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Noam Chomsky
Jürgen Habermas
M. Halliday
Dell Hymes
Bachman and Palmer
Canale and Swain

3. Models of communicative competence

Canale and Swain’s Model

Bachman and Palmer’s Model
Common European Framework of Reference’s Model

4. Conclusion

Teaching Inference

This topic constitutes the epistemological source of any course of Foreign
Language Learning. It not only provides with a deep understanding of
, but also……..

Throughout this unit I will analyse the current models of communicative

competence by considering the contributions made from different fields of study.
amongst them the model porposed by the CEFRL, which is the model for teaching
and assessing languages in all Europe.

Language, Communication and Communicative Competence

Before embarking on this task, I would like to address briefly the concepts of
language and communication, which constitute the subject matter of study for
designing models of communicative competence.

Communication is a complex process that reflects the complexity of human thinking,

therefore a proper definition cannot be simplified as shown bellow:

“Communication is a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through

a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior” (Webster, 1983, p. 266).

When we communicate we transmit (as by speech, signals, writing, or

behaviour) information (thoughts and emotions) so that it is satisfactorily received
and understood. Human beings do not exchange data–we understand information.
Communication researchers refer to the process as “sharing meaning” and prefer to
define communication as “the management of messages for the purpose of creating

The field of communication focuses on how PEOPLE use MESSAGE to

generate MEANINGS within and across various CONTEXTS, CULTURES,

On the other hand, the complexity of human communication is reflected in its

main tool: language. From prehistoric times, the human language has developed in
a highly elaborated signaling system, which set us apart from animals.


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Currently, it is well established that learning a foreign language is, from both a
linguistic and a communicative view, a matter of mastering “competence” and
“performance’, these terms were first described as a language theory by the
American linguist Noam Chomsky in (1958) as an attempt to give an account of
what languages are and how they are learnt. Since then, these notions have been
reviewed and discussed to determine the nature of communicative competence and

In the late 50's Chomsky's book 'Svntactic Structures' introduced Transformative

Generative Grammar into the field of linguistic studies, challenging some tenents of
the structuralist school of thought which had dominated diverse range of fields for
the last fifty years (since the 1900s); although structuralists and generativists are
interested in the structures of languages, generativist linguists realised the
inadequacy of earlier taxonomic classification of structures to explain the nature of
language. Chomsky suggested that the basic principles of any language are
determined in the mind and that all human beings share the same principal linguistic
structure (Universal Grammar), regardless of socio-cultural differences. This
structure is innate and has the potential to generate all the well-formed sentences in
a language (Generative Grammar). Proof of this is the fact that all children have the
capacity to generate sentences that had never been taught to them (creativity).
Chomsky's transformational theory converges around the two primary concepts of
'competence' and 'performance and defines competence' as the "speaker-hearer's
knowledge of his language", According to him linguistic theory concerns itself solely
with competence. But competence is an Idealised concept. It is the knowledge that
an 'ideal speaker-hearer' has of the language 'system operating within his
homogeneous speech community. In contrast 'performance' is "the actual, use of
language in concrete situations'~. Chomsky says that "a recqrd of natural speech
will show numerous false starts, deviations from rules, changes of plan in mid-
course and so on", Performance e'xemplifies an incomplete and imperfect
representation of the ideal speaker-llstener ' s competence and is treated as being
irrelevant by theoretical and descriptive linguists.

In the 1960s and 70s Chomsky’s description of the terms competence and
performance triggered an intensive debate among linguists, later to be picked up by
applied linguists. What is at issue for most of them, is not necessarily the nature of a
Chomskyan view of competence but its limited scope; (in fact Chomsky’s general
cognitive view of language can also be found in the Common European Framework of
Reference), on the other hand, his notion of performance, which is described as irrelevant

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details of language behavior is completely disregarded as a part of linguistic theory
or research.

Dell Hymes, in reaction to Chomsky’s limiting definition of the scope of linguistic

theory, coined the term communicative competence, he was pioneering the study of
the relationship between language and social context and that was the beginning of
today’s communicative competence models of language, which have served as a
goal for communicative language teaching.

He defined Communicative Competencee as as the mastery that the native

speaker possesses to know “when to speak, what to talk about, with whom, when,
where and in what manner.”

