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What Is Discourse?

Discourse is a term that can be described in a number of ways. In language studies, it refers to the speech patterns and how language, dialects, and acceptable statements are used in a particular community. Discourse is a subject of study particularly in peoples who reside in secluded areas and share the same speech conventions.

Sociologists and philosophers use the term discourse in a different way. They use it to describe the conversations and its underlying meanings by a group of people who have common ideas. This is one definition forwarded by the philosopher Michel Foucault. He maintains that discourse is the acceptable statements that are formed by a particular kind of discourse community.

A discourse community is explained as people who have the same thoughts and ideas. The fans of a particular book series can be considered as what might constitute a discourse community. Within this group there will be some attitudes that will be seen as unacceptable and considered contradictory to what the community believes in. The ideology defines what is allowed to be discussed.

Discourse seen in this light is able to exist over time and represent all of the thoughts that the community has adopted or is attributed to it. When the discourse is applied to a more expansive philosophical ideal, all of the exchange of ideas, systems of thought, analysis and history will become part of the community.

Discourse is flexible only to a degree that is based on how the community allows it.

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