Friday, December 30, 2005

Linguistic Competence and Communicative Competence


Linguists are aware of the inter-relationship between language and the society. But they have not succeeded in describing such a relationship. Phonology, Lexis and Syntax, which are objects of linguistic description constitute only a part of the elements in the code used for communication. The meaning(s) of an utterance (a sentence, a clause, a phrase, a word, etc) do(es) not depend entirely on its form; a lot depend on who says what, to whom, where, why, in what manner and in what effect. In other words, the context of situation in which an utterance is said is very important. For instance, the occurrence “Can I have the salt please?” is interrogative in form but expresses a polite request in a dinning room.
Grammatical knowledge is not enough to help us participate effectively in communicative situation. In addition to acquainting oneself with the forms of language, one must know the following in order to communicate appropriately:
1. The socio-cultural relation: the attitude, values, conventions, prejudices and preferences of the people who use the language.
2. The nature of the participants: the relationship between the speaker and the listener, their occupation, interest, socio-economic status, etc.
3. The rule of the participant: the relationship in social network, father – son, teacher – student, boss – subordinate, landlord – tenant, doctor – patient, etc.
4. The nature and function of the speech: whether it is a face to face talk persuasion, confrontation, or a casual conversation, or a request informal situation, or a telephonic conversation, etc.
5. The mode (medium) of communication: spoken or written or reading from a written script, or unprepared speech.

Communicative competence, indeed, includes the whole of linguistics competence plus the whole of the amorphous (indefinite shape or form) range of facts included under socio-linguistic pragmatic competence (the rules and conventions for using language items in context and other factors like attitudes, values, and motivation. Dell Hymes says that one who studies language should be able:
“to account for this fact that a normal child acquires knowledge of sentence not only as grammatical but also appropriate. He or she acquires competence as to when to speak, when not and as to what to talk about, with whom, when, where, in what manner”. In short, a child becomes able to acquire a repertoire (all the skills, etc that a person has and is able to use) of speech act to take part in a speech act, and to evaluate their accomplishment by others.”

Chomsky believes that linguistic competence can be separated from the rest of communicative competence and studied in isolation but socio-linguist, like Dell Hymes believes that the notion of linguistic competence is unreal and that no significant progress in linguistics is possible without studying forms along with the ways in which they are used. For one thing, social interaction is actually skilled work, and it requires effort. It is not in innate (inborn or genetically endowed). It has to be learnt from others. A person who faces to learn and make himself and others uneasy in conversation and perpetually kills, encounters is a faulty person. Dell Hymes maintains that competence is dependent upon the fore features listed below:
1. Whether (and to what degree) something is possible.
2. Whether (and to what degree) something is visible (in relation to the means available)
3. Whether (and to what degree) something is appropriate (adequate, happy, in relation to the context in which it is used).
4. Whether (and to what degree) something is performed (actually done and what the doing entails).

All these show that the linguistic competence is largely a part of Communicative Competence.
Dell Hymes’ criticism of the concept of linguistic competence is that it is an abstraction without any relevance to actual use. The same criticism has been directed against the notion of communicative competence. According to Widdowson, if linguistic competence is an abstraction of grammatical knowledge, communicative competence is an abstraction of social behaviour. The notion of communicative competence does not include in its purview (the scope somebody’s activities or influence) the actual procedure, which language users adopt in order to participate in language based on activity. So, along with linguistic competence and communicative competence, pragmatic competence should also be brought into focus. Pragmatic competence is the one that underlines the ability to use the language along with a conceptual system to achieve certain aims or purpose. And it determines how the tool can be effectively put to use: It is user-oriented.
We can sum up and say that the following are essentially the components of communication that go into the building up of the communicative competence:
A. Linguistic Knowledge and the Para-linguistic Cues:
(i) Verbal elements (sentences, clauses, phrases, etc.)
(ii) Non-verbal elements (aspects of communicative behaviour, such as: facial expression, body movement, eye gaze, gesture, proximity, etc.)
(iii) Elements of discourse and their organization in connective speech and writing.
(iv) Range of possible variants (possible variations and their organizations).
(v) Meaning of variants to a particular situation.

