Swifties Speak: A Discourse Analysis of Taylor Swift’s Fan Base—Samantha Federici (2024)

Questions to Consider

  1. Federici analyzes how Taylor Swift’s fan base, known as Swifties, exemplifies John Swales’ concept of a discourse community through their shared goals and objectives. Identify and discuss other characteristics of a discourse community, according to Swales, that the Taylor Swift fan base exemplifies.
  2. In what ways do Swifties utilize various platforms for intercommunication, and how do these platforms contribute to the development and maintenance of the discourse community? Examine specific examples such as social media, fan forums, and live events.
  3. The analysis highlights the role of specific genres and lexis in enhancing the Swifties’ sense of community and identity. Analyze how these linguistic and artistic expressions function within the community, including examples like fan chants, hashtags, and acronyms.

A Note From The Instructor—Parisa Adlifar

Samantha Federici’s essay is an excellent example of a discourse community analysis. She blends personal interviews with secondary research to provide a comprehensive examination of Taylor Swift’s fan base, known as Swifties. Federici was genuinely enthusiastic about this topic and delved deeply into her research. During our discussions, we explored how she could incorporate John Swales’ framework into her essay. Federici chose to use Swales’ defining characteristics as a foundation without strictly structuring her essay around all six of them, a choice I encouraged. This approach allowed her to highlight how Swifties’ shared values, communication practices, and unique lexicon create a vibrant, supportive community. Federici demonstrated remarkable dedication throughout the writing process, from outlining her ideas to refining the essay’s structure and argument. I am delighted that Federici’s work has been recognized for its excellence, and I am excited for other students in advanced composition courses to read this inspiring and powerful piece.

Essay (Best of ENG 225)

Swifties Speak: A Discourse Analysis of Taylor Swift’s Fan Base—Samantha Federici (2024)

Regardless of whether people consider themselves a Swiftie or not, with a projected gross profit of 2.2 billion dollars in North America alone, Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour, a stadium arena experience that began in March of 2023, has had a stark economic and emotional impact on many people (Kopstein). In addition to being a financial success, the Eras Tour and Taylor Swift are a cultural phenomenon. Throughout her tour, every city Swift has stopped in has pulled out all the stops for her: the governor of New Jersey named the state sandwich of New Jersey after her, Santa Clara, California named her honorary mayor, and Minneapolis was dubbed “Swiftie-apolis.” Notably, Swift has dominated the global music industry by releasing seven albums of new and re-recorded music in the last three years, has had great success at the tops of streaming charts, and became the first woman and the fourth musician to win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year three times (Morrow). Within 18 years, Swift has cultivated a ginormous, multi-generational fan base that has spent their entire lives defending their love of her. Regarded by journalists as one of the largest and most devoted fan bases based on their high levels of participation, creativity, and community, Swift’s fan base can be identified as what John Swales has defined as a discourse community. In “Reflections on the concept of discourse community,” a discourse community is a “group of people who share a set of discourses, understood as basic values and assumptions, and ways of communicating about their goals.” I intend to analyze how Swift’s fan base can be considered a discourse community and prove that, under this definition, it shapes what we value, what we hope to achieve, and how it provides interpretive and discursive meaning in our lives.

To gain a better understanding of the discourse community of Taylor Swift’s Swifties, I interviewed the advisor of the student organization, The Taylor Swift Society, and the President of Miami’s Version: A Taylor Swift Appreciation Club, both of whom wish to remain anonymous. Through the interview process, I was able to gather this striking observation, “Swifties are different from other music-related fandoms in that they are more than just her fans; they are a strong community with distinct behaviors that have a significant influence on brands” (Personal Interview, February 2024). Likewise, it was noted that “it’s Taylor Swift’s economy, and we’re just living in it” (Personal Interview, February 2024). The economic boom that bars, restaurants, hotels, and small businesses experienced throughout the summer of the Eras Tour demonstrates how her fans do not simply listen to her music; rather, they identify with her journey, discography, and personal growth. In 2020, four months after the COVID-19 quarantine had started, Swift released her eighth album, folklore. It was noted that, “like most people, the pandemic was a very difficult time for me because I struggled with mental health and being socially isolated….although nothing seemed positive at the time, folklore helped me feel like myself again…I was reminded to keep trying because Taylor Swift was able to write an album even through this difficult time.” This emotional impact Swift has had on her fans and her legacy will endure beyond the number of awards she has received or how often she is at the top of the streaming charts. Her greatest contribution to society has been serving as an inspiration to millions of girls worldwide, demonstrating that being authentic is more significant than appearances or identity.

