Talk:Linguistic competence

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Former good article nominee Linguistic competence was a Social sciences and society good articles nominee, but did not meet the good article criteria at the time. There are suggestions below for improving the article. Once these issues have been addressed, the article can be renominated. Editors may also seek a reassessment of the decision if they believe there was a mistake.
February 16, 2011 Good article nominee Not listed
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This page needs to provide a more exact description of Chomsky's competence/performance dichotomy, which is central to the concept of generative linguistic theory. Basically, Chomsky thought of a linguistic grammar as licensing native speaker intuitions of grammatical well-formedness. Linguistic performance referred to psychological strategies for actually producing and comprehending language. rwojcik 05:23, 26 March 2007 (UTC)

The description of Chomsky as a "linguistic anthropologist" has been removed. This is simply not Chomsky's area of specialization. 17:58, 23 October 2007 (UTC)

This article and communicative competence[edit]

I don't know enough about linguistics to help a whole lot, but there's a more fleshed-out article at communicative competence which we should at least link to, somehow. Another choice might be to describe both concepts at a merged article (perhaps competence (linguistics)) with sections like "Chomsky's notion of competence" and "Hymes' notion of competence", but here's where it would be a big mistake for me to attempt it, as I don't really get the subtleties. Kingdon (talk) 17:57, 26 January 2009 (UTC)

Communicative competence[edit]

I would personally like to see the reference to Hymes removed. I think it is misleading, as it sort of implies that Hymes' notion of communicative competence is a commonly referenced alternative to, or elaboration on, Chomsky's notion of competence. In fact, Hymes' work is no more relevant than that of the 1000s of other authors who have said something about competence and the competence/performance distinction. Would anyone object to this being removed? Cadr (talk) 23:49, 24 January 2010 (UTC)

This is not my area of specialization, but according to Hymes' Wikipedeia page: "Hymes formulated a response to Noam Chomsky's influential distinction between competence (knowledge of grammatical rules necessary to understanding and producing language) and performance (actual language use in context). Hymes objected to the marginalization of performance from the center of linguistic inquiry and proposed the notion of communicative competence, or knowledge necessary to use language in social context, as an object of linguistic inquiry." He is also very widely cited on the subject. If you think there are many more, or better alternatives, please add them, but I think the reference to Hymes should stay. Francis Bond (talk) 00:43, 9 January 2011 (UTC)

Project in Progress[edit]

We are making adjustments to this page as part of a school project. Please be gracious and give us some time to tidy things up on this page. In the mean time, we welcome any feedback and comments to make the page a better one. thank you.

daphne wee 16:01, 27 October 2010 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by Weey0014 (talkcontribs)

I am not sure if the sections on Pustejovsky and Humor really add much to this article. I think they should either be removed or linked more explicitly. I also think there is probably more in the literature on competence that could be cited here, but it is outside my area of speciality. Francis Bond (talk) 14:25, 27 November 2010 (UTC)

Reality of competence/performance distinction[edit]

Several functionalist theories argue that the competence/performance distinction is artificial and doesn't correspond to reality. This I think should be included.·Maunus·ƛ· 17:54, 8 January 2011 (UTC)

If you could do this it would be greatly appreciated.Francis Bond (talk) 00:35, 9 January 2011 (UTC)
Hmm. I'll try to see if I can get time to find something here.·Maunus·ƛ· 20:55, 30 January 2011 (UTC)
I have added a bit - the article misrepresented the relation between cognitive linguistic and functionalism - cognitive linguistics is one variant, the main American one, of functionalist grammar theories. All functionalist theories consider performance to be as relevant as competence and many disagree with the distinction itself. The article still doesn't treat the funcitonalist viewpoint adequately, but now it is at least mentioned and some of the critiques are presented. ·Maunus·ƛ· 22:31, 30 January 2011 (UTC)


The lead is too short according to WP:LEAD - this will have to be corected before the article can be promoted to GA status - it would be good to expand the lead before the review is undertaken, since this is a reason for that can result in quickfail. ·Maunus·ƛ· 17:53, 8 January 2011 (UTC)


The article doesn't mention that Chomsky's competence/performance distinction is basically a reformulation of Saussure's distinction between langue and parole. This is pretty crucial for understanding both the history of the concept and its meaning. The relation can be seen forexample in " George A. Miller 1975. SOME COMMENTS ON COMPETENCE AND PERFORMANCE. Volume 263, Developmental Psycholinguistics and Communication Disorders pages 201–204, September 1975"·Maunus·ƛ· 23:13, 30 January 2011 (UTC)

GA Review[edit]

This review is transcluded from Talk:Linguistic competence/GA1. The edit link for this section can be used to add comments to the review.