In Hymes’s view, a person who acquires communicative competence acquires

both knowledge and ability for language use. This includes concepts of
appropriateness and acceptability —notions which in Chomsky are associated
with performance— and the study of competence will inevitably take into
consideration variables such as attitude, motivation, and a number of sociocultural
factors. The actual theory of communicative competence that he suggests implies
four types of knowledge:

1. Whether something is formally possible  Grammatical System

2. Whether something is feasible in virtue of the means of implementation
available  Psycholinguistic
3. Whether something is appropriate in relation to a context in which is used
and evaluated  Socio-cultural
4. Whether something is in fact done, actually performed, and what its doing
entails  Probabilistic

Communicative competence is thus viewed by Hymes as the interaction of

grammatical, psycholinguistic, socio-cultural and probabilistic systems of competence.

For Hymes, the field of study for any linguistic theory are the speech
events , these are activities governed directly by rules of language use. A major
aspect of the ethnography of speaking is the analysis of speech events in relation to
their constitutive components. These are:
The setting Setting (physical time and place), Scene ( psychological or
cultural setting).
Participants (speaker and hearer)

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The second criticism of Chomsky’s view of competence concerned the

functional dimension of language. Michael Halliday developed the Systemic-
Functional linguistics, which is based on a conceptual framework that is
functional rather than formal. He is interested in language in its social
perspective and so he is concerned with the formal features of language use to
account for the language functions realized by speech. I.E. He had a different
orientation, grammar is the study of meanings and how meanings are
expressed rather than a study of forms and what the form mean

So for Halliday language is a system, a set of options available to the

individual (lbp) which fulfils social functions and that is reflected in the
linguistic structure of actual speech (ALP).

Halliday describes language as a semiotic system, "not in the sense of a

system of signs, but a systemic resource for meaning". For Halliday, language
is a "meaning potential"

Funcionalism is the theory underlying systemic functional grammar.

Meaning potential: according to halliday (1976 p.9) the human beign has a
potential capacity to mean what he wants to mean in a certain context,
therefore, meaning potential is defined as a set of options and the ability to
select appropriately within them. The situation will determine language
functions which will be fulfilled by language systems (options) which contain
grammatical structures.


In 1973, Halliday developed a theory of language with three level of analysis:

behaviour potential, meaning potential and lexical-grammatical potential. At
the heart of this approach is his language-defining notion of meaning potential; the
sets of options in meaning that are available to the speaker-hearer. This meaning
potential relates behaviour potential to lexical-grammatical potential: what the
speaker can do -> can mean -> can say. These stages display systematic options at
the disposal of the speaker. That is, a social theory determines behaviour options
(what the speaker can do which are translated linguistically as semantic options

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(what he can mean) which are encoded as options in linguistic forms (what he can
say), the options at each stage being organised as network of systems.

According to systemic functional linguistics , we communicate meaning on 3

levels simultaneously: metafunctions the ideational metafunction involves
the examining of processes that are described and understood in language.
Interpersonal  the relationships between the participants and the context in
which they are. Textual  is connecting language together to make cohesive
and coherent. Register: certain recognizable configurations of linguistic
resources in context . there are three main dimensions of variation that
characterize any register. Field, tenor, mode.

Sandra Savignon (1972) defined communicative competence as “the ability to

function in a truly communicative setting —that is in a dynamic exchange in which
linguistic competence must adapt itself to the total informational input, both linguistic
and paralinguistic of one or more interlocutors”. Successful communication,
however, would depend not only on the individual willingness to take a risk and
express oneself in the foreign language, but also on one’s resourcefulness in using
the vocabulary and structures to make oneself understood. Several years later, in
1983, Savignon notes furthermore that communicative competence is relative, not
absolute, and depends on the cooperation of all the participants involved’. She
points out the following characteristics:

1. Communicative competence is a dynamic rather than a static concept

which depends on the negotiation of meaning between two or more persons who
share some knowledge of the language.
2. Communicative competence applies to both written and spoken language.
3. Communicative competence is context-specific, in that communication
always takes place in a particular context or situation.
4. It is important to bear in mind the theoretical distinction between
competence and performance. “Competence is what one knows. Performance is
what one does”.
5. Communicative competence is relative and depends on the cooperation of
all those involved.
Simultaneously to Hymes’s introduction of the concept of communicative
competence as a reaction to Chomsky’s theory, the first well-recognized experiment
of communicative language teaching was taking place at the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign. The American linguist,
Sandra Savignon
(1972), was conducting an experiment with foreign language learners,
particularly adults, in a clasroom at a beginners level. It was an attempt towards
an interactional approach