Although these values of authenticity and transparency expand to Swifties worldwide, possibly more evidently are Swifties’ collective aspirations to support and promote Taylor Swift’s career. Whether it is through buying records, going to live events, or taking part in fan-driven projects, Swifites share many broadly agreed sets of common public goals, which is analogous to John Swales first of six defining characteristics of a discourse community. The primary objective of this community revolves around celebrating and interacting with Taylor Swift’s music, persona, and artistic expressions. Additionally, they seek to create a friendly, accepting, and inclusive atmosphere for other fans by promoting respect for one another and camaraderie. Demonstrated here, there is a strong social and emotional bond that people feel with her, as she “serves as a role model, becoming a great example of someone who sticks to their values and shows their fan base they can reach their goals” (Coleman). Clearly illustrated here, the fan community is a big part of this environment, and through this community, people meet their friends and become part of something bigger than themselves. Another example of authenticity is showcased by Swift herself. She is currently in the process of reclaiming ownership of her work and, despite any barriers or obstacles in the way, has been successful in releasing re-recordings of her earlier albums. This resiliency has inspired many of her fans to do the same and stop at nothing to reach their goals, whatever those may be. Generally speaking, people who join a fandom do so because the celebrity that serves as the focus of the fandom somehow relates to their identity. Swifties are no exception as Swift’s steadfast honesty and genuineness are demonstrated by her capacity to uphold these traits both in public and private. Thus, John Swales’ idea of a discourse community bound by shared goals and purposes through their cohesive dedication to these shared objectives is evident in Swifties’ devotion to her authenticity and honesty.

In addition to common values, Swifties use different avenues of communication among members, and these methods provide feedback to other members. This exchange of ideas takes place on a variety of platforms, including social media, fan forums, fan clubs, and live events, like concerts and conventions. These serve as channels through which fans can exchange ideas and experiences and express their devotion to Taylor and her work. Although Taylor is a global sensation, she still manages to connect with her fans by inviting them into her world and sharing her joys, sorrows, triumphs, and setbacks online. She has many direct interactions with fans on social media platforms, including Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. Indirectly, Swift strategically uses secrets not only in her music but also in her digital footprint, where she periodically makes cryptic references to unannounced projects. Examples of these include hidden messages in song titles, Easter eggs in music videos, and interactive album experiences. With the release of her two sister albums, folklore and evermore in 2020, fans were encouraged to construct their own stories and interpretations of the tunes and share them online. Through the use of imagination, listeners can create a close and personal connection with the interactive album experiences, which are collections of stories that blend fiction and personal experiences. The anticipation of discovering these secrets has become a hallmark of Swift’s brand, which leads to a highly engaged community that not only consumes her music but actively participates in the narrative Swift constructs around each release.

Additionally,  the Instagram handle, Taylor Nation (@taylornation), and the website, TaylorSwift.com, are Taylor Swift’s official management group, where they share videos and updates about Taylor, including recaps of her tours and merchandise sales. Likewise, SWIFTIPEDIA serves as Taylor Swift Wiki and is home to over 900 pages and 10,000images to discover all of the available information about Taylor Swift, including biography, discography, awards, music videos, and interviews (Taylor Swift Wiki). Here, fans can respond to each other’s posts and have conversations about songs, shows, and advancements. This real-time feedback mechanism allows for immediate reactions and exchanges among members, which further fosters creativity and engagement. It is through these spaces that Swifties can provide feedback and information to other members and establish a unified and dynamic discourse community, as outlined by Swales’ framework.

