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communicative competencethe means, including the rules, by which persons sustain communicative exchanges and interactions with others within a community. The term was coined by Hymes (1966) to focus attention on the skills and knowledge involved in human communication. It reflects the limitations in LINGUISTICS of concentration mainly on syntactic competence (compare CHOMSKY). Hymes indicates in the formulation of his S.P.E.A.K.I.N.G. acronym some of the elements of social situations which would have to be included: setting and scene, participants’ ends, act sequence, ‘key’, instrumentalities, norms and genres. To imagine dealing with these in an integrated set of rules might seem to indicate an impossible ambition, and many critics would question whether a ‘rule’ formulation is appropriate. However, Hymes’ conception points to a vital area of interest, and attempts to model ‘communicative competence’ will continue to command attention. Without resort to either ‘psychologism’ or 'S ociologism’, HABERMAS, for example, suggests communicative competence implies an ‘ideal speech situation’ from which discursive conceptions of truth and justice may be derived.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000