The concept of communicative competence, as developed in linguistics, originated in response to perceived inadequacy of the notion of linguistic competence. That is, communicative competence encompasses a language user's grammatical knowledge of syntax, morphology, phonology and the like, but reconceives this knowledge as a functional, social understanding of how and when to use utterances appropriately.
The term was coined by Dell Hymes in 1966, reacting against the perceived inadequacy of Noam Chomsky's (1965) distinction between linguistic competence and performance. To address Chomsky's abstract notion of competence, Hymes undertook ethnographic exploration of communicative competence that included "communicative form and function in integral relation to each other". The approach pioneered by Hymes is now known as the ethnography of communication.
The notion of communicative competence is one of the theories that underlies the communicative approach to foreign language teaching. At least three core models exist. The first and most widely used is Canale and Swain's model and the later iteration by Canale. In a second model, sociocultural content is more precisely specified by Celce-Murcia, Dornyei, and Thurrell in 1995. For their part, they saw communicative competence as including linguistic competence, strategic competence, sociocultural competence, actional competence, and discourse competence. A third model widely in use in federal language training in Canada is Bachman and Palmer's model.
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- Hymes 1966.
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- Leung 2005.
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- Celce-Murcia, Dornyei & Thurrell 1995.
- Bachman & Palmer 2010.
- Bachman, Lyle; Palmer, Adrian (2010). Language Assessment in Practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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- Celce-Murcia, Marianne; Dornyei, Zoltán; Thurrell, Sarah (1995). "Communicative competence: A pedagogically motivated model with content specifications". Issues in Applied Linguistics. 6 (2): 5–35. doi:10.5070/L462005216.
- Chomsky, Noam (1965). Aspects of the Theory of Syntax. Cambridge: M.I.T. Press. ISBN 9780262530071.
- Hymes, Dell (1964), "Toward ethnographies of communication", American Anthropologist, 66 (6 part 2): 1–34, doi:10.1525/aa.1964.66.suppl_3.02a00010, ISSN 0002-7294
- Hymes, Dell (1966). "Two types of linguistic relativity". In Bright, W. (ed.). Sociolinguistics. The Hague: Mouton. pp. 114–158. OCLC 2164408.
- Leung, Constant (2005). "Convivial communication: recontextualizing communicative competence". International Journal of Applied Linguistics. 15 (2): 119–144. doi:10.1111/j.1473-4192.2005.00084.x. ISSN 0802-6106.