Community of Practice and the Special Language "Ground"

Community of Practice and the Special Language "Ground"

Khurshid Ahmand (University of Surrey, UK) and Rafif Al-Sayed (University of Surrey, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-556-6.ch017
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Abstract

The creation of new knowledge is essential for survival in a global economy, for providing better public services, and for maximising profits over long timeframes. People in an organisation create knowledge, and the organisation facilitates or hinders the creation. Knowledge is created through interaction, and this interaction often results in the emergence of a community. The community invariably develops a common social, philosophical, and cognitive ground amongst the members of an organisation, and helps members to share and learn knowledge of others. In an organisation people learn and share knowledge by watching each other, by talking to each other, by reading documents written by each other to gain a common understanding. Common understanding helps in creating a community. The community is a dynamical eco-system where new ideas are nurtured, existing ideas pruned, and some ‘killed off’. The understanding supports quiescent changes and paradigm shifts as well. A community is defined as a body of people “organized into a political, municipal, or social unity”—a body that shares values, beliefs, and aspirations and creates its own icons. All communities have an exchange system—rewards for good behaviour and opprobrium for bad. And language is amongst one of the important icons for communities as diverse as national and regional communities, and scientific and technical communities. A specialist community uses the language of the populace and then starts to specialise the meaning of certain words within the existing stock of words of the parent language, creates its own words, and places similar restrictions on the grammar of the populace at large when used within the community. This specialisation process results in the language of the community, and the language is called language for special purposes (LSP), language for specific purposes, or just special language of X, where X refers to a specific branch of human enterprise—language of physics, of business, of sports. There are further specialisations: LSP of nuclear physics, financial trading, and football. Special languages can be differentiated from the language of everyday usage at the level of vocabulary; the differences are increasingly less discernible at the levels of grammar, syntax, and semantics. Special languages are in many ways a social phenomenon: consciously created to foster a sense of common purpose amongst a group of people and sometimes used to exclude. Special languages are key instruments of personal and group promotion. A specialist community, individually and collectively, weaves a fabric of facts and imagination (Goodman, 1978); in essence, the weave is a collection of specialist texts. We attempt to relate the development of an LSP to a specific community (of practice).

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