A discourse community consists of people with shared values, ideals, knowledge, and behaviors. Belonging to a specific discourse community requires one to possess the ethos, logos, and pathos that appeals to the community members, which will ease one’s integration and association into the group. Membership in a particular discourse community does not limit one to it since the community could have diverse ideals and beliefs that would require one to be actively involved in other discourse communities that are interrelated to your community. For instance, a sociology lecturer does not only belong to the lecturers discourse community, but also to the sociology department, social welfare and community development discourse communities, among others.
For the purposes of this analysis, focus will be on an examination of the engineering discourse community. In this analysis, data and information generated will be linked to such pertinent sources as the views of Swales’ and Paul Gee’s definitions and ideals that constitute a discourse community (James 473). Other parameters will also be considered that show the uniqueness and exclusivity of engineering as a discourse community. However, the engineering field is multi faceted and constitutes various parameters and specializations such as electrical, computer, civil, water, structural, software engineering among others. Therefore, to highlight engineering as a discourse community, a general view of all the various sections will be used and minimal references being linked to specific engineering units.
This approach is essential since in spite of the different factions of the engineering community, it can be deduced that their actions, thoughts, beliefs, and knowledge are almost interrelated. According to Swales, one of his characteristics of a discourse community is ‘possesses one or more genres in communicative furtherance of its aims’. This encompasses a multi faceted area of speculation and correlation to the needs and practices of all engineers. This means that all engineers communicate in a unique code of language that only they seem to understand, comprehend, and decipher its meaning.
For instance, engineers are trained to write reports that contain jargon such as equations, graphs, and charts. All engineers seem to prefer this form of reports and presentations, since they consider them as the most easy to comprehend and understand. They can easily move between equations and graphs to compare data and results and form conclusive ideas. The performance of this form of analysis distinguishes them as a group whose communication preferences are mainly factual, precise, diagrammatic, and simply articulated. This is unlike other professional and academic discourse communities that prefer reports to contain massive amounts of written data that elaborates, explains, and documents a specific perspective or issue.
For instance, an engineer prefers to deal with facts and structures their responses to simple and short answers that are factual and to the point. On the other hand, a literature student, academician, or professional would prefer to communicate their answer into a lengthy rhetorical analysis that is detailed and explains all the pertinent points, before delving to the reflections and resolutions of the questions. Therefore, the membership into the engineering discourse community is unique and has been adequately defined according to the ideals of Swales.
However, this same analogy is echoed by Gee’s factors of discourse communities called ‘saying’. Gee postulates that members of a discourse prefer to speak, write, and generally in a lexis that is specific and defines that knowledge, beliefs, thoughts and cultures. The alignment of gee’s ‘saying’ to Swales’ ‘acquired specific lexis’ for discourse community to defines engineers shows that these group exhibits a heightened sense of uniqueness (Swales 469). Therefore, it would be difficult for a non-member to force themselves into this group since their ethos, pathos, logos would conflict with the engineers, and the lack of adequate knowledge would act as a barrier to the communicative process. This means that for one to be integrated into this discourse community, they would have to learn the necessary terminologies, mannerisms, thoughts, and ideas used by an engineer, which could take a long time to master completely and to use it effectively and authoritatively.
An engineer is usually wired to engage in activities and practices that involve design, research, manufacturing, and creation of unique technological gadgets, tools, and equipment. This means that they have a somewhat natural instinct to engage in innovations and repair of existing technologies, which makes them unique from other discourse communities (Pogner 865). This uniqueness is echoed and demonstrated by both Gee and Swales who define discourse community as ‘doing’ and ‘members with suitable degree of relevant content and discourse expertise’ respectively. According to Gee, the engineer has zeal to use his knowledge and skills to perform such core functions as the conversion of scientific theory into workable or feasible application in the real world. These applications are manifested in the form of innovations that are designed to suit the needs of humanity in easing his tasks and responsibilities.
