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Discourse Community Final

Joshua A Zamora

University Of Texas At El Paso



Discourse communities are as simple as charity groups aspiring to achieve something

greater or on the other hand, discourse communities may be as complex as a relationship

between your conscious and your sub-conscious. No matter the case, discourse communities are

everywhere and in many ways, they make up the very framework that outlines human activity

today. Think of discourse communities as intercommunication between two or more entities as

they strive to accomplish a similar goal. Of course, this is a somewhat narrow view of what a

discourse community really is but this definition will suffice for the time being.

A great example of a discourse community is an athletic program and I happen to be

directly involved in one. The reason I have chosen this community over many others is because

it is dear to my heart, as well as being a straight forward community to understand. To explain,

Ive been a part of an athletic community ever since I was ten years old. I remember when I first

started playing sports like football, baseball, and swimming but basketball turned out to be the

most enjoyable sport to me. When I was on a basketball team my teammates and I all did drills

that helped us become better at specific areas of the game. Although they were hard, our overall

goal was to make the playoffs and eventually win the championship, so that meant we had to go

one hundred and ten percent at each practice. This eventually propelled us to the next level and

as a result, we won against many different schools from around the city. After every game,

whether it was a win or a loss, we all learned from our mistakes and even made friends from

opposing teams in the process. The satisfaction of downfall then triumph is one of the many

reasons why I have had a deep interest in this community, thus in my eyes makes it one of the

most thrilling and fun sports out there. Therefore, I will venture into my own basketball class to

describe what really brands it as a discourse community.


Literature Review

What better way to describe what exactly a discourse community is than to show how

John Swales describes one in his book Genre Analysis. In the chapter Ill be analyzing, Swales

first examines how numerous instructors and researchers know there is a problem in defining a

discourse community. He answers by saying We need then to clarify, for procedural purposes,

what is to be understood by discourse community and, perhaps in the present circumstances, it is

better to offer a set of criteria sufficiently narrow that it will eliminate many of the marginal,

blurred and controversial contenders (Swales, 1990, p. 400). From here he goes on to state the

difference between speech communities and discourse communities then finally proceeds to

classify the six criteria that define a discourse community; A discourse community has a broadly

agreed set of common public goals, has mechanisms of intercommunication among its

members, uses its participatory mechanisms primarily to provide information and feedback,

utilizes and hence possesses one or more genres in the communicative furtherance of its aims,

has acquired some specific lexis, has a threshold level of members with a suitable degree of

relevant content and discoursal expertise (Swales, 1990, p. 290).

In contrast, Porter argues that a discourse community must have a much wider definition

in his book Intertextuality and the Discourse Community. He summarizes by saying, We are

free insofar as we do what we can to encounter and learn new codes, to intertwine codes in new

ways, and to expand our semiotic potential- with our goal being to effect change and establish

our identities within the discourse communities we choose to enter (Porter, 1986, p. 396). By

stating this porter is directly saying the opposite of Swales idea that discourse communities must

follow six criteria. Whereas Porter only gives one to two criteria. Overall, both authors

thoroughly explain the concept of discourse communities but I believe Swales is on point with

his definition.


For my research, I explored the various aspects of my basketball class by doing several of

things. One of which was by attending the class myself which allowed me to have a front row

seat. I attended each class session for about two weeks to totally analyze the environment and the

relationships between each player and coach. Secondly, I interviewed my brother that is in the

class with me and I asked him questions about examples of jargon and different rules that they

follow from written rules to unconventional rules. Also, I played basketball myself which further

helped me learn various aspects I wouldnt know otherwise.


To begin, the first criteria that John Swales discussed is the idea that a discourse

community must have an agreed set of common goals. For example, in my basketball class there

are only about twenty students but the atmosphere is competitive when it comes to playing on the

court. We try our hardest to not only individually show off our skills but to reach our overall

mutual goal which is to win the game.

The second is whether the community has methods of intercommunication among its

members. Basically, my basketball class has a direct line of communication by chatting on the

court and during practices etc.

The third is if the community has ways of providing information and feedback.

Throughout the class you are getting critiqued by either other players or the coach on what your

game needs to be improved on. It can get critiqued by not being athletic enough to being to

hesitant but criticism is rather open and can be shared at any time.

The fourth is that the community must have one or more genres of communication. My

basketball class has verbal communication as well as hand signals. Whenever we want to be

discrete about certain plays we use hand signals so no one will know our specific meanings.

The fifth is that a specific lexis or language must be attained by the community.

Vocabulary thats is specialized to the point where only the community knows what they mean

when communicating to each other. In basketball these terms would be, alley oop, bounce pass,

yam, windmill, buzzer beater, fast break, elbow, wing, and arc, etc.

The sixth is that there must be a chain of expertise throughout the community meaning

that people must go in knowing basically nothing then come out knowing basically everything.

In basketball, this is the case because two students currently in my class are new to the sport but

like everything in life, with enough practice and critique you can become good.


Overall, discourse communities can be described differently from many different credible

authors but by far, John Swales has the most entertained definition. His definition of a discourse

community contains six key characteristics that my basketball class is a prime example of. Not

only my basketball class but there are discourse communities around every corner so its a

guarantee that everyone has been a part of one some point of their life. Knowing this makes you

just that more aware of how interactive our environment is. Discourse communities can even

interact and learn from one another so much so that they end up being involved in our everyday



Porter, J. (1986). Intertextuality and the discourse community. In E. Wardle & D. Downs (Eds.),

Writing about writing: A college reader (p. 395-405). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martins.

Swales, J. (1990). The concept of discourse community. In E. Wardle & D. Downs (Eds.),

Writing about writing: A college reader (p. 212-227). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martins.