Saturday, May 18, 2013

Competence and Performance

Competence and Performance
            The famous American linguist Noam Chomsky is the advocate of the concepts of competence and performance. There is a kind of similarity between Saussure’s concept of Langue and Parole and Chomsky’s concept of competence and performance. He  first used these terms to specifically refer to a person’s intuitive knowledge of the rules and structure of his language as a native speaker (he called it competence), and his actual use of these (which he termed performance). Scholars of the earlier period were aware of this basic distinction but Chomsky precisely pointed out the inherent ability or knowledge in a native speaker of the structure of his language.

            According to Chomsky, competence is the native speaker’s knowledge of his language. It also includes his knowledge of the rules of his language and also ability to understand and produce a large number of sentences. Competence is the study of the system of rules. While performance is the study of the actual sentences.

            It is also the study of the actual use of the language in real-life situation. That way, the speaker’s knowledge of the structure of a language is his linguistic competence and the way in which he uses it is his linguistic performance.

            Competence is a set of principles which a speaker masters. It is kind of code. The speaker understands the language with the help of the rules of grammar. The rules of grammar give him an idea about the structure of the sentences. It is a capacity or ability to understand as well as produce many sentences. It brings out the speaker’s creative power. “In this way, the abstract internal grammar, which enable a speaker to utter and understand an infinite number of potential utterances is a speaker’s competence.”

            This competence is free from the interference of memory’s span, characteristic errors, lapses of attention etc. the speaker has represented in his brain a grammar that gives an idea account of the structure of the sentences of his language, but when actually faced with the task of speaking or understanding, many other factors act upon his underlying linguistic competence to produce actual performance. He may be confused or have several things in mind, change his pans in mid-stream. This is obviously the condition of the most actual linguistic performance.

            On the other hand performance is what a speaker does. Competence is a kind of code. Performance is an act of decoding. It has a direct relation with the competence. By the study of performance, one can know about competence. Though this discussion has aroused a lot of arguments in current day linguistics, a modern linguists remarks that these division are useful, if they are not carried to the extremes. In an ideal situation, these two approaches should be complementary to each other because speaker’s competence can be studied through his study of performance.

            In this way, Saussure’s concept of ‘Langue’ and “Parole” lays stress on sociological implicating of langue. Chomsky lays stress on the psychological implication of competence. These distinctions are also parole to a distinction between code and message in communication engineering. A cord is the pre-arrangeed singling system. A message is actual message sent using that system. 

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