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where learners were encouraged to make use of their foreign language in a
classroom setting, by means of equivalents of expressions such as ‘Excuse me...’,
‘Please, repeat...’, ‘How do you say this in Italian...?’ in order to communicate rather
than feign native speakers. Regarding the scope of communicative competence,
Savignon’s experiment is considered to be one of the best-known surveys as it shed
light on the development of research in this field. She introduced the idea of
communicative competence as
the ability to function in a truly communicative setting- that is, in a dynamic
exchange in which linguistic competence must adapt itself to the toal informational
input, both linguistic and paralinguistic, of one or more interlocutors
(1972). She included the use of gestures and facial expression in her
interpretation and later refined her definition of communicative competence to
comprise of the following six relevant aspects (1983). FEATURES.
The theories of communicative competence that we have examined so far
have focussed mainly on the interrelation between language and social
context. These theories cannot be considered to be inte grative since they
devote relatively little attention to how individual utterances may be linked at
the level of discourse and do not provide an integration in the different
components of communicative competence. The theoretical framework that
underlies Munby’s model of communicative competence consists of three
major components: Socio-cultural orientation, socio-semantic view of linguistic
knowledge, and rules of discourse.

To make the discussion of teaching both linguistic and communicative

competence clear, Widdowson distinguishes two aspects of performance: "usage"
and "use." He explains that "usage" makes evident the extent to which the language
user demonstrates his knowledge of linguistic rules, whereas "use" makes evident
the extent to which the language user demonstrates his ability to use his knowledge
of linguistic rules for effective communication. (Widdowson, 1978) He also
distinguishes two aspects of meaning: "significance" and "value." Significance is the
meaning that sentences have in isolation from the particular situation in which the
sentence is produced. Value is the meaning that sentences take on when they are
used to communicate. (Widdowson, 1978). Thus acquisition of linguistic
competence is involved in use. Widdowson suggests that the classroom
presentation of language must ensure the acquisition of both kinds of competence
by providing linguistic and communicative contexts. Linguistic context focuses on
usage to enable the students to select which form of sentence is contextually
appropriate, while communicative context focuses on use to enable the students to
recognize the type of communicative function their sentences fulfil. Widdowson
suggests that the selection of content should be made according to its potential
occurrence as an example of use in communicative acts rather than as an example
of usage in terms of linguistic structure. (Widdowson, 1978) Grammar must be

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based on semantic concepts and must help a learner to acquire a practical mastery
of language for the natural communicative use of language.

According to Canale and Swain (1983) communicative competence refers to

both knowledge and skill in using this knowledge when interacting in actual
communication. They adopted the term communicative competence, or knowledge
of the rules of grammar, and socio-linguistic competence or knowledge of the rules
of language use. Communicative competence is to be distinguished from
communicative performance, which is the realization of these competencies and
their interaction in the actual production and comprehension of utterances.

As a conclusion and following Breen, Candlin, Morrow and Widdowson,

communication is understood here to have the following characteristics:

1. It is a form of social interaction. One is not dealing with perfect competence

in a homogeneous speech community but the reality of differential competence in a
heterogeneous speech community.
2. It involves a high degree of unpredictability and creativity in form and message.
3.It takes place in course and socio-cultural contexts.
4.It is carried out under psychological conditionings, memories constrains,
fatigue and distractions.
5.It always has a purpose (promise, order….)
6.It involves authentic contexts.
7.It is judged as successful or not on the basis of actual outcomes.

3. Models of communicative competence



Although most of the theories referred to so far were not developed with
foreign language teaching in mind, they have had, since the 1970s, a
considerable effect on pedagogy. Recent theoretical and empirical research
on communicative competence is largely based on three models of
communicative competence: the model of Canale and Swain, the model of

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Bachman and Palmer and the description of components of communicative
language competence in the Common European Framework (CEF).

A. Canale and Swain’s model. The theoretical framework/model which

was proposed by Canale and Swain (1980, 1981) had at first three main
components, i.e. fields of knowledge and skills: grammatical, sociolinguistic and
strategic competence. In a later version of this model, Canale (1983, 1984)
transferred some elements from sociolinguistic competence into the fourth
component which he named discourse competence.

The essential aspects of the theoretical framework presented here concern the
nature of communication, the distinction between communicative competence and
actual communication and the main components of communicative competence.

