• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9
  10. 10
  11. 11
  12. 12

Explain the difference between competence and performance and discuss whether this is something that linguists should take a view on.

Extracts from this document...


Linguistics Coursework, LG102 Paula Reimers N.B.: Sources referenced in Footnotes, see Bibliography (page X) for full details of sources. Explain the difference between competence and performance and discuss whether this is something that linguists should take a view on. Introduction Throughout the course of linguistic study, the question of language origins as well as man's capacity to utilise its various forms has been constantly debated. Whilst the widely accepted view (propagated by Noam Chomsky) is that humans have an innate capacity for language usage, many linguists still subscribe to the consensus of Saussure, that language simply transcended generations as an effective means of communication and slowly evolved into its present form, its true origins extraneous to linguistic study. Whilst these theories have been supported by much hypothetical argument, unassailable evidence has yet to be discovered that serves to wholly validate either one. Though their fundamental basis is evident in both Sapir and Saussure's work, the terms Competence and Performance were initially formulated by Noam Chomsky in the 1950s to define the scope of linguistic enquiry. Chomsky wanted to associate language structure to a template common amongst all languages (which he called 'Universal Grammar') to prove that the existence of 'the language gene' (i.e.: that language utilisation is an inherent human attribute). As well as this, Chomsky wished to provide support for his ideas on 'Generative Grammar' by formulising a "fully explicit and mechanical outline of the rules governing the construction of the English language"1. Thus the following ideology was formed2: - Linguistic Performance - The individual interpretation of language in its usage. ...read more.


Indeed, Saussure often dismissed the origins of language as irrelevant, considering the fundamental study of linguistics to primarily relate to "existing idioms"9 prevalent in the communal language. Theory C - Wilhelm von Humboldt. Wilhelm von Humboldt was a figurative German polymath whose work on linguistic variability was prominent in the 19th Century. Humboldt's distinctions were in turn very similar to that of 'Langue' and 'Parole'. He noted that language makes infinite use of a finite medium (i.e.: existing words therein), meaning that unlimited sentences can be constructed from any language. Humboldt observed that "language can be divided up into an infinity as the sole language in the one and the same nation yet at the same time these many variants are united into one language having a definite character"10. Humboldt's views were aligned with that of the classic linguistic ideologically, agreeing with Saussure that the origins of language were inconclusive and that each respective language had its own 'Innere Sprachform' (internal structure). Humboldt's ideas were also the precursor (albeit less successful) to Chomsky as he stated that "a people's speech is their spirit, and their spirit is their speech"11 and were thus inseparable, highlighting what Chomsky would later identify as 'Universal Grammar'. Discussion Despite the great deal of debate surrounding this topic, there is little evidence that serves to wholly valiadate or nullify either argument, the established opinion (Saussure, Humboldt, as well as Sapir and Trubetzkoy) maintaining that the origins of language are inconclusive, Competence is simply established necessity (the immersion of people in language from an early age) ...read more.


However, dismissal of this issue from many leading linguists (Saussure and Bickerton being the two most renowned examples) illustrates that study can continue without consideration of this and, coupled with the lack of conclusive evidence, makes these ideas little more than fantastical suppositions. Conclusion In summary, there are many arguments regarding the distinction between Competence and Performance and its relation to the study of modern linguistics. The broad definition of Competence would be the individual's idea on the structure of their respective language whilst Performance is regarded as their presentation of the aforemented within society. Although it is this inability to discern focused distinctions between these two entities, perpetuated through the conflicting arguments and lack of conclusive evidence (a reliance on 'theories' being the basis of both Chomsky and Saussure's reasoning), that provides the main stumbling blocks for linguists in addressing this issue seriously and formulating decisive opinions. The two primary views held on the classification of Competence were formulated by Chomsky and Saussure. Whilst the former regards human Competence of language to be an innate attribute from birth, the latter considers language Competence to be ascertained through language immersion from birth. The two hold similarly conflicting views on Performance, Chomsky regarding it as irrelevant due to its many anomalies (influenced by many factors aside from language knowledge) while Saussure considers individual language interpretation to be the basis of linguistic examination. In short, though the definition of both Performance and Competence is vague and dependant upon opinion, the fundamental difference between the two is that, while the former is focused upon the usage of language in society the latter is concerned with the structure and understanding of language in relation to the individual. WORD COUNT 2,754. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Language: Context, Genre & Frameworks section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Language: Context, Genre & Frameworks essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Investigating how language has changed in children's literature; in relation to interaction between ...

    5 star(s)

    He realised he must be in the hospital wing. He was lying in a bed with white linen sheets and next to him was a table piled high with what looked like half the sweet-shop. 'Tokens from your friends and admirers.' said Dumbledore, beaming. 'What happening down in the dungeons between you and Professor Quirrell is a complete secret, so, naturally, the whole school knows.

  2. How do Politicians gain support through language? AQA English coursework

    terrible things Labour has done whilst in power, and also what Labour have failed to do, suggesting ways in which their party could improve the awful state in which Britain has been left. In addition to this, each speech uses noun phrases to suggest why they are fit for government.

  1. Critically evaluate one theory of language development. Chomsky argues that language is a formal ...

    According to Chomsky language should be separated into surface structure; the arrangements of words and deep structure; the grammar used in sentences. It is the connection between these structures that is important and is specified by transformational rules which are different for each language.

  2. The language situation in Kenya, and in particular the shift and choice of English, ...

    This shift occurred since the elite in the community stops using their native language, and now uses Kiswahili and English, which are regarded as the languages of prestige. What reinforces Language choice in Kenya? On attainment of political independence in 1963 from the British government, Kenya needed to build a national identity in order to enhance national unity.

  1. Refer closely to the literary and non-literary texts you have studied. Explore how gender ...

    'He took hold of her hand. His own closed over it firmly'. Another example of this is whilst they go back into the cart. 'The basket of fish was put in the cart, and Emily Fox Seton was put in'.

  2. How does Arthur Miller use the character of Eddie to build tension in his ...

    there have poor lives, so we as an audience know the play is going to show us the lives of realistic people who live difficult existences. "Now we settle for half", as we see how Eddie loses everything, but if he would have settled for half, then he wouldn't have died.

  1. "It's easy to become a football hooligan!" - Discuss

    Thus, media has quite a big role in using its power of communication in inappropriately encouraging, promoting hooliganism, getting the reader interested. This not only causes violence, but increase in disorder and decrease in peace. Statement "It's easy to become a football hooligan!"

  2. Compare the presentation of foreigners abroad in Indian Ink and A Room with a ...

    and the social rules by which she lives and associates the Emersons (and their socialistic beliefs) with this newfound liberty. When she goes out by herself she thinks 'It was unladylike. Why? Why were most big things unladylike?' (P45). At first Lucy resists the liberating effect that Italy has on

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work