Julia Scherba de Valenzuela, Ph.D.
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 Unpublished doctoral dissertation.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.