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Corina Roman

ENC 1101
Leslie Wolcott
11 November 2014

Discourse Communities
Discourse communities are one of those things that you think you have an idea about but you
really have no idea. You still have no idea what it is after one reading, after a second reading, you
still probably have no idea, and then after another reading you may think you have it. Discourse
communities are one of those things you understand after many examples of it. What provided
the many examples for myself was our textbook, Writing About Writing, that was full of many
interpretations from different rhetors. Writers like John Swales and James Gee, are prime
examples of writers that help explain discourse communities. Swales and Gee were the main two
that cleared this topic up for me because of many of their relatable examples of discourse
communities in itself as well as individuals discourse communities. As well as reading and
understanding discourse communities, it also makes you think as to how we would ever use this
again in our lives and when would we ever use it again in our lives. You wonder if this is just
another meaningless topic taught to give you busy work or if it is actually beneficial for future
things in your life, in which, it is.
Our textbook did provide many different examples of discourse communities, one of the
writers, John Swales, was definitely helpful in showing me how to understand discourse
communities. Before this article, I did not really understand what discourse community was, and
after reading this I discovered most people are like me and really did not actually know what it
is. Starting off, I knew I was probably going to have to read it twice because of my lack of
knowledge on this subject going into the article. As stated, discourse communities is something
you have to see many examples of before you understand. But, by introducing his article by
distinguishing between speech and discourse communities, explained to me that speech
communities are usually bounded geographically, ethnically, and socially, which discourse
communities aren't. He then went onto describing six majors characteristics he felt effectively
displays discourse communities. After reading these characteristics and their examples, it helped
clear up discourse communities. Swales also did a great job explaining how individuals can also
be in a number of different discourse communities, and how these communities vary based on
the member's perspective. When Herzberg talks about what a discourse community is discourse
operates within conventions defined by communities, be they academic disciplines or social
groups (Swales, 217). Something that helped me relate was thinking of my sorority, and every
other Greek organization, (current communities that I could think of). This shows a discourse
community is joined primarily by choice, based on your interests, not something you were born
into. John Swales was really helpful in providing me with enough where I could make my own
relations to discourse communities and connect how it is related.

James Paul Gee was also the other most helpful writer on discourse communities, probably
the most helpful writer on this subject. In James Gee's piece, Literary Discourse Linguistics, he
stated that anyone can understand language (or what he likes to call grammar) and use 'grammar'
correctly basically depending on the situation. He stated that people are socialized through
language and the different types of discourse in order to his according view points, dominant,
non-dominant, primary, and secondary. He focused on the fact that it is not about what you say
just how you say it. He uses the example of two women in an interview to show the contrasting
dialect of what he thinks discourse is with the use of the word "apprenticeship" on how they
acquire discourse. One woman in the interview used the correct grammar as she spoke but it just
was not necessarily the correct answer the interviewer was looking for. The things she said
wasn't necessarily what she needed to say in order to get the job because it could have been
interpreted the wrong way. With this example it shows how important discourse is connected
with education, it's easier to understand how discourses interfere with societies. This example I
can also relate to because I have had to go through many interviews to get different jobs, and
impressions as well as how you speak, is what will make or break you in an interview setting.
People can be similar in discourse but not everyone will have the same discourse as you, because
it is unique to each person. He makes certain to teach several strategies (explained farther in
depth) about discourse and how it is used, I'd say, making him the best author to give us the best
understanding of discourse from them all. With focus on the "mushfake" Gee discusses, I had to
read that section more than once knowing there was a key reason we were told to focus on it
before even reading this analysis. He describes mushfake as making do with something less
when the real thing is not available, with that being said, he uses the example of how inmates
make hats from underwear to protect their hair from lice. In this example, the hats are the
mushfake because underwear is the only thing they can make do with and until they are able to
have access to a more suitable way of protecting their hair from lice they will have to continue to
use their underwear because that is the only thing they can do.
Once understanding discourse communities to my fully ability, thanks to Swales and Gee, it
now brings you to think when will you ever use this again or if we ever will. Yes, yes you will
continue to use discourse communities in your life beyond just English class. For instance, social
media, something that is consuming our generation with no sign of a decrease anytime soon. As
the world has evolved so has the way we interact with each other through social media. Twitter is
a social network that users can share status updates on where they are, what they are doing, or
just any thought they might have. To become a member, all you have to do is go to the website
and sign up using your email and create a password and username. Most people join to stay
updated with with friends and to share their own opinions, others may want to join to follow their
favorite celebrities or news stations. In order to see my profile, you have to send a request to
follow me for my updates but for others you can just click follow and you will automatically
start getting their updates. There are not many rules for twitter, and most communication is
informal with slang due to the 140 character count. The only rule in connection to writing is that
the members cannot exceed the limit of 140 characters. Twitter is a site I did not think I would
use as often as I do but it is a very simple way for me to stay connected within my community
along with other networks such as Facebook, or Instagram (a social network consisting of only
photos with their captions). Twitter and other social networks have allowed me to keep up with

my friends or what I'm interested in and also expand some of my informal language when
communicating with the members of my community.
Another example of using discourse communities beyond just an English class, would be in
whatever job you may have in your future. You never know when an item might break, or get
stolen, or you will forget, that of course is a necessity (just your luck) and you will have to figure
out some way to make do without it. For instance, at the job I work at now, I am a waitress, and
working at a high-pace restaurant, we tend to run out of a lot of things before the delivery truck
comes for the week. When it comes to something I need for a customer that we have run out of, I
have to figure out some way to mushfake to still get them what they want in order for them to
still have a good experience and save my tip. For example, when our condiment bottles have
emptied out and we have run out of the refill boxes until the delivery truck comes, I mushfake by
giving the customer a handful of small packets of that condiment so they are still happy. I would
use what I've learned about discourse communities in my future profession after schooling,
Homicide Detective, because as a detective I would have to adjust myself to different
communities in order to be trusted by them to get information. I would have to also mushfake
scenarios of what I think would have happened when interrogating a suspect so they can think I
already know they are guilty or to get information out of them that I do not already know. I
would also use the instance of mushfaking when not having all the pieces to the crime scene but
needing to make do with what I have to try to figure out as much as I can about the investigation.
These are just other simple instances when what we have learned about discourse communities
will come in handy in our future doing whatever it may be.
So like stated in the beginning, discourse communities are one of those things that you
understand more after many examples of it. With our textbook, Writing About Writing, providing
many examples and many interpretations from different rhetors, I was able to grasp the concept
of discourse communities and understand it. Writers like John Swales and James Gee, are prime
examples of writers that helped explain discourse communities. Swales and Gee were the main
two that cleared this topic up for me because of many of their relatable examples of discourse
communities in itself as well as individuals discourse communities. As well as reading and
understanding discourse communities, you realize you can also benefit from these readings
because you never know when you might have to mushfake or need a new way to stay involved
with your community.

WORKS CITED

Swales, John. "The Concept of Discourse Community." 1990. Writing About Writing. By
Elizabeth Wardle and Doug Downs. 2nd ed. Boston: Warldle and Downs, 2014. 215-29. Print.
Gee, James. Literacy, Discourse, and Linguistics: Introduction. Writing About Writing: A
College Reader. Ed. John E. Sullivan III. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2014. 481-495. Print.
Roman, Corina. Corina Roman Analysis Discussion. 20 Oct. 2014. Discussion Post for Swales.
Web, Orlando FL.
Roman, Corina. Corina Roman Analysis Discussion. 20 Oct. 2014. Discussion Post for Gee.
Web, Orlando FL.