Reaction to Swales Article: The Concept of Discourse Community

John Swales, a professor of linguistics, discusses discourse community, among many other concepts, in his book Genre Analysis. In the provided except, Swales emphasizes the importance of the term discourse community and its use in analysis. He argues that current definitions of the term are vague and therefore, develops his own definition through six unique characteristics of a discourse community. Clarification of the concept aids in avoiding challenging usage of the word since not all communities will be discourse communities.

Swales believes that a strong list of criteria is necessary for defining discourse community. The six conditions are range from having an agreed upon set of goals to mechanisms for intercommunication to a threshold level for member qualification. I think that these characteristics do help to make the term more understandable.

Another point that Swales brings up is the fact that speech community and discourse community and wrongly likened to each other. He highlights the differences in each in order to separate the two terms. From my understanding of his explanation, speech community has members that were born or placed into it while discourse community is more selective and possesses members that are either persuaded or trained to be there. Discourse community also emphasizes that fact that distance does not impact the community as it would to speech community.

I think that having specific characteristics is beneficial to include as a definition because you can pick a community and easily compare it to the guidelines to determine if it is discourse or not. I also agree that Swales was right to say that discourse community is more specific than a speech community because of the genre and material that is in consideration for each community. Lastly, I also think that it is possible to be in more than one discourse community, because all discourse communities have their own topics since members are specifically qualified in that area.




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