Wardle & Swales Take on Discourse Community

Blog » Wardle & Swales Take on Discourse Community

Posted on 12 Mar 2013 01:34

Swales approach to studying discourse community, was explaining what, in his mind, a discourse community involved and then he gives an example of such a community. The six things that Swales mentions that a discourse community must have is: a broadly agreed set of common public goals, mechanisms of intercommunication among its members. Uses its particular mechanism to provide info and feedback, utilizes and hence possess one or more genres in the communicative furtherance of its aims. The community must acquire specific lexis, and lastly the community must have a threshold level of members with a suitable degree of relevant content and expertise. Swales example is a discourse community called the Hong Kong Study Circle; this community is an umbrella organization that deals with stamps from Hong Kong. The reason Swales chose this community to study was because he wanted to emphasize that not all discourse communities must be strictly academic, rather they could be recreational as well. Swales did his research by actually being a member of this community.

Wardle approach to studying discourse communities is by investigating the three modes of belonging which are engagement, imagination, and alignment. Wardle believes that through these three steps a newcomer could fully integrate into a community. Wardle’s example is the story of Alan. Who finds himself amidst a discourse community that he does not agree with. Wardle uses to important words when describing Alan, the first is his identity, which describes Alan as a person, the second word is authority, which refers to the powerful role in the department that he seems to have thought he acquired. Because of these terms it seems Alan feels used by the department. He starts imagining that he is running the department and that without him nothing could get done. He did not have as much authority as he believed he had. Because of his authoritativeness Alan sent emails that were not taken seriously by his coworkers who didn’t even read the emails that were long and random. He did not fix any of this, when he could have simply improved his worker-to-worker relationships. Instead a year and a half after starting Alan left his job.

Although Swales and Wardle have different ideas about discourse community, they also share some similarities. One such similarity is that both authors believe in the six things established by Swales. Wardle just takes it one step further by describing that a person’s identity greatly influences their disposition towards a discourse community. A difference in their attempts at defining a discourse community is that Wardle puts a much heavier emphasis on individuality whereas Swales deals with how the community as a whole functions. This is especially evident through the examples they each use. Which Swales goes on to talk about an entire group of people and how they interact, and their lexis. Wardle focuses on the importance of Alan’s acts towards the community and how the impact his position in the community.

Swales’ model is good and accurate in my mind because it encompasses all different things that involve a community while not being restrictive as to who can be a part of the community. As opposed to Swales, we read Gee’s approach towards discourse community, and I strongly disagreed with his view of being born into a community. I disagree because frankly, we join new communities’ everyday by going to a new school, starting new classes, joining a new team. Swales’ model of discourse community gives people the opportunity to be a part of a discourse community, (because of the 6 criteria Swales seeks) while still being able to participate in other, and new communities.

Wardle’s model interests me greatly, though it distresses me as well. I think that Wardle needs to further explain exactly what she means by old timers, partially because how much interaction will a new-comer have with an old timer, depending again on the meaning of the term. I think Wardle offers an easy three steps towards going from an insider to an outsider in a community. More importantly Wardle does not put a time stamp on these things. It could take somebody a couple of days to be comfortable in the community and be considered an insider, or it could take a couple of months, or it could never happen. Another seemingly bad thing about Wardle’s approach is that in her model it seems that if a person is not sociable in their new environment then they will never further themselves in the community, that may not be the case as much as what she makes it seem to be.

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