Canale and Swain have proposed a theoretical framework for communicative

competence. This framework includes four main competencies:

In Canale and Swain (1980, 1981), grammatical competence is mainly defined

in terms of Chomsky’s linguistic competence, which is why some theoreticians (e.g.
Savignon, 1983), whose theoretical and/or empirical work on communicative
competence was largely based on the model of Canale and Swain, use the term
«linguistic competence» for «grammatical competence».



1. Grammatical competence is concerned with mastery of the linguistic

code (verbal or non-verbal) which includes vocabulary knowledge as well as
knowledge of morphological, syntactic, semantic, phonetic and orthographic rules.
This competence enables the speaker to use knowledge and skills needed for
understanding and expressing the literal meaning of utterances.

2. Sociolinguistic competence concerns to the way grammatical forms

can be used appropriately in various contexts to convey specific communicative
functions Persuading, describing, narrating, etc) i.e. the knowledge of the socio-
cultural rules of language and discourse. It addresses the extent to which utterances
are produced and understood appropriately in different sociolinguistic contexts
depending on contextual factors such as status of participants, purposes of
interaction, and norms or conventions of interaction. Appropriateness of utterances
refers to both appropriateness of meaning and appropriateness of form:

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 Appropriateness of meaning concerns the extent to which particular
communicative functions (commanding, complaining and inviting); attitudes
(politeness and formality) and ideas are judged to be proper in a given situation.
 Appropriateness of form concerns the extent to which a given meaning is
represented in a verbal and/or non-verbal form that is proper in a given sociolinguistic
context. E.g. Waiter (OK. What are you and this broad gonna eat). Sociolinguistic
competence is crucial in interpreting utterances for their social meaning.

3. Discourse competence Canale (1983, 1984) described discourse

competence as mastery of rules that determine ways in which forms and meanings
are combined to achieve a meaningful unity of spoken or written texts. The unity of a
text is enabled by cohesion in form and coherence in meaning. Cohesion is
achieved by the use of cohesion devices (e.g. pronouns, conjunctions, synonyms,
parallel structures etc.) which help to link individual sentences and utterances to a
structural whole. The means for achieving coherence, for instance repetition,
progression, consistency, relevance of ideas etc., enable the organisation of
meaning, i.e. establish a logical relationship between groups of utterances.

In the theory of discourse, according to Canale and Swain, the clearest and
most directly and applicable description of discourse for second language teaching
is that discussed by Widdowson (1978). He makes a fundamental distinction
between cohesion and coherence in spoken or written discourse. Coherence is a
semantic concept concerned with the meaningful connections. Cohesion is a
relational concept concerned with how propositions are linked structurally in a text
and how literal meaning of a text is interpreted.

4. Strategic competence. In the model of Canale and Swain, strategic

competence is composed of knowledge of verbal and non-verbal communication
strategies that are recalled to compensate for breakdowns in communication
due to insufficient competence in one or more components of communicative
competence. These strategies include paraphrase, circumlocution, repetition,
reluctance, avoidance of words, structures or themes, guessing, changes of register
and style, modifications of messages etc. Canale (1983) pointed out that this
competence can also be used to enhance the effectiveness of communication.
In a qualitative sense, it is different from the other three components of
communicative competence in that it is not a type of stored knowledge and it
includes non-cognitive aspects such as self-confidence, readiness to take risks etc.
However, since it interacts with other components, it enables learners to deal
successfully with a lack of competence in one of the fields of competence.

Taking into consideration the results of prior theoretical and empirical re-search,
in the late 1980s, Bachman proposed a new model of communicative competence

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or, more precisely, the model of communicative language ability. That model was,
however, slightly altered by Bachman and Palmer in the mid-1990s.

3.2 Bachman and Palmer’s model (1990) According to Bachman and

Palmer (1996), many traits of language users such as some general characteristics,
their topical knowledge, affective schemata and language ability influence the
communicative language ability. Their model of language ability is comprised of two
broad areas – language knowledge and strategic competence or what they called
”communicative proficiency” or communicative language ability (CLA) which can be
described as consisting of language competence or the set of specific knowledge
components that are utilized in communication via language, and strategic
competence or the capacity for implementing, or executing that competence in
appropriate, contextualized communicative language use and psychochomotor
skills or the neurological and psychological processes involved in the actual
execution of language as a psychological phenomenon.