Reviewer: Pyrotec (talk) 19:03, 30 January 2011 (UTC)

I will review. Pyrotec (talk) 19:03, 30 January 2011 (UTC)
  • comment I would advice a quick-fail. The lead doesn't work as such, the article gives a very cursory treatment of most critical engagements with the concept (before today it left out functionalist arguments all together), and it doesn't adequately describe how Chomsky's concept derived from earlier work by Saussure. It also has a bit of ASCII art which is discouraged by the MOS. And the flow of the article isn't really very clear at all and it seems to glide off on tangents on several occasions. Not a good article in my opinion - and it would need non-trivial work to become so.·Maunus·ƛ· 23:19, 30 January 2011 (UTC)

Initial comments[edit]

I'm sorry for the slow start to this review.

I think that this article has the potential to become a GA, but it is not quite there yet; and so more work will be needed to bring it up to GA standard (i.e. WP:WIAGA).

I normally leave the WP:Lead until last and will do so here. However, I would note that the lead is intended to both introduce the topic, which it does, and to summarise the main points in the article, and in this aspect it needs some improvement.

The article is generally referenced, but most of them refer to books and in many cases no page numbers are provided.

I will now work my way through the article, giving more details, but leaving comments on the WP:Lead until last. I will also bear in mind the comments made by ·Maunus·ƛ·. Pyrotec (talk) 12:21, 13 February 2011 (UTC)

  • This is intended to both introduce the topic and provide a summary of the main points in the article.
  • Almost all of the topics discussed in the article are not mentioned in the lead. So in respect of providing a summary of the main points this lead must be considered non-compliant.
  • I would go further than that, the Lead only discusses Noam Chomsky's theory of Linguistic competence (the topic of the second section) and contrasts that with linguistic performance (the topic of the first section). The lead makes no reference to any of the remaining sections, so either they are "padding", or the lead was poorly drafted.
  • Much of this article is about Noam Chomsky's theory, he appears to be important, so I would have expected that the lead would have stated who Noam Chomsky was and why his views are important (if they are not, why is there an article on this topic?).
  • Competence versus performance -
  • The main problem here is lack of WP:Verifiability: citations are made to two books, but no page numbers are given. The first one is a direct quotation, so verifiability is particularly important here.
  • There are a number of technical terms that are used without explanation:
  • The section title is "Competence versus performance", which I assume is shorthand for Linguist competence versus linguist performance, but I will let this one go.
  • The terms "speaker-hearer" and "speaker-listener" are used and I'm not sure what the difference, if any, is.
  • The last paragraph contains terms, such "delimiting the study of performance", "descriptivist limitation-in-principle to classification and organization of data", that appear to be meaningless technobable. What is this sentence talking about?
  • The last paragraph appears to suffer from WP:vagueness, in that it is dismissing (undefined) criticisms as "unwarranted and completely misdirected". But fails to address simple questions, such as: what criticisms, who made them, when, why, etc, ? Since the Schools of thought sections mentions some other "Other generativists" by name and then moves onto other topics, are these the unnamed critics that Chomsky dismisses, people that agree with him, or both? Its not made clear.
  • Competence and components of grammar -
  • Since the title of this article is "Linguistic competence", the Manual of Style would tend to preclude the use of "Competence" in this section's title.
  • There are a few technical terms, such as: "linguistic idiom", "innate", "innate knowledge of rules", that are undefined.
  • The only cited example in green and green ink came from ref 6. Ref 6 appears to a book by Roger Hawkins, which has a copyright claim, however ref 6 has a link to a pdf file at [1]. Unless this web site has the copyright owners permission to publish this extract, wikipedia should not be invoking sites that appear to breach copyright. The book should be cited in full, as book and not as a web link (the template {{Cite book}} may be used). be continued. Pyrotec (talk) 13:05, 13 February 2011 (UTC)