Swale shows that a member of a discourse community should possess adequate knowledge and skill to manage to utilize these talents or powers for progress in their field of expertise. In the engineering field, the engineer uses his knowledge and skills to perform innovations and maintenance of existing technologies. The engineers often feel compelled to perform these special duties since they are aware that few people would have the same abilities as they do to make a change to their area of expertise. For instance, this zeal can be evidenced by software engineers who endeavor to produce software that appeals to the needs of the tech savvy population. They are responsible for the production of the various operating systems such as Windows and Android that are used on computers and mobile phones respectively. According to this unique group, they feel mandated to engage in the creation and improvement of such software since it serves to improve the welfare and existence of the society.
The engineering discourse requires that the content and skills learnt are not usurped and are acquired to the highest standards possible. Consequently, this discourse community has created a body within itself that is mandated to review the content that aspiring engineers learn the creation of the ethical standards that would govern the engineering field, and the accreditation of engineers into this profession. This is essential since this body would serve to enhance sanity and professionalism that would result in the engineering discourse community accruing the respect that is reminiscent of the difficulty and scope of the field. Additionally, the body’s is mandated to ensure that the content taught to the learners, as well as the equipment used is highly developed and useful. This will ensure uniqueness to the discourse community since the body as a form of self-regulation and monitoring of the group’s activities to maintain its effectiveness and productivity of its members both new and old.
This body forms an analogy that is similar to Swales’ provision of information and feedback, which identifies a discourse community. For instance, the electrical engineering group has the integrated electrical and electronics engineering (IEEE), which is a body that brings old and new members of electrical and electronics engineering. This body provides the members with tools, equipment, advice, ethical standards, curriculum, among other useful factors. This ensures that the engineers have a regulation policy framework that guides their work and education to enhance efficiency and productivity among them (Pogner 861). This analogy is repeated for all other engineering fields where each has an overall overseeing body that is mandated to monitor, control, and support the engineering field and its members in the attainment of their goals and objectives that are geared towards enhancing their professionalism in their fields of study.
This achievement of their goals and objectives is the root causality for the engineers’ zeal to achieve excellence in the execution of his knowledge and skills to a particular endeavor. The engineers believe that a failure in the successful application of their knowledge and skills does not necessarily constitute a permanent failure. They believe that this failure is merely a means for them to renew their vigor, review their strategy, and update their knowledge to ensure that the failure is corrected and the necessary results are attained. This analogy has been presented by Paul Gee according to his ‘believing’ and ‘being’ factors (Gee 488).
The engineering discourse community does not only perform innovations and maintenance of technologies and equipments, but they are also liable to the creation of products that appeal to the needs and aesthetic values of the customers. This means that the engineers have to combine their intricate knowledge for the creation of the items, as well as the design for the items. Additionally, the engineer has to ensure that their products conform to the set economic standards and value to ensure that the product that has been created is affordable not only to the consumer, but also affordable for the company to manufacture. Therefore, in most instances, the engineers are not limited to membership to the engineering discourse community but also join other groups. This is to enhance their social responsibility and financial acumen that are two essential skills in the enhancement of the quality of their work on a product.
The engineering discourse community is a group that has set itself aside through uniqueness and exclusivity of their membership. This has resulted in their members being well educated and skilled to handle the needs and services that their profession and education requires of them. Based on Swales and Paul Gee’s identifiers for discourse communities, engineers have showed their placement as a discourse community. This has been achieved through their lexis, education, language and mode of communication, internal bodies, and the ethos, pathos, and logos. Additionally, this discourse community prides itself as having exclusive members since their mannerism cannot be easily learnt by outsiders unless acquired through engaging in education in a particular engineering field. For instance, the use of equations as a communication tool is unattractive and incomprehensible for normal people.
Gee, James Paul. “Literacy, Discourse, and Linguistics”.Writing about Writing, Ed. Elizabeth Wardle and Doug Downs Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s 2011. 481-494. Print.
James, E. Porter. “Intertextuality and Discourse Community”Writing about Writing. Ed. Elizabeth Wardle and Doug Downs. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011. 466-80. Print.
Pogner, Karl-Heinz. Writing and interacting in the discourse community of engineering. Journal of pragmatics. 35. 6 (2003): 855-867
Swales, John. “The Concept of Discourse Community.” Writing about Writing. Ed. Elizabeth Wardle and Doug Downs. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011. 466-80. Print.