Julia Scherba de Valenzuela, Ph.D.
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Competence vs. Performance

Linguistic theory is concerned primarily with an ideal speaker-listener, in a completely homogeneous speech-communication, who know its (the speech community's) language perfectly and is unaffected by such grammatically irrelevant conditions as memory limitations, distractions, shifts of attention and interest, and errors (random or characteristic) in applying his knowledge of this language in actual performance. (Chomsky, 1965, p. 3)
In this definition, Chomsky separates 'competence,' an idealized capacity, from the production of actual utterances, 'performance.' Additionally, competence, being an ideal, is located as a psychological or mental property or function (Lyons, 1996). This is in contrast to performance, which refers to an actual event.
    This definition of linguistic competence has come to be associated with a rigid and narrowly defined concept of grammatical competence. Therefore, Hymes (1974) introduced the idea of 'communicative competence." This has become generally defined as 'the socially appropriate use of language" (Paulston, 1992, p. xiv).

from: de Valenzuela, J. S. (1998). The social construction of language competence: Language socialization in three bilingual kindergartens. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. University of Colorado at Boulder.
 


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Last updated: July 30, 2002