Competence, capability and virtual language


Abstract – As has been extensively exemplified in the ELF literature, users of English as a lingua franca are capable of using language to communicate in contextually appropriate ways even though in so doing they may not conform to the norms of Standard English or the usage of native speakers, which are generally taken to provide the benchmarks of competence in the language. This raises the question of what kind of construct competence is and how far it accounts for the ability to communicate. And if ‘incompetent’ users manage to be capable communicators, then what is the nature of this capability? If it refers to some kind of knowledge other than competence, what kind is it, and how is this knowledge acted upon in the actual pragmatic process of communication? Addressing these questions leads to the recognition that communication in general is achieved by the exercise of a general lingual capability that, unlike the concept of competence, is not a matter of conformity to the actual encodings of any particular language but the exploitation of the coding potential of virtual language

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v24p23

Keywords: communication; English as a lingua franca; competence; conformity; capability; virtual language


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