Discourse Community: Some Notes for Discussion Preparation

Hopefully we are enjoying the readings about discourse communities.  The few posts thus far have been quite interesting.  In preparation for discussion tomorrow,  I wanted to post a few definitions to facilitate discussion.  I also wanted to direct attention to documents of interest that I feel connect with theorizing about discourse communities.

Jacqueline Royster uses the term terministic screen.  I know my background with Burkean concepts is weak, so I located my copy of Language as Symbolic Action to find some help with the concept of terministic screens.  Burke writes,

“When I speak of terministic screens, I have particularly in mind some photographs I once saw.  They were different photographs of the same objects, the difference being that they were made with different color filters.  Here something so ‘factual’ as a photograph revealed notable distinctions in texture, and even in form, depending upon which color filter was used for documentary description of the event begin recorded.”

It seems self-evident that the screens shape the view (interpretation) of the subject matter viewed, but I want to emphasize that Burke situates this “screening’ in dramatistic rhetoric, which I have only minimal awareness of.

In all three readings, the concept of register appears.  Register is an invaluable concept for thinking about sociolinguistics.  However, as we have learned about discourse communities and terminology, register is polysemic.  I rely on Jan Blommaert’s definition from The Sociolinguistics of Globalization:

registers are “clustered and patterned language that forms an index specific social personae and roles can be invoked to organize interactional practices (e.g., turns at talk, narrative), and have a prima facie stability that can sometimes be used for typifying or stereotyping.  Speaking or writing through such registers involves insertion of recognizable (normative) repertoires of ‘voices’”

My fellow summer scholar attendees will recognize the definition, and they also might guess the articles by Paul Prior to which I will direct attention:

Ann John’s footnotes one article by Prior but it was not the article that I expected (foolishly did not first check the date of publication).  Prior delivered an address about communities of practice and discourse communities in 2003 which is worth reading. Also worth the time to read is Bird Identification as a Family of Activities by Paul Priorand Spencer Schaffner.

I look forward to a great discussion!


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