Language competencies were classified into two types: Organisational

competence (morphology, syntax, vocabulary, cohesion and organisation.

competence includes not only elements of Bachman and Palmer’s sociolinguistic

competence, but also those abilities related to the functions that are performed

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through language use. Each of these consists of several categories in language
use, these components all interact with each other:

1. Organisational competence: comprises those abilities involved

in controlling the formal structure of language for producing or recognising
grammatically correct sentences, comprehending their propositional content, and
ordering them to form texts. These abilities are of two types:

a. Grammatical competence: includes those competencies involved in

language use. These consist of a number of relatively independent competencies such
as the knowledge of vocabulary, morphology, syntax, and phonology/graphology.

b. Textual competence includes the knowledge of the conventions for joining

utterances together to form a text. Textual competence is involved in conversational
language use. Conventions have been discussed in terms of “maxims” (Grice, 1975).

2. Pragmatic competence: Pragmatics is concerned with the

relationship between utterances and the acts that speakers intend to perform
through these utterances. It refers to the organisation of the linguistic signals and
how they are used to refer to persons, ideas and feelings.

a. Illocutionary competence is the ability to express and interpret the

function performed in saying something. For example, the statement “It’s cold in
here” may function as an assertion, a warning, or a request to turn the heater on.
The theory of speech acts (Searle) makes a distinction between

I. Speech acts: Searle distinguishes three types of speech acts:

Utterance acts (act of saying something)
Propositional acts (referring to something or predication)
Illocutionary acts (function performed in saying something)
Perlocutionary act (as the effect on the hearer)

II. Language functions: several macro functions can be considered:

Ideational function (to express meaning in terms of our experience of the world)
Manipulative function (to affect the world around us)
Regulatory function (to control the behaviour of others)
Interactive function (to form, maintain or exchange relationships)
Heuristic function (to extend our knowledge of the world)
Imaginative function (aesthetic purposes to extend our environment)

b. Sociolinguistic competence: is the sensitivity to or control of the

conventions of language use that are determined by the features of the specific
language use context. It enables us to perform language functions in ways that are

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appropriate to that context (sensitivity to differences in dialect or variety to
differences in register and naturalness the ability to interpret cultural references and
figures of speech). Sociolinguistic competence involves sensitivity to variations in
register, since the illocutionary force of utterances virtually depends on the social
contexts in which they are used.

Pragmatic competence consists of illocutionary competence, that is,

knowledge of speech acts and speech functions, and sociolinguistic competence.
‘Sociolinguistic competence’ entails the ability to use language appropriately
according to context. It thus includes the ability to select communicative acts and
appropriate strategies to implement them depending on the contextual features of
the situation. In Bachman’s model, pragmatic competence is not subordinated to
knowledge of grammar and text organization but is coordinated to formal linguistic
and textual knowledge and interacts with ‘organizational competence’ in complex

2. Strategic competence is the recognition of language use

as a dynamic process, involving the assessment of relevant information in the
context, and a negotiation or meaning on the part of the language user. We can
consider three components in relation to the strategic competence:

1. Assessment: enables us to identify the information that is needed for

realising a particular communicative goal in a given text or to identify what language
competencies are at our disposal (native language, second or foreign language) and
also to evaluate the extent to which the communicative goal has been achieved.
2. Planning: formulates a plan whose realization is expected to achieve the
communicative goal.
3. Execution: draws on the relevant psychophysiological mechanisms to
implement the plan in the modality and channel appropriate to the communicative
goal end the context.

d. Psychophysiological mechanism: in order to fully

characterise language use, however, it is also necessary to consider the
psychophysiological mechanisms that are involved in language use. We can
distinguish the visual from the auditory channel and the productive from the
receptive mode. In receptive language use, auditory and visual skills are employed,
while in productive use the neuromuscular skills are employed.

3.3 Communication Competence according to the Common

European Framework of Reference (CEF)

The last model we will refer to is the model or description of communicative

language competence in the CEF (2001), the model which is intended for the

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assessment as well as for the learning and teaching languages. It includes three
basic components – language competence, sociolinguistic competence and
pragmatic competence. Thus, strategic competence is not its componential part. It
is interesting, however, that each component of language knowledge is explicitly
defined as knowledge of its contents and ability to apply it.