While these connections between shared goals, intercommunication, and participatory mechanisms are telling, arguably the most interesting aspect that the discourse community utilizes and possesses is shared language, specifically multiple genres and specific lexis. Primarily, Taylor Swift’s music spans multiple genres, including country, pop, indie, and occasionally rock or folk. Through this extensive discography, fans can develop a shared understanding and appreciation of the diverse musical styles. In addition, to bring a more global sensation locally, supporters take part in fan projects and gatherings that highlight popular genres, including themed parties, virtual listening sessions, and collaborative fan projects such as tribute albums or charity fundraisers. This genre is significant because it demonstrates that Taylor Swift’s devoted following extends far beyond simple admiration and explores the idea of identity. On a different note, shared lexis encompasses specialized terms, expressions, and allusions that are specific to the fandom and intimately linked to Taylor Swift’s body of work, personal life, and music. Particular phrases and hashtags associated with Taylor Swift’s career are used to refer to Taylor Swift fans collectively. To an outsider, terms like “Swifties,” “Swiftmas,” and “Swiftie Nation” may mean nothing, but to a member, it is a symbol of family. Similarly, hashtags such as #TaylorSwift, #Swifites, and #TS7 (referring to her seventh album era) have the same effect. Moreover, Taylor Swift fans frequently reference lyrics, song titles, and album names in acronyms. Namely “IBYTAM” and “IKYWT” may appear to be random jargon of letters. But only a Swiftie eye can reveal that these acronyms stand for infamous songs on the Red album, “I Bet You Think About Me” and “I Knew You Were Trouble,” respectively. These references serve as shorthand for communicating different works of music which can be thought of as “inside jokes,” whose meaning only members of the community can completely grasp. Overall, the shared genres extend beyond the musical styles embodied in Swift’s lyrics to include the artistic expressions and cooperative endeavors of the fans themselves, and the common lexis functions as a linguistic marker of their discourse community, both of which support member connection, communication, and identity all in line with Swales’ criteria.

Because Taylor Swift presents herself as a strong woman with relatability, grace, and unwavering character strength, she has been incredibly successful in creating a brand that appeals to many generations (Berk). A demographic profile of avid Taylor Swift fans revealed that 11% of her fans are Gen Z Adults, 45% are Millennials, 21% are Gen Xers, and 23% are Baby Boomers (Blancaflor). Because she began her career in 2006, Swift has had the opportunity to both inspire a new generation and grow with her current generation of followers. In the same vein, Taylor Swift fans demonstrate a wide variety of expertise. This knowledge ranges from beginners who are unfamiliar with Taylor Swift’s music and fandom to seasoned professionals who have a wealth of information and experience. Novices have either recently discovered Swift’s music or have only recently started actively engaging in fan communities. Additionally, they are unfamiliar with the entirety of her discography, her professional history, or the nuances of the fandom surrounding her. On the other side of the spectrum are experts who are profoundly informed about Swift’s songs, live appearances, and private life. They might have spent years following Swift’s career, gone to several of her concerts, and thoroughly engaged in fan communities. However, both novices and experts contribute to the discourse community by sharing their fresh perspectives, enthusiasm, and curiosity, or by serving as guides, educators, and contributors to fandom. Since the fandom has grown exponentially with each album drop, there are plenty of “baby” Swifites attending her concerts. Therefore, “OG” fans are sharing tips on how to become a more experienced member.

Similarly, experience with the discourse community has allowed members to gain a better understanding of the “silent relations.” These are traditions or customs that do not need to be said or spelled out to be understood by members. An example of an unwritten rule is all the fan chants that occur during the Eras Tour. One of the earliest unique customs is introduced by Swift in her song “Fearless,” with the lyrics, “It’s the first kiss, it’s flawless, really something / It’s fearless.” Though it is never stated clearly in the lyrics, fans know when they hear these lyrics to raise their hands in the air in the shape of a heart. For the fans who have not been there since the beginning of Taylor’s career, learning these fan chants and rituals is important to “prove” your devotion to Swift and feel welcomed by the crowd. All things considered, the Taylor Swift fan base encompasses a wide spectrum of knowledge, from beginners to specialists, all of whom add to the depth and vitality of the discourse community. Although it may seem like everyone is a Taylor Swift fan these days, there are plenty of people who are still not a part of this discourse community. If you wish to become a member, you may start by exploring her discography. Here, you will be able to familiarize yourself with her musical style and evolution as an artist throughout her eras. Then, you could move to follow her on social media to interact with other fans and access behind-the-scenes content and announcements. However, above all, expressing your admiration for Taylor Swift allows you to contribute to the discourse community and become a welcomed member. Diversity promotes a dynamic exchange of ideas, learning, and growth and strengthens the sense of belonging and connection among members (Swales). There is plenty of diversity in the Swiftie fanbase, and the growing repertoire of fan chants, singalongs, and clapping rituals in her shows increases the members’ sense of connection, belonging, and camaraderie.

