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John Swales' excerpt "The Concept of Discourse Community" discusses the concept of
discourse communities and what it entails. First, Swales discusses what a discourse community
is and how it's different from a speech community. Swales goes more in depth by providing six
specific characteristics that make up a discourse community. As we go through this excerpt,
Swales attempts to take apart and analyze the underlying meaning of what a discourse
community is and how it differs from a speech community.
Swales starts by defining what a speech community is. That is, a community sharing
knowledge of rules for the conduct and interpretation of speech (Swales, 219). Swales then talks
about how the separation of the two concepts derives from the need to distinguish a
sociolinguistic grouping from a sociorhetorical one (Swales, 220). He goes even further by
saying that speech communities are centripetal whereas discourse communities are centrifugal
(Swales, 220). A speech community typically inherits its membership by birth, accident or
adoption. A discourse community recruits its members by persuasion, training, or relevant
In this point of the excerpt, we see how Swales breaks down discourse communities into six
characteristics. He first discusses how a discourse community has a broadly agreed set of
common public goals that can either be formal or informal (Swales, 220). Next, we take a look at
how discourse communities has mechanisms of intercommunication among its members such as
meetings, telecommunications, newsletters, etc (Swales, 221). Furthermore, we learn that a
discourse community uses its participatory mechanisms primarily to provide information and
feedback. Basically what that means is in order to be apart of it, one must uptake the
informational opportunities. A discourse community also utilizes and hence possesses one or
more genres in the communicative furtherance of its aims (Swales, 221). This means that as the
community develops, the ideas, principals and goals may change. In addition to owning genres, a
discourse community acquires some specific texts (Swales, 222). Lastly, this type of community
has a threshold level of members with a suitable degree of relevant content and discoursal
expertise which means that those who join enter as apprentices and leave by death or by an
involuntary way (Swales, 222).
To wrap it up, Swales stresses how discourse communities don't necessarily change its
members perspective, members can be spread out as opposed to a speech community who are
likely to be close together, and that academic classes are not particularly discourse communities
at start but the goal is to become one by end. Looking back at this reading, I noticed that I have
been apart of several discourse communities throughout my life in and out of school. I can
honestly say that I now know the difference.
Swales, John. "The Concept of Discourse Community." Writing About Writing: A College
Reader. Eds. Wardle and Downs. 2nd ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2011. 215-229. Print.

-----------Reply-----------Excellent explanation Berkley! Personally, the way Swales broke down discourse community
was genius. He managed to explain his reasoning by defining his terminology, giving examples
and making comparisons. By doing so, he made his excerpt easy to read and comprehend. After
this reading, I was really able to obtain a firm grasp on this material to then use it in the real
world since I have always been someone to be apart of groups, organizations and clubs.