Theory of Competence

Pioneers of in the conception of competence,

  1. Saussure – Language vs Parole – Structuralism
  2. Chomsky – Competence vs Performance – Transformative – Generative Grammar
  3. Hymes – Communicative Competence

Language and Parole

Language is a system of science, from the smallest units such as phonemes and to largest unit text, all these are system and they are interrelated with each other.

Language is underlying knowledge of the language including grammar rules, but parole is the actual ability to use the language. So, knowledge and ability are different object from perspective of

We can say that structuralism, linguistics is a theory of language.

Competence vs Performance


According to him, linguistic is a theory of competence not performance. As Chomsky defined language and competence. Here when we say linguistic theory is primary about the language, the term language refers to the competence and it is focused on the ideal speaker-hearer as known as native-speaker in a completely homogenous speech community which means full of similar types of native-speakers who have got similar level of competence and they know know their language perfectly and unaffected by the sociocultural factors.

Ideal Hearer-Speaker

This description defines competence according to Chomsky and again his theory was a theory of competence and this kind of defines or describe a similar way of competence for a homogenous community which was later got criticised by Hymes and other functionalist applied linguistics and later on due to his ideological choices such as narrowing the perfect speaker to native levels and ignoring sociocultural factors and assuming all this happens in a homogenous community.

Communicative Competence

According to Funcitonal school linguistic theory performance is about competenc.

Whatever you perform linguistically you perform it with your competence and that’s way since this we don’t have any distinction between Competence and Performance because each of them depend on each other.

What you are able to say reflects both your competence and performance.


Systemic – Functional Grammar

M.A.K. Halliday

In order to understand systemic functional grammar we should define language according to this theory.

According to functionalism, a language is a social semiotic. Semiotic is actually a system of science. When we say it is a social semiotic, we mean language is a system of science to express the social meaning.

Systemic: Refers to the options that are available to us to make meaning in given contexts.

We have choices to make in 3 interrelated levels

  1. Level of behaviour: we make a choice to behave linguistically or non-linguistically. Because you can choose between two in such situations.
  2. Level of Semantics: What to say? What is the semantic meaning
  3. Level of Grammatical: We decide or choose how to say what to say.

These choices we make at this 3 interrelated levels do not occur consequently and most of they do not consciously. Because, when you encounter communicate situations, the words just come out very automatically most of the time but actually behind it we go through these levels.

!When we are learning a foreign language, on the other hand we operate these levels very consciously and make these decisions by ourselves!

Functional: These choices we make occur in a functional context.

As we grow up we acquire the language within the systematic and functional competence. That’s how we are able to communicate and we do have shared meaning which makes the communication possible.


Linguistic Form vs Communicative Function

Do your homework, please! – Imperative and Request

According to structure each form reflect a perticual function. Structural theories do not highlight function because form are integrated with functions anyway.

Functionalism says that there is no one to one correspondence between form and function and you can realise one communicative function by revising linguistics forms.

Context, different linguistic forms acquire different functions according to their use of in their context.

Functionalism is nota theory which excludes linguistic forms.

Formal (Structuralism + Transformative-Generative Grammar)

formal theories of language derived from …

They describe and analyse languages in terms of their formal strategies.

Halliday, Basic Functions

These seven basic functions are turned into meta-functions which are 3 in number. These seven basic functions are about child language acquisition and meta one is about adult languag use.

Under each meta functions, there are general communicative functions and there are specific communicative functions.

One of the three meta functions is interpersonal metafiction use of language, establish and maintain meanings. Under interpersonal meta-functions

  1. Instrumental Function: The kid’s using the language as in instrument of giving things. So kid says something to get something.
  2. Regulatory Function: The kids using the language to regulate or to control the behaviour of others.
  3. Interecational Function: Here language is used to create interaction with others. Such as a kid asking to be friends with someone to play with.
  4. Personal Function: Is about using the language to express identity and feelings at the personal level. Such as expressing likes and dislikes, saying his/her name.
  5. Heuristic Function: Heuristic means enabling someone to learn and discover. Is the use of language by kids to learn and discover. Such as kids asking what is it?
  6. Imaginitave Function: Using language to create a world of imagination. For example a kid playing with the toys he imagines and gives them names, makes 10/10 imdb movies inside his head.
  7. Representational Function: Using the language to communicate and convey facts and factual information.

We grow up

  1. Ideational meta-function : Is about the linguistic resources we have for constructing experiences. The relationship between human and the world, anything. When you talk about events, states, feelings, anything that is about your relationship between the world is ideational
  2. Interpersonal meta-Function: Social relationships. The point is to establish and maintain social relationships. This is the functions which we use to create any kind of relationship.
  3. Textual meta-Function: Can be seen as combination of the above. Because the first one is about relatiosbhip between the person and world and the second one is about the relationship between him and other persons and this textual function is combining them together. By text it is not only paper but it can be oral too such as Lectures.

Wilkins, is a british applied linguistic, how to map the language other than the traditional concepts of grammar and vocabulary to teach. For this purpose, he talks about functions and notions.

In document there was a huge list of General C.F. and Specific C.F.. Here we see socialisation for the general communicative functions, and ….

He also talked about notions, notions refer to semantical, grammatical categories. In this way when they are combined, Semantics and Grammar are combined together.

As a specific communicative function you can think about to express daily routines.

Temporal Notion:

  • Frequency
  • Duration
  • Time
    Spatial Notion:
  • location

What matters is the use of these functions and notions in the context. We don’T use grammar for the sake of grammar but we use it to express these notions and functions. So the grammar falls back to the second.

CLT can be divided into two

CLT Strong Version: We use the languae to use the language. There is no difference between using and learning, you learn the language by using it, without learning the language it is impossible to speak it.

Weak Ctl: Has a communicative perspective on language which means it has got a communicative perspective on what to teach. Aims to teach different communicative functions but it does not emphasise on how to learn it, here the end and the means may differ. Such approaches could be called CLT based approaches.
Strong CLT: Communicative perspective on learning. So this is more about how to teach. This means learning language through communicating and language is also communication, the end and the means are the same here.


It is not as presrciptive as a method but it used to be.

Prescriptive methods and their importance started to decrease after 2000s and later on CLT transformed into an Approach after this date.

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