  • This section consists, mostly, of a single paragraph and one sentence followed by a list of five topics, each of which has a "definition" and one or more examples. There is no attempt at explaining how these five topics fit into the rules of grammar. The example "My hair needs washing is acceptable but not *My hair needs washed[6]" relates to English-language in respect of the relationships of verbs, nouns, etc, and may not be valid for other languages, where word order is less important.
  • Interestingly, in the following Chomsky and Generative Grammar subsection there is a statement that "Chomsky's notion of linguistic competence is purely syntactic". So why list the five topics without explanation when only one appears to be relevant to Chomsky, perhaps it is something to do with the Other generativists?
  • Schools of thought -
It not clear what this section title means?
The first few subsections appear to deal with "generalists", followed by those who think it is wider than just syntax. After that, it just seems to drift off onto other topics.
    • Chomsky and Generative Grammar -
  • Most if not all the references are books, but no page numbers are given in the citations.
  • The WP:LEAD attempts to constrain Linguistic competence to native speakers, but this subsection does not appear to distinguish between native and non-native speakers, so which is correct?
    • Other generativists -
  • Most if not all the references are books, but no page numbers are given in the citations.
  • The title seems to suggest that Chomsky might be a generativist, but that is not stated thus far in the article.
    • Ray S. Jackendoff -
  • This subsection is unreferenced.
  • Rest of the article -
  • This material is not mentioned in the WP:Lead so it is not clear whether any of this is important in respect of the topic, or is just "padding"?
  • The lead only mentions Chomsky, but there are quite a few other people who are mentioned by name and/or by their work. A number of (unasked) questions need to be addressed: Is Chomsky important, did he get it right, are these people supporters of his work, critics, developers/expanders of his work?
  • At this point in the review, I regard the article as non-compliant with WP:WIAGA. I will decide soon whether to fail or place On Hold; I note that ·Maunus·ƛ· recommends a "fail" and I tend to agree in principle. Pyrotec (talk) 08:42, 16 February 2011 (UTC)

Problems with examples[edit]

There are two very different sorts of problems with the examples in the section "Competence and Components of grammar", one a stylistic issue and one an issue of fact.

Stylistically, the use of pre-formatted text (added by placing a space at the beginning of a line in Wiki markup) looks terrible, at least on my browser, where the example sentences run off the edge of the browser window. It's also not entirely clear to me why green and red font color is used for the example sentences. This does not appear to relate to the WP:MOS.

Factually, it is not true — or at least not uncontroversially so — that the form slib is disallowed by the phonology of English. Any one of those segments can occur in any one of those environments (compare glib and slip, for example); the absence of slib as an English word appears to be an accidental gap. Including that example as an exemplar of phonological competence is probably misleading.

Similarly, although most prestige varieties of English disallow "My hair needs washed," some varieties allow it. Therefore it's also a questionable example.

An overarching issue is that nowhere does the page specify that these examples relate to grammatical competence in a particular variety of English. Linguistic competence describes the grammatical ability of a speaker of a specific language, not just language ability generally. The article needs to specify that its examples relate to competence in (Standard?) English. Cnilep (talk) 01:14, 12 February 2011 (UTC)

An example that seems wrong to me (no linguist) seems to be in Morphology:

"E.g.: re-cuddle can be derived but not *re-rich" - re-cuddle does not exist, as far as I am aware. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:48, 19 February 2013 (UTC)

Aphasia section deletion[edit]

The article concerns Competence. The subsection on Aphasia begins with that, but then continues with a statement that is contentious in this context as well as snide in tone:

The measurement of implicit language competence, although apparently 
necessary and satisfying for theoretic linguistics, is complexly interwoven 
with performance factors. 

It then contines with another statement, this time carrying no substantiation, which appears to be on the subject of Performance and not Competence:

Transience, stimulability, and variability in aphasia language use provide 
evidence for an access deficit model that supports performance loss.

It seems that either the subsection needs rewriting or deleting.

LookingGlass (talk) 19:01, 28 September 2014 (UTC)