1. Language Competence
Language competence or linguistic competence refers to the knowledge of and
ability to use language resources to form well-structured messages.
The subcomponents of language competence are:
Lexical competence concerning the knowledge of, and ability to use the
vocabulary of a language, both of lexical elements (including single lexical items and
fixed expressions for different functions –greetings, proverbs, archaisms, phrasal
verbs, collocations, etc.-) and grammatical elements: articles; quantifiers;
demonstratives; personal pronouns; question words and relatives; possessives;
prepositions; auxiliary verbs and conjunctions.
Grammatical competence Grammatical competence is the ability to
understand and express meaning by producing and recognising well-formed
phrases and sentences in accordance with the set of principles governing the
assembly of elements into sentences.
Semantic competence refers to the learner’s awareness and organization of
Phonological competence involves a knowledge of, and skill in the
perception and production of phonemes, syllable structure, stress, rhythm and
intonation, etc.
Orthographic competence involves a knowledge of and skill in the perception
and production of the symbols used for writing (letters): The proper spelling of
words. Punctuation marks and their conventions of use. Typographical conventions
and varieties of font, etc Logographic signs in common use
Orthoepic competence may be defined as the application of orthographic
competence in combination with some competences belonging to the semantic and
phonological categories. It implies being able to produce a correct pronunciation
from the written form. This may involve:
Knowledge of spelling conventions.
Ability to consult a dictionary.
Knowledge of the implications of punctuation marks for phrasing and
Ability to resolve ambiguity (homonyms, syntactic ambiguities, etc) in the light
of the context.

2. Sociolinguistic Competences (CEFR 5.2.2, p 118 and foll.; CEFR

2.1.2, p. 13) refers to possession of knowledge and skills for appropriate language

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use in a social context. Since language is a social phenomenon, its use requires
sensitivity to social norms and customs which affect to an important degree all
linguistic communication between representatives of different cultures, even if the
participants are frequently unaware of them. These social norms affect, amongst
other factors, rules of address, greetings and politeness, the way in which relations
between generations, sexes, people of different social status, social groupings are
expressed through special language markers, linguistically codified rituals,
differences in register, dialect and accent, through vocal rhythms, for example.
Linguistic competence leads us to consider social and intercultural parameters and
the way in which they influence language use.

3. Pragmatic Competences. Pragmatic competence (CEFR 5.2.3, p.

123 & foll.; CEFR 2.1.2, p. 13) involves the functional uses of linguistic resources
(carrying out language functions, speech acts). It also involves mastery of
discourse, cohesion and coherence, the recognition of text types and genres, using
irony or parody. Even more than in the case of this factor than for linguistic
competence, the development of pragmatic skills is strongly influenced by
interactive experience and by the cultural environment.
The last component in this model -pragmatic competence- involves two
3.1 discourse competence is the ability to arrange sentences in sequence so
as to produce coherent stretches of language. It includes knowledge of and ability to
control the ordering of sequences in terms of: topic/focus; turn-taking; text design
concerning how information is structured in order to carry out diverse
macrofunctions such as description, narrative, exposition, etc and the ability to
structure and manage discourse in terms of: thematic organisation; coherence and
cohesion; logical ordering; style and register; rhetorical effectiveness; the
cooperative principle.
3.2 functional competence is concerned with the use of spoken discourse
and written texts in communication for particular functional purposes.
Conversational competence requires not only knowing which particular functions
(microfunctions) are expressed by which language forms, but to be aware that, in
interaction, each initiative leads to a response and moves the interaction further on,
according to its purpose, through a succession of stages from opening exchanges to
its final conclusion.

4. Conclusion

There is a striking similarity in the conceptualization of communicative

competence between three models that are frequently used at present. From the
moment of its introduction into the linguistic discourse, the notion of communicative
competence has been constantly changed and adapted to the context of its use.
Nevertheless, their definitions were very close in meaning to the definition of

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communicative competence, i.e. all those terms were defined as knowledge and
abilities/skills for use. This shows that theoreticians, especially those in the field of
applied linguistics, after years of theoretical and empirical research on
communicative competence have reached an agreement that a competent language
user should possess not only knowledge about language but also the ability and skill
to activate that knowledge in a communicative event. However, while it is relatively
simple to define, observe and evaluate the basic knowledge that makes the concept
of communicative competence. It is not that simple to understand, describe and
evaluate the ability for use. It has been assumed that the ability for use refers to the
application of different cognitive processes and affective factors in language use.
Consequently, the answers about the content of ability for use, its relationship to the
components of knowledge and factors in real language use have still been looked
for in both theoretical and empirical field of research. The answers to these
questions will provide a better understanding of the relationship between
competence and performance which has to be looked into from both a
psycholinguistic and sociolinguistic perspective. Despite the insufficient insights into
the concept of communicative competence, there is almost unanimous agreement
among scientists that, first, the conclusions about communicative competence of
learners will be and should be drawn by observing and testing their communicative
performance, and secondly, that it is not necessary, and practically impossible, to
measure all components of communicative competence, i.e. communicative
performance that are stated in the theory.


