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Lyndsi Grose
Professor John Chrisman
20 January 2015
Discourse Community Analysis
Discourse Community what exactly does this mean? This unfamiliar term is
most recently studied by John Swales, a professor of linguistics and codirector of the
Michigan Corpus of Academic Spoken English at the University of Michigan (Wardle
and Downs 215). He defines a discourse community as a group of people that have goals
and purposes that use communication to achieve these. Discourse literally meaning
written or spoken communication, and community as a group of people with similar
interests. In his article, The Concept of Discourse Community, he gives the reader six
criteria that prove a discourse community, which we will discuss more in depth later on in
this paper.
When thinking of my own personal experiences and groups that I belong to, the
one that I most consider to be best discourse community would be cheerleading. I chose
to analyze this specific group because it is one that I have been involved with for almost
13 years. I started cheerleading when I was in the first grade, and first moved to Florida.
When I started out as a member in the community, I knew nothing about what exactly I
was getting myself into. I was previously a gymnast for two or three years, but when it
came to cheerleading, I was the epitome of a novice. Between the hours of practice, miles
of traveling in state and out, and doing things completely wrong, I slowly was gaining
more experience and reaching new levels that I had never been at before. Eventually,

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during my high school years, I reached my peak and would eventually consider myself an
expert. I truly believe that I know all the ins and outs that cheerleading consists of, that is
why I am choosing to analyze it.
Looking back at my most recent high-school years, I became a part of the Varsity
squad from the middle of my freshman year all the way up to the end of my senior year,
where I became Captain. I submerged myself fully from the very beginning, doing many
different events with my team and on my own personal time. We would practice at least
three times a week, sometimes even up to twice a day. We would go to several
competitions each year, including States and Nationals. We also participated in school
sporting events, like basketball games or football games. When I became Captain my
senior year, I became more involved than ever. It was my job to help plan the events, not
just participate as a member. Myself along with the other captain were responsible for
maintaining a positive and effective bond between all teammates and sustain great
communication between all teammates and coach.
Going back to John Swales and his article on the concept of discourse
communities, he gives us six clear-cut criteria for what is considered a discourse
community. He says that a discourse community has a broadly agreed set of common
public goals, mechanisms of intercommunication among its members, uses participatory
mechanisms primarily to provide information and feedback, possesses one or more
genres, has some specific lexis, and has a threshold level of members (Swales 220-222).
When looking at cheerleading, I know that this community meets all of Swales criteria.
As a whole, the goal is always to work together as a team to succeed at everything we do,
especially winning competitions. We have several mechanisms of intercommunication

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including but not limited to text groups, Remind101, social media closed groups, emails,
and even the very personal team meetings. There is definitely an exchange of information
and feedback that constantly is active. As teammates, we give each other tips or different
ways to do stunts or tumbling skills. Our coach would be the primary authority under the
exchange of information. The different genres of cheerleading could be newsletters,
social media websites, practices, or magazines. When looking at all the different lexis
that occurs in cheerleading, there could be a dictionary full of words that noncheerleaders would probably not understand correctly. Examples could be things like
elevator, liberty, heel stretch, squish, full, and so much more. Lastly, Swales says that a
discourse community contains stratified membership throughout. Like I mentioned
before, I started out as a novice knowing nothing, then through my experience I gained
much more knowledge, eventually becoming an expert. It is essential to have this in a
community that way there is a flow and balance of experts and novices, making the
community stronger.
Overall, I believe that cheerleading is a very strong discourse community that
follows all of Swales criteria. I have been involved for years, and although I am not
currently an active member on a team, I still find myself to be very involved through
different groups and teams. I continue to participate in being a demonstrator in
conferences teaching new and upcoming coaches proper techniques for teaching their
squad, and find myself visiting my previous team and giving my own feedback and
comments. Cheerleading, as a discourse community, has helped form my identity today.