In one way or another, we have all been members of a discourse community at some point in our life. So, what is a discourse community? A discourse community is defined as “a group of people involved in and communicating about a particular topic, issue, or in a particular field” (Mohrenne). They share the same common goals and aspirations. It can be anything from the organizations you participate in at school, to the choir you sing with at school or church, and/or the groups or organizations you engage in at work or at home on a daily basis. According to Robert Mohrenne, John Swales suggests that a discourse community can be characterized by six distinguishing characteristics 1) a broadly agreed upon set of common public goals, 2) mechanisms of intercommunication among its members, 3) participatory mechanisms primarily to provide information and feedback, 4) one or more genres in the communicative furtherance of its aims, 5) some specific lexis, and 6) a threshold level of members with a suitable degree of relevant content and discoursal expertise (Mohrenne).
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A good example of a discourse community are die-hard sports fans. Die-hard sports fans fit the description of being a discourse community because they all have the common goals of wanting to see their team dominate other teams and displaying their loyalty for their team year after year. They faithfully follow their team throughout the entire year by supporting them through the good and bad times. Die-hard fans also watch every game, know specific stats about every player on the team, and know the language and signs players and referees use on every play.
Die-hard fans do not care for fans who only ride the wave of the team when they are on a winning streak. They typically call these kind of fans bandwagoners because they are not passionate or committed to the overall goals of the community. In actuality, it is somewhat hard to call yourself a die-hard fan around true die-hard fans because they tend to question the loyalty of new comers especially if they know that the person supported other teams in the past. According to my dad, Mark Jefferson, a die-hard Pittsburg Steelers fan, a die-hard fan has a ride-or-die type of attitude for their team even if they’re having an 0 -14 season. He stated that he would never jump on another team’s side regardless of how bad his team is doing because he knows their potential as a team and the skills of their players. In other words, die-hard fans can clearly distinguish bandwagoners from true die-hard fans based on interest level and knowledge of the team.
Die-hard sports fans also use their own language to communicate with each other during games. For example, when die-hard sports fans are preparing for and/or watching their team play, they use social media and other forms of communication to communicate their respect and admiration for their team. They might text, call, tweet, post images on Instagram, or send messages on Facebook to express their thoughts and feelings about plays, calls that referees make, or their dislike for the opposing team. They also use these methods of communication to stay in touch with each other throughout the game they are watching and throughout the season. When a die-hard fan communicates with another die-hard fan, he or she will use the language of their community. They are typically loud, uses a lot of profanity, and are very aggressive. The language die-hard sports fans use to communicate is powerful because they have the ability to bring out the best in their team and other fans and in some instances their language can upset fans from other teams.
Along with using their own language within this discourse community, die-hard fans also have a specific lexis they use to show their undying loyalty and devotion to their team. For example, they wear team jerseys and other team paraphernalia to show their support all year long. Regardless if they’re sitting at a stadium in 20-degree weather, in the comforts of their home screaming at the television, or just going to pick up items from the grocery store, die-hard fans make sure others know that they are passionate about their team. Furthermore, this public display of loyalty also gives them the opportunity to dialog and form bonds with other die-hard fans regardless if they know the person or not.
In conclusion, I think die-hard sports fans is a great example of a discourse community. Its members are commonly interested in their team defeating other teams. The members have an unexplainable passion for the team (s) and/or sport (s) they support season-after-season despite their wins or losses. This type of passion for sports is what distinguishes a new fan from a fan who has supported their team for years. They have a way of communicating with one another that is unlike any other form of communication when watching sports. As a member of a family of sports fanatics (especially football), I have seen and heard the enthusiasm on the faces and in the voices of several members from this discourse community. With that being said, I understand why being a die-hard sports fan can be considered a discourse community.
Jefferson, Mark. Personal interview. 8 March 2017.
Mohrenne, Robert. English 1102-Composition II. University of Central Florida, Aug. 2013, https://webcourses.ucf.edu/courses/984277/pages/what-is-a-discourse-community. Accessed 10 March 2017.
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