Free writing on Swales

The term discourse community has a very vague definition. In fact very few people actually have a complete thorough understanding of the term- most just have a general understanding. This was very comforting to read, because this whole time I’ve felt as if I wasn’t fully grasping the concept, when really I’ve been grasping as much as has been necessary. It is not imperative that I have a perfect definition of discourse community so long as I have a general understanding. However, I did gain a deeper understanding of the term through the six characteristics and the difference between discourse community and speech community. This was a very good clarification for Swales to make. The speech community is more centered around linguistics whereas the discourse community is more centered around rhetoric. In the first, the focus is the communicative needs, and in the second the focus is facilitating communication and linguistics simply for their function in discussion and information. These differences really highlight the lack of physical boundaries of discourse communities. It made it very clear that discourse community did not actually need to be a physical community, whereas speech communities almost most often are because it’s the linguistics that are shared- not necessarily ideas or interests. So discourse communities can transcend physical borders- very cool. However it is a little less cool when the example used to prove this is a stamp club, but I’ll let it slide. In this article, Swales says that it might be pointless to try and outline the discourse immunity because in the end it could very well still be taken as just an expanded form of speech community, but after reading it, I think I disagree. Speech community and discourse community to me seem like squares and rectangles. Just like a square is always a rectangle but a rectangle is not always a square so it is that a speech community is always a discourse community, but a discourse community is not always a speech community. It kind of redefines the whole way of looking at secondary discourses. Gee kind of focused on the physical aspect of Discourses for a lot of his paper. A lot of my prior associations were neighborhoods that we grew up in, schools that we attended or are attending, etc, but Swales takes it a step further and makes it clear that it’s not just a physical community, but more often than not it’s a community linked through different channels of communication. However, the speech community/physical discourse community is still an interesting aspect of discourse communities so I’m going to look at that a little more- particularly in the sense of school and then I’ll stop. Is college a discourse community? The common concept that is “college” is not. However, the individual institutions that are colleges are discourse communities. Wayne State is a discourse community, and within Wayne State, each college is a discourse community. Within each college, each department is a discourse community and then each class is a discourse community. At the class level the discourse community may not be focused around the subject being taught in the class, but rather the process of being taught the subject. Learning rhetoric and composition or learning calc 2 is just as much a basis for a discourse community as rhetoric and composition and calc 2 are. It’s very interesting too because after putting my current school life into these terms of discourse community and speech community it really makes the brain start noticing and focusing on the different ways that people act in the different settings of Wayne State University, and it really attests to the diversity both physical and mental of University life.


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