Discourse Community, Community of Practice

Discourse Community or Community of Practitioners refers to an Audience that consists of a group of people who share

See Also
Rhetorical Situation
Research Methods

Just as people with similar religious beliefs, political loyalties, or cultural practices can be said to make up a community—even though they have never met—those who share similar assumptions about how to develop and test knowledge claims can be said to represent a Discourse Community or Community of Practice.

Source: Etienne Wenger-Trayner, Communities of Practice Mindmap of Trayner https://blog.learnlets.com/2011/11/etienne-wenger-trayner-keynote-mindmap/, Accessed 3/15/20

The terms Discourse Community and Community of Practice are fairly equivalent:

  • The term Discourse Community was defined by John Sales in 1990 as  “groups that have goals or purposes, and use communication to achieve these goals.”
  • The term Community of Practice was initially coined in anthropology to describe how a group of people learn from one another (Jean and Etienne Wenger (1991).

Both terms are used to describe the language practices, purposes, ideologies, learning practices, and rituals of groups of people.

Both terms are fairly elastic:

  • Discourse communities may be used, e.g., to describe Republicans or Democrats in the U.S. People who inhabit such broad communities may disagree on some things (e.g., fiscal policy), yet they still vote as a block because.


Works Cited

Lave, JeanWenger, Etienne (1991). Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Swales, J. M. (1990) Genre Analysis: English in academic and research settings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.