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Main article: Communication skills

Communicative competence is a linguistic term for the ability not only to apply the grammatical rules of a language to form correct utterances, but also to know when to use these utterances appropriately. The term was coined by Dell Hymes in 1966, reacting against the inadequacy of Noam Chomsky's distinction between competence and performance.

According to a 1980 paper by Canale and Swain which has become canonical in applied linguistics, communicative competence consists of four components:

  1. grammatical competence: words and rules
  2. sociolinguistic competence: appropriateness
  3. discourse competence: cohesion and coherence
  4. strategic competence: appropriate use of communication strategies

A more recent survey of communicative competence by Bachman (1990) divides it into the broad headings of "organizational competence," which includes both grammatical and discourse (or textual) competence, and "pragmatic competence," which includes both sociolinguistic and "illocutionary" competence.

Through the influence of communicative language teaching, it has become widely accepted that communicative competence should be the goal of language education. This is in contrast to previous views in which grammatical competence was commonly given top priority. The understanding of communicative competence has been influenced by the field of pragmatics and the philosophy of language concerning speech acts as described in large part by John Searle and J.L. Austin.

External link[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Bachman, L. (1990). Fundamental considerations in language testing. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-437003-8

Canale, M. & Swain, M. (1980). Theoretical bases of communicative approaches to second language teaching and testing. Applied Linguistics 1, 1-47.

Hymes, D.H. (1971). On communicative competence. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Extracts available in Brumfit, C.J. & Johnson, K. (Eds.) (1979), The communicative approach to language teaching, pp. 5-26. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-437078-X

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