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Communicative Competence: Analysis Of Its Components




what is required

strategic comp

discourse comp

socio comp

grammatical comp

historical overview

historical overview

historical overview

chomsky's rejection


plato vs malinowski





Language & Communication


From an anthropological perspective, origins of communications were in early stages of life when there was a need for animals and humans to communicate There was a distinction between human and animal systems of communication as their features differed in the way they expressed their intentions Before language was developed, non-verbal codes were utilised by humans to convey information by symbols, body gestures and sounds These are represented in pictorial art/burial sites Verbal codes were developed into highly elaborated signally systems, written and spoken which became an essential tool of communication for humans (Crystal 1985)




Semiotics distinguishes verbal and non-verbal communication as part of the analysis of linguistic and non-linguistic signs as communicative devices in all contexts.Verbal – oral/written form, having a conversation, watching movies.Non-verbal – gestures, body language, facial expressions.


Definition: language is defined as the institution whereby humans communicate and interact with others by habitually used oral-auditory arbitrary symbols (R.A Hall, 1964) Auditory-vocal channel is in direct opposition to tactile, visual or other means of communication as humans can reproduce and produce as infinite number of messages in any context of space and time due to the arbitrariness of language Arbitrariness of language allows humans to combine sounds with no intrinsic meaning so as to form elements with meaning




MalinowskiBelieved that language has only 2 purposes – pragmatic and ritual. For him, the pragmatic function refers to practical use of language either active by means of speech or written texts

PlatoFirst to discuss an instrumentalist definition of language which serves the purpose of communication

Plato vs Malinowski


Competence – idealised native speaker’s underlying competence which refers to one’s implicit or explicit knowledge of language system Performance – addresses an individual’s performance and refers to an actual production and comprehension of language in specific instances of language use Chomsky believed that actual performance did not reflect the underlying knowledge which is competence, because of its many imperfections

Chomsky's Theory of Transformational Grammar

Proposed by American anthropologist Dell Hymes.Believed that rules of language are neglected in Chomsky’s approach as native speakers know more than just grammatical competence.Hymes had a broader view which consisted of sociolinguistic and contextual competence.For Hymes, the notion of communicative competence is the underlying knowledge a speaker has of the rules of grammar including phonology, orthography, syntax, lexicon and semantics.Hymes’ model is sociolinguistic yet incorporates Chomsky’s psycholinguistic parameters of linguistic competence.


Communicative Competence: A Historical Overview



Argued that knowledge of a foreign language culture is fundamental for foreign language learners to create similar environments of native speakers’ interactions]

Robert Lado (1957)

In his work, The Leviathan, an ethnographic approach to the nature of language, Hobbes explains how fallacious it is to judge the nature of things by using ordinary and inconstant words. He refers to an emphasis on social action rather than on texts in order to achieve the effectiveness of communication.

Thomas Hobbes (1651)



Believed that native speakers know more than just grammatical competence and expands Chomsky’s notions of competence and performance into 4 categories under a heading of communicative competence as 1. Systematic potential 2. Feasible 3. Appropriate 4. Occurrence

Dell Hymes (1972)

Competence refers to the innate knowledge of language a speaker-listener has in a homogenous speech community. Performance refers to the actual production and the rules of language use

Noam Chomsky (1965)


Produced a model which consisted of 4 major components of communicative competence – grammatical, sociolinguistic, discourse and strategic aspects.Knowing a language implies a combination of knowledge and skills - Knowledge refers to what one knows about the language itself and about other aspects of communicative language uses.Skills refers to how well one can perform this knowledge in actual communication situations.Both knowledge and skill underlie actual communication in systematic way and are therefore embedded in communicative competence.The realisation of knowledge and skills under limiting psychological and environmental conditions is actual communication which reflects the reality that he communicative competence is indirectly reflected in communication.

Canale and Swain (1980)

An Analysis Of Its Components

Deals with the mastery of the linguistic code itself as this element is important for students to attain a higher level of proficiency where accuracy is important.This consists of the features and rules of the language such as vocabulary, word formation, sentence formation, pronunciation, spelling and linguistic semantics.This competence focuses directly on the knowledge and skill required to understand and express accurately the literal meaning of utterances.

Grammatical Competence

Concerned with appropriate uses of language such as social situations to convey specific communicative functions like describing or narrating.Difficult to attain as skilled use of appropriate registers requires sensitivity to cross-cultural difference so utterances that are appropriately produced and understood depend on contextual factors such as status of participants, purpose of interaction etc.Appropriateness of utterances refer to appropriateness of meaning and form.Meaning is concerned with which particular communicative functions are proper.Form refers to the given meaning that is represented in verbal or non-verbal form.

Sociolinguistic Competence

Concerned with the mastery of how to use language to achieve a unified spoken or written text in different genres.Cohesion of thought is attained by means of cohesive devices like pronouns and grammatical connectors combined with a unity of thought and continuity in a text.Unity of a text is achieved through cohesion in form and coherence in meaning.Cohesion deals with how utterances are structurally linked and facilitates interpretation of a text by pronouns, synonyms, ellipsis, conjunctions and parallel structures to indicate how a group of utterances is to be understood as a text.

Discourse Competence


Refers to verbal and non-verbal communication strategies by underlying knowledge about language and communicative language use or skill.There are 2 aspects; to compensate for breakdowns in communication due to limiting conditions in actual communication and to enhance the effectiveness of communication.Can be achieved by paraphrase, circumlocution, repetition, hesitation, avoidance, guessing and shifts in register and style.It’s useful in the early stages of second language learning where communicative competence can be present with just strategic and socio-linguistic competence.

Strategic Competence

Communicative Competence And The Spanish Curriculum

There is a need for individuals to learn a foreign language to communicate with other European countries.Contributes to a multilingual and multicultural identity.Foreign language activities are provided within the framework of social interaction, personal, professional or educational fields.Linguistic competences – semantic, morphosyntactic, phonological.Discourse competences – language functions, speech acts and conversations.Sociolinguistic competences – social conventions, communicative intentions.Strategic competences – sub competence of communicative competence within educational framework.

What Is Required?

Help students improve educational/professional life from global perspective as it will help them develop their personality, social integration, etc.Allow learners to be in contact with current scientific, humanistic and technological advances.Broaden students’ intellectual knowledge.Promote development of international communication.

Benefits Of Learning A Second Language

Classroom conditions should match those in real life to foster acquisition which encourages learning Recent technological multimedia tools which utilise audio-visual formats can provide many contextual cues that traditional textbook formats cannot Traditional textbooks may not provide appropriate context for the acquisition of communicative competence

Teaching Implications

DISCOURSE: unity of a text is achieved through cohesion in form and coherence in meaningSTRATEGIC: achieved by paraphrase, circumlocution, repetition, hesitation, avoidance, guessing and shifts in register and style

GRAMMATICAL: consists of the features and rules of the language such as vocabulary, word formation, sentence formation, pronunciation, spelling and linguistic semanticsSOCIOLINGUISTIC: concerned with appropriate uses of language such as social situations

Chomsky believed that actual performance did not reflect the underlying knowledge which is competence, because of its many imperfections

Competence in language under communicative competence involves knowledge of culture, conventions, strategies, etc

- Develop social integration - Be in contact with global advances- Broaden intellecctual knowledge

Proficiency = competence and performance

Verbal – oral/written form, having a conversation, watching moviesNon-verbal – gestures, body language, facial expressions