First Advisor

Tom Dieterich

Term of Graduation

Spring 2000

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages


Applied Linguistics




Communicative competence, Generative grammar, Chomsky, Noam



Physical Description

1 online resource (iii, 122 pages)


The purpose of this thesis is to trace the lineage of the term communicative competence (CC) and to provide a framework for understanding the term CC, a controversial term introduced by Hymes (1972). This pager argues that the term CC is only meaningful if it includes competence in the same sense as Chomsky (1980) defines it--underlying knowledge of the rules of language severed from ability. Although Chomsky discusses competence in terms of grammar, he suggests that there may be underlying knowledge of language use-pragmatic competence. In the end, I will attempt to demonstrate the possibility that there is a competence of communication pragmatic competence, like Chomsky's grammatical competence, and that both these competencies should be integrated into a theory of CC.

This paper focuses on the theories of four linguists-Hymes (1972), Halliday (19TT), Savignon (1983), and Bachman (1990). Hymes and Halliday represent the empirical approach to CC--language is learned through experience with a speaker/hearer's native language. Savignon and Bachman represent the rational approach to CC--language is acquired through the interaction of grammatical competence with the speaker/hearer's native or second language. Savignon {1983) and Bachman (1990) maintain a distinction between competence and performance; and in this respect, I believe, they provide a more adequate theory of CC by including Chomsky's grammatical competence.

Bachman (1990) theorizes that competence includes grammatical and pragmatic competence. Neurolinguistic studies by Ross (1981) and others support the theory that we possess underlying knowledge of pragmatics-communicative competence.

Based on the above theories of CC and neuropsychological findings, I present a deductive model of CC which illustrates the intersection of UG, grammatical and pragmatic knowledge of language with Hymes and Halliday's theories of CC. Chomsky's UG has been expanded to include universal rules of pragmatics--Grice's Maxims {1975). UG combined with grammatical and pragmatic knowledge of language underlies the orderly processing of primary linguistic data and the rhythmic production of comprehensible speech. The organizing properties of pragmatic and grammatical competence rule out chaos.


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