Linguistic Knowledge Speakers’ linguistic knowledge permits them to form longer and longer sentences by joining sentences and phases together or adding modifiers to a noun. whether you stop at three, five or eighteen adjectives, it is impossible to limit the number you could add if desired. Very long sentences are theoretically possible, but they are highly improbable. Evidently, there is a difference between having the knowledge necessary to produce sentences of a language, and applying this knowledge.
It is a difference between what you know, which your linguistic competence is, and how you use this knowledge in actual speech production and comprehension, which is your linguistic performance. Linguistic Performance Linguistic Performance – a speaker’s actual use of language in real situations; what the speaker actually says, including grammatical errors and other non-linguistic features such as hesitations and other disfluencies. When we speak, we usually wish to convey some message. At some stage in the act of producing speech, we must organize our thoughts into strings of words. Sometimes the message is garbled.
We may stammer, or pause, or produce slips of the tongue. We may even sound like the baby, who illustrates the difference between linguistic knowledge and the way we use that knowledge in performance. Linguistic Competence Linguistic competence is a term used by speech experts and anthropologists to describe how language is defined within a community of speakers.
This term applies to mastering the combination of sounds, syntax and semantics known as the grammar of a language. •ACCORDING TO CHOMSKY, COMPETENCE IS THE ‘IDEAL’ LANGUAGE SYSTEM THAT makes it possible for speakers to produce and understand an infinite number of sentences in their language, and to distinguish grammatical sentences from ungrammatical sentences.
oThis means a person’s ability to create and understand sentences, including sentences they have never heard before. Competence versus Performance “Linguistic theory is concerned primarily with an ideal speaker-listener, in a completely homogeneous speech-communication, who know it’s (the speech community’s) language perfectly and that it is unaffected by such grammatically irrelevant conditions as memory limitations, distractions, shifts of attention and interest, and errors (random or characteristic) in applying his knowledge of this language in actual performance. “
Chomsky differentiates competence, which is an idealized capacity, from performance being the production of actual utterances. According to him, competence is the ideal speaker-hearer’s knowledge of his or her language and it is the ‘mental reality’ which is responsible for all those aspects of language use which can be characterized as ‘linguistic’. Chomsky argues that only under an idealized situation whereby the speaker-hearer is unaffected by grammatically irrelevant conditions such as memory limitations and distractions will performance be a direct reflection of competence.
A sample of natural speech consisting of numerous false starts and other deviations will not provide such data. Therefore, he claims that a fundamental distinction has to be made between the competence and performance. Chomsky dismissed criticisms of delimiting the study of performance in favor of the study of underlying competence, as unwarranted and completely misdirected.
He claims that the descriptivist limitation-in-principle to classification and organization of data, the “extracting patterns” from a corpus of observed speech and the describing “speech habits” etc. are the core factors that precludes the development of a theory of actual performance. Chomsky thinks that what linguists should study is the ideal speaker’s competence, not his performance, which is too haphazard to be studied.
Although a speaker possesses an internalized set of rules and applies them in actual use, he cannot tell exactly what these rules are. So the task of a linguist is to determine from the data of performance the underlying system of rules that has been mastered by the language user.
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