For this first assignment, we’re taking you out of your academic life and asking you to look at the world beyond school. Specifically, you’re going to tell us all about a discourse community that you’re a part of.

I expect you’re asking, what the heck is a discourse community?

In short, it’s our personal identity kit — the groups we belong to that help give us definition and tell us, and others, who we are. The word itself, discourse community, is a theoretical name for those groups, from our families and cultures, to our jobs and social organizations. In fact, if you think about it, you’ll realize you belong to a whole bunch of them, and for this Unit, you’re going to dig deep into one of them and tell us all about it.

This assignment, then, is to write a 1000-word report on a Discourse Community that you belong to, explaining it to us, showing us how language works in your discourse community, and the most important thing you think we should take away from it.

The general structure for this unit is like this:

  1. We’ll look at what a discourse community is through video lecture and readings.
  2. You’ll brainstorm a list of DC’s you belong to (or that you want to belong to, like a profession we’re studying for in school) and show us an ‘artifact’ from the DC you’re going to investigate by posting it on a Padlet. It can be anything from a thread in Discord, to images of a ritual or celebration or even clothing! And trust me — people love seeing and reacting to these things!
  3. Once you pick that DC to investigate, you’ll interview one or two people in that community and talk to them about what it means to be in that DC, what the rules are for joining (and how people are kept from joining) if that applies, how members “talk” to each other, what the group believes and values, and some other things. Again, if you’ve chosen to look at one you don’t belong to right now but aspire to, that’s fine — most of these choices are of professions people are studying and working and apprenticing to join.
  4. Finally, you’ll write a report of at least 1000 words that’s in three sections: 1) introduce us to your DC, 2) talk about how language works in it, and 3) tell us what you learned from doing this and what you’d like people to remember most about your DC. It’s all below, but I’ll provide a separate handout/template to help you put it together.

This sounds like a lot, but it’s actually fun to do and certainly interesting, because this is all about the world you inhabit.

Here’s the template for the report itself (I’m also putting it as a handout in the Schedule area): Be sure to use things you got from your interviews, quote them, don’t worry about MLA etc.

Introduction: Tell us about the DC you chose and why it matters to you.

  • Explain your DC, why you chose it. If you’re a member, how that happened, how long you have been a member, and what it’s like to be a member. If you’re not, why you chose to look at it.
  • Its shared beliefs. How people join if that’s pertinent — the ‘rules.’ Who might get excluded because of those ‘rules.’
  • Its specific goals or reason for existence. This could get tricky if it’s a family or culture, which is why you should choose a smaller DC within that primary DC – it will be a lot easier. I’ll talk more about that in the Lecture & Schedule page.
  • What issues are important to the DC. What larger concerns the DC has about how our world is functioning.

How Language is Used in the Discourse Community: Tell about how language is used in the DC.

  • What specialized language or words or jargon it uses. (There’s always something!)
  • How really common words might be used differently by the members of this DC.
  • How the members “communicate” with each other. This can be as simple as Discord or What’s App, or as involved as monthly newsletters, websites, or email chains.
  • Who the most important voices are and why, and who doesn’t really get to speak, and whether that changes with time.
  • If you can remember, tell us about the first time you encountered some specific word or phrase that the DC uses that took you by surprise. When was it? Who used it? How did you feel about it? Has the use of the word or phrase changed over time, and why?

Conclusion: Tell us what you took away from doing this project.

  • What surprised you to learn about the DC.
  • What you learned about how discourse communities work as a whole.
  • If it changed your perception of your DC and how.

Now go to the Schedule tab to find the lectures, assignments, a template for the report, an example of the report, and all the other materials you need to complete this unit successfully.

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