B. Interaction Skills:
(i) Norms of interaction and interpretation.
(ii) Strategies for achieving desire goals.
(iii) Perception or features (verbal as well as non-verbal) in communication situation (situation of communication).
(iv) Understanding appropriateness in any given situation.

C. Cultural Knowledge:
(i) Socials structure.
(ii) Values and attitudes.
(iii) Cognitive scheme (verbal as well as noun verbal) and the cultural transmission processes.

The setting (means: place) of interaction also is an important factor in defining a situation for instance whether you interact someone in the church, a temple, a mosque, a classroom or a market place contributes to the nature of interaction and the variety of language use.
Another concept useful in understanding communicative competence is the concept of phatic-communion. One purpose of phatic communion is to avoid silence because it may imply hostility or embarrassment when it is not required. For instance, pray hall silence may be a sign of respect but when two acquaintances meet and remain silent, their silence may be interpreted as hostility or, at least, indifference. Some expressions like ‘how are you?’ ‘hello’ and ‘good morning’, etc. are highly conventional but their violation affects communication patterns adversely as often leads to discomfiture (lack of comfort) of participants in the interaction.
The concept of communicative competence introduced by Dell Hymes brought about a shift in the approach method and technique in language pedagogy. Linguists argued that ‘There are rules of use without which the rules of grammar will be useless. A distinction was made between the grammatical rules that enable the users to frame correct sentences and the rules of the use of the languages to accomplish some kind of communicative purpose. Some socio-linguists rather some socio-linguistic principles became the key phrase in language teaching.
The European common market gave a fillip (a thing that stimulates or encourages something) to the communicative approach. There was increased need for teaching adults the major languages of the European common market for increased interaction. Wilkins advocated notional-functional syllabus in his book, Notional Syllabus (1976). He gave a course around the uses or functions to which language is put: For example, one lesson can be planned on requesting information, another on apologizing and the third one on expressing gratitude. Linguists made inventories of functions, notions, and structures but they made no the proposal for the gradation of materials to be used. Grading according to functional complexity did not make any sense to them for a simple reason that syntactic complexity and function are to separated or different parameters.
The major distinctive features of Communicative Approach as contrasted to the Audio Lingual Method are the following:
1. Meaning is more important than the structure and form.
2. Dialogues if used around communicative functions, are not to be memorized.
3. Language item should be contexturized. They should not be taught in isolation as in Audio Lingual Method.
4. Language learning does not imply learning structures, sounds and words but learning to communicate.
5. Effective communication is sought and emphasized instead of mastery and over learning.
6. Drilling is not central but peripheral (secondary or minor importance).
7. Pronunciation needs not be native live but comprehensive.
8. Grammatical explanation is not avoided; any device, which the learners have, is accepted varying according to their age and interest.
9. Attempt to communicate needs not to make only after a long process of rigid drills but from the very beginning.
10. Judicious use of native language is accepted when feasible.
11. Translation may be used when student can take benefits.
12. Reading and writing need not weigh for one’s mastery over speech. They may start from the very first day.
13. The target linguistic system will be learnt not through the teaching of the pattern of the system but through the process of learning to communicate.
14. Instead of linguistic competence, communicative competence is the desired goal.
15. Linguistic variation is accepted as a central condition in method and materials.
16. The sequence of units is determined not by the principle of linguistic complexity but by the consideration of content, function, and meaning, which maintain interest.
17. The teacher helps the learners in any way that motivate them to work with the language (regardless of any conflict theory).
18. Language is not a habit; it is created by the individual through trial and error.
19. The primary goal is not accuracy in terms of formal correctness, but fluency and acceptable language; accuracy is judged not in the abstract but in context.
20. Students should not be subjected to making use of language through machines or controlled materials. They should rather be encouraged to interact with people through pair or group work in real life.
21. The teacher should not specify what language students are to use. Indeed he cannot know or anticipate exactly what language the student will use.
22. Intrinsic motivation will spring not from interest in the structure of the language but in what is being communicated in language.


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