Swales v. Mirabelli

Blog » Swales v. Mirabelli

Posted on 13 Mar 2013 01:59

« Back to Portfolio

Swales and Mirabelli both utilize first-hand experience in order to develop upon their theories of discourse communities. Swales does so using a stamp collectors’ club known as the Hong Kong Study Circle (HKSC), while Mirabelli uses his experiences in the culinary industry at Lou’s Restaurant (specifically, his interactions with newcomer waiter, Harvey).

One could suppose that the reason either Swales or Mirabelli would choose discourse communities from their personal experiences to research was because these were communities they were most familiar with. Hence, these were communities which they would be able to develop the most accurate theories concerning discourse communities. It seems, however, that both authors did not seek out these groups to support a current theory or develop a theory on discourse communities, rather, they just so happened to be members of these communities, and these communities developed their opinions on discourse communities. Regardless of this, both authors have a purpose in including their anecdotes.
It seems Swales includes his story to underline the fact that discourse communities are not “only to be associated with intellectual paradigms or scholarly cliques.” Swales seeks to utilize his intimate experience with this discourse community in order to to exemplify his six principles in a situation which is outside the realm of academia. As such, Swales relates the goals—”to foster interest in…the stamps of Hong Kong” and media of discussion—a “bi-monthly journal”—of the society. And at the same time he utilizes his personal experience to relate issues an outsider faces with lexis and communication.

Mirabelli on the other hand, shares with the reader a story which is more secondhand in nature. Whereas Swales experienced a new community first-hand, Mirabelli relates the difficulties an outsider, Harvey. Mirabelli explains that although Harvey was a veteran waiter (having been one for more than thirty years), he is unaccustomed to the lexis and general conduct of the restaurant. For instance, he does not know what pesto sauce is, or that he can circumvent the cooks to deliver special orders, or what words function as key words—springing the customer to purchase a certain item. Mirabelli uses these examples to relate the idea that in the context of Lou’s restaurant, menus as a genre provide the vital function of triggering discourse between customer and waiter. Depending on a waiter’s skill, familiarity with goings-on, and knowledge of the menu, a waiter can manipulate discourse in his/her favor and also to the benefit of the customer. One example Mirabelli cites for instance, is a case where a “regular” arrives expecting his “usual” order to be placed, but an inexperienced waiter mistakenly transgresses on this ritual, somewhat offending the customer.

Whereas Swales analyzes the basic features of a discourse community, Mirabelli seems to attempt to identify how the features of a discourse community can have an effect on the actual discourse that takes place. The most central piece of Mirabelli’s research is the genre that is the menu. Mirabelli uses the menu as a lense through which he analyzes discourse at Lou’s: the menu, along with Lou’s goal to turn a profit, creates an environment where it is a necessity for waiters to please their customers. Thus, the goals and genres of Lou’s shape discourse. Swales, on the other hand, does not get into these nitty-grittys, instead, explaining the features of the HKSC and how they relate to his model. Though, this makes sense considering the bulk of Swales’ work seeks to define a discourse community.

Both Swales and Mirabelli offer two practical approaches at “studying” discourse communities. Both study the communities through first-hand experience, but while Swales studies it from the perspective of transitioning to the position of an insider, Mirabelli (as an insider) is able to discuss his community from the perspective of an insider taking note of novices’ pitfalls. Swales’ approach seems as though it would be primarily useful in seeking to redefine what a discourse community is, while Mirabelli’s approach might be more useful to someone who wants to use an existing model of a discourse community to analyze their own community.

« Back to Portfolio

Leave a comment

Add a New Comment
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License