Evaluate Chomsky’s major contributions to linguistics./Analyze Noam Chomsky’s Competence and performance.

Evaluate Chomsky’s major contributions to linguistics./Analyze Noam Chomsky’s Competence and performance.

Avram Noam Chomsky who is an American linguist and philosopher is considered to be the father of modern linguistics, particularly for his Transformational Generative Grammar and as he is one of the major figures of analytic philosophy.  He introduced the terms “Competence and Performance” in his elaboration of generative grammar. 


Competence is a knowledge of the system of language. This includes a person’s ability to create and understand sentences. In other words, competence means the system of linguistics knowledge of the mother tongue. 

According to Chomsky, competence is the ideal language system that enables speakers to produce and understand sentences in their mother tongue and to differentiate between grammatical sentences and ungrammatical sentences. This is unaffected by ‘grammatically irrelevant conditions such as speech errors.

Competence versus Performance

  • Incompetence, errors happen because of a lack of knowledge. On the other hand, in performance, errors happen due to a lack of attention, excitement, and nervousness. We can cite two examples to make the idea clear: 
  1. I buyed a new book yesterday. Here in this sentence, the under-line error is the result of a lack of competence. 
  2. I will see you yesterday. Here in this sentence, the speaker means to say “I will see you tomorrow” but instead of tomorrow, he has said yesterday. This kind of mistake is called a slip of the tongue which is a mistake of performance. 
  • Competence is considered to be ideally psychological or mental property, but performance stands for an actual event. For example: when a language learner is aware of the grammatical rule for the 3rd person singular number in English, yet utters the following sentence, “He run fast”. Here in this sentence, we get competence but a lack of performance because the pronunciation of the sentence should be “He runs fast”. 
  • Competence is universal but performance is individual. 


Competence and performance cannot be set apart instead of having some conspicuous distinctions between them.

Read More: What is word formation? Define the basic rules of Word Formation.

Mr. Abdullah
Mr. Abdullah

Mr. Abdullah is a passionate love of Literature. Researcher and Lecturer of English Literature and Language.

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