By all measures, Swift’s past 12 months have been incredible. She was selected as Time magazine’s Person of the Year in December, is currently on the highest-grossing worldwide tour, and has scored a very well-known NFL player boyfriend, Travis Kelce. Through no fault of her own, there are still limitations and conflict present within the Swiftie community. Since she is an extensively covered person in mass media, Taylor Swift and her fan base are subject to wide social approval and admiration globally but also scrutiny and controversy. Personally for Swift, there have been highly publicized disputes between her and other A-list celebrities, including Kanye West, Katy Perry, and Kim Kardashian, and public breakups with romantic partners, including Joe Jonas, Harry Styles, and Tom Hiddleston. On the other hand, the Swiftie community has drawn criticism for specific actions, including their partially obsessive interest in Swift’s personal life, pop paparazzi behavior, and overall lack of privacy. Although these interactions have affected her, her fanbase, and public perception, Swift has remained open about her social media backlash and is still regarded as one of the greatest and most prosperous musicians of all time. An example of this prosperity is prevalent in her recent romantic relationship with American football player Travis Kelce. Although initially criticized by both fanbases, Swifites and the National Football League, their relationship has had a noticeable cultural impact in the US. Nationwide viewership of NFL games has peaked at a 53% increase in female viewers aged 12 to 17, a 34% increase with viewers above 35, and a 24% increase in viewers aged 18 to 24 (Fatemi). Taylor Swift, who started her career in Nashville in 2006, now has an unbelievable ability to boost sales and engagement for any organization simply by showing up. As demonstrated time and time again, this fanbase has a substantial economic impact, proving the conversation is deeper than just admirers of the musician’s work. Finally, the ability of the discourse community to change over time, in response to oppression or praise, demonstrates how it navigates challenges and prevails with resiliency and solidarity, which is an important aspect of any community.

Taylor Swift, who has masterminded her way to another record-breaking year and is experiencing a sheer rise in popularity not only in the US but globally, has an honorable milestone coming her way. She is expected to set a record for the highest-grossing concert tour of all time, a record currently held by Elton John and his Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour, which lasted from 2018 through 2023 and grossed 939 million dollars. Still, 2023 has been a historic year for this pop diva, and setting a new tour record is merely one of her many notable achievements. My analysis explored Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour, highlighting its financial success and cultural impact, while I also examined how Swift’s fan base may be thought of as a discourse community and demonstrated how, by this definition, it influences our values, our aspirations, and the interpretive and discursive meaning that our lives have. One may argue that Taylor Swift’s devoted following goes beyond the typical fan-artist dynamic and instead explores the territory of identity and imagination. It is about finding a sense of belonging, support, and friendship among like-minded fans who use her music to heal, inspire, and empower. Fans can connect and brainstorm with her on a more intimate level because of her songs and openness about her path. Particularly, Swift’s dedication to communicating with her followers and supporting social issues strengthens this bond. It is within these methods that Swifties can share their extensive genres and exclusive lexis with other members, fostering a deeper sense of community. Finally, unwritten rules are often learned through years of experience, but this discrepancy does not deter new members from joining the discourse. Taylor is therefore a shining example of the value of the fan-artist bond many artists only dream of forming. It is difficult to overstate the effect Taylor Swift has had on consumer behavior, as her accomplishments as an artist—culturally, personally, and commercially—have helped her build one of the most dominant fan bases, and discourse communities, of all time, and her extraordinary capacity to uplift her fans proves the impact that famous people may have on the identities and lives of those who adore them.

