The topics that are discussed in this book have been chosen because of personal preferences but also because they cause more than one headache when it comes to explain them. With this analysis, my intention is to clarify doubts that may arouse and to try to systematize their study.
First of all, these four topics can be framed into what is called the Communicative Competence. Since our target is analysing the communicative competence, it would be just logical to start by explaining the very notion of competence. The Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) defines it as follows:
Competences are the sum of knowledge, skills and characteristics that allow a person to perform actions. General competences are those not specific to language, but which are called upon for actions of all kinds, including language activities. (CEFR, p. 9)
Ever since it was introduced by Noam Chomsky in the mid 60s, the notion of competence associated to language has been in constant evolution, with major contributions by authors such as Dell Hymes (he introduced the term “communicative competence”), Breen and Candlin, and, of course, Canale and Swain who defined in 1980 communicative competence in terms of three components: grammatical competence (words and rules), sociolinguistic competence (appropriateness) and strategic competence (appropriate use of communication strategies). Finally, three years later Canale added discourse competence (cohesion and coherence).
Quoting