The linguistic communication competence refers to the use of language as a

means of both oral and written communication as well as a device for learning and
controlling behaviour and emotions.

Communication in foreign languages also demands capacities such as mediation and

intercultural understanding. Learning to communicate is to establish links with other
people, approaching other cultures that gain in consideration and sympathy as they
become less unknown...

This competence contributes to the creation of a positive personal image and fosters
constructive relationships with other people and with the environment.

The development of the linguistic competence is crucial to solve problems and learn
to live in harmony with others.

A communicative approach to teaching prompts a rethinking of classroom teaching

methodology in order to promote communicative competence. It is argued that
learners learn a language through the process of communicating in it, and that
communication that is meaningful to the learner provides a better opportunity for
learning than through a grammar-based approach. The overarching principles of
communicative language teaching methodology can be summarized as follows:

· make real communication the focus of language learning

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· provide opportunities for learners to experiment and try out what they know

· be tolerant of learners' errors as they indicate that the learner is building up

his or her communicative competence

· provide opportunities for learners to develop both accuracy, and fluency

· link the different skills such as speaking, reading and listening, together, since
they usually occur together in the real world

· let students induce or discover grammar rules

In applying these principles in the classroom, new classroom techniques and

activities are needed, as well as new roles for teachers and learners in the
classroom. Instead of making use of activities that demand accurate repetition and
memorization of sentences and grammatical patterns, activities that require learners
to negotiate meaning and to interact meaningfully are required.


Crystal, D. “Linguistics”. Penguin, 1971

Halliday, Mak. “An Introduction to Functional Gr.” E. Arnold, London 1985.
Halliday, Mak & Hassan, K. “Language, Context and Text: Aspects of Language in a
Social Semiotic Perspective”. OUP, 1990.
Hymes, D. (1970). ‘On communicative competence’, in Gumperz and Hymes (eds)
McLaren, Neil & Madrid, Daniel. “ A handbook for TEFL”. Marfil 1996.
Richards, J. “Language and Communication”. London, Longman, 1983.
Wells, G. et al. “Learning through Interaction. The Study of Language
Development”. CUP, 1981.
Widdowson, HG. “Teaching Language as Communication”. OUP, 1985.
The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. Council for
Cultural Cooperation. Education Committee. Language Policy Division. Strasburg,

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2. Sociolinguistic Competences (CEFR 5.2.2, p 118 and foll.; CEFR

2.1.2, p. 13) refers to possession of knowledge and skills for appropriate language
use in a social context. The following aspects of this competence are highlighted:
Linguistic markers of social relations are language elements that mark
social relationships, rules of appropriate behaviour, and expressions of peoples’
wisdom, differences in register and dialects and stress. They are widely diverse in
different languages and cultures, depending on such factors as relative status,
closeness or register of discourse. This can be seen in:
Use and address forms: formal, eg. Sir, Madam, Miss; informal, eg. John!;
familiar, eg. Dear, darling.
Greetings: on arrival, eg. Hello! Good morning!; introductions, eg. How do you
Conventions for turn-taking.
Politeness conventions. They vary from one culture to another and are
frequent source of inter-ethnic misunderstanding, especially when polite
expressions are literally interpreted, eg. please, thank you.
Expressions of folk wisdom are fixed formulae which both incorporate and
reinforce common attitudes and are frequent and ordinary in popular culture: idioms,
familiar quotations, proverbs.
Register differences. They are the differences between varieties of language
used in different contexts. We deal with differences in level of formality.
Dialect and accent. Sociolinguistic competence also includes the ability to
recognise the linguistic markers of factors such as social class, regional or national
origin, occupational group, etc. Such markers include: lexicon, grammar, phonology,
vocal characteristics (rhythm, loudness, etc.), paralinguistics and body language.

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