Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article
COMMUNICATIVE COMPETENCE. [Coined by the US anthropologist Dell Hymes]. A term in SOCIOLINGUISTICS for a speaker's underlying knowledge of the rules of GRAMMAR (understood in its widest sense to include phonology, orthography, syntax, lexicon, and semantics) and rules for their use in socially appropriate circumstances. The notion is intended to replace Noam CHOMSKY'S dichotomy of competence and performance. Competence is the knowledge of rules of grammar, performance, how the rules are used. Speakers draw on their competence in putting together grammatical sentences, but not all such sentences can be used in the same circumstances: Close the window and Would you mind closing the window, please? are both grammatical, but they differ in their appropriateness for use in particular situations. Speakers use their communicative competence to choose what to say, as well as how and when to say it. See COMPETENCE AND PERFORMANCE, LANGUAGE TEACHING.