned most is the six characteristics from Swales’ article. I knew how important the terminology is and how useful the mechanism is. Lacking of lexis will be a great weakness for the whole project. Using of proper examples and data is also imperative. Like Bucholtz did, a good instance can strongly attract audiences’ attention. Both articles are helpful and useful, and I can draw on them to improve my future project.

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