Works Cited

Berk, Nancy. “Taylor Swift’s Multigenerational Fan Base Could Unleash Exponential Box Office Enthusiasm.” Forbes, 7 Sep. 2023, Taylor Swift’s Multigenerational Fan Base Could Unleash Exponential Box Office Enthusiasm. https://www.forbes.com/sites/nancyberk/2023/09/07/taylor-swifts-multigenerational-fan-base-could-unleash-exponential-box-office-enthusiasm/?sh=6b94dfa734d1.

Blancaflor, Saleah. “A Demographic Deep Dive into the Taylor Swift Fandom.” Morning Consult Pro, 8 Feb. 2024, pro.morningconsult.com/instant-intel/taylor-swift-fandom-demographic.

Fatemi, Falon. “The Taylor Swift Effect.” Forbes,  20 Feb. 2024, www.forbes.com/sites/falonfatemi/2023/11/21/the-taylor-swift-effect/?sh=661b7872357a.

Coleman, Becky. “So What Exactly Makes Taylor Swift so Great?” Harvard Gazette, 13 Feb. 2024, news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2023/08/so-what-exactly-makes-taylor-swift-so-great/.

Kopstein, Jeannie, and Mariah Espada. “Why Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour Has Made So Much Money.” Time, 24 Aug. 2023, time.com/6307420/taylor-swift-eras-tour-money-economy/.

Morrow, Brendan. “All the Records Taylor Swift Has Broken in 2023.” The Week, 16 Aug. 2023, theweek.com/culture/entertainment/1025810/taylor-swift-records-2023.

Swales, John M. “Reflections on the concept of Discourse Community.” ASp 9 Mar. 2016, pp. 7–19, https://journals.openedition.org/asp/4774.

Taylor Swift Wiki, FANDOM, taylorswift.fandom.com/wiki/Taylor_Swift_Wiki. Accessed 2 Mar. 2024.

Writer’s Reflection

Dear Reader,

Being almost three years removed from any formal composition class, my experience writing this analytical essay was nothing short of challenging yet rewarding. To start, the beginning writing processes and activities we did in this class were very different from my past experiences. In the past, I would spend a large amount of class time drafting my pieces. In this class, a majority of the writing was done outside of class time, and in class, we learned about concepts to improve our writing. Trying out this new process produced a different piece of writing than what would have been created if I had followed my old processes.


There were certain steps I followed to complete this project. The foundational process was researching and selecting a discourse community that I would be able to analyze deeply. Following this, I decided how to organize my essay. This step welcomed a large number of changes as I restructured the organization of my essay many times. The final couple of steps I took were individual review and peer review. This was a helpful step as it allowed me to revise and improve my writing to the point where I had a final draft.


There was feedback that I got from my peers and my instructor that helped me revise my essay. Giving peer feedback allowed me to develop my “editor’s voice” that I could use in my writing to strengthen my language and analysis of my discourse community. Receiving peer feedback was helpful as it opened my eyes to what was unclear to an outside member of the discourse community and made my writing more concise.


I think the most challenging part of the assignment was deciding how to be descriptive yet still analytical. I found it very easy to describe the six characteristics of the discourse community, but I struggled with applying critical thinking. One strategy I used to overcome this challenge was relying on my primary and secondary sources. These avenues opened the broader application of the qualities and developed more critical thinking in my writing. At a later date, I would focus on making the writing more analytical and less descriptive to develop an even stronger argument.


At the beginning of this assignment, I had no idea what a discourse community was or how it applied to my life. This changed drastically with the completion of the project. I learned that although a discourse community sounds very academic, they are found in all avenues of life, and  people are members of many communities which all require variable levels of commitment and expertise. Unlike this, the way I understand and practice research has been greatly impacted. I have never had to conduct primary research, so this process was very foreign to me. I now realize that primary research can be concluded in a variety of ways, including a survey, interview, or observation, each of which has its advantages and disadvantages respectively. This tool will be applicable to future assignments in this class and future classes in my major and career. I am excited to be able to use the critical thinking, collaboration, and research-collecting skills I have developed in this project in my future life.


Happy reading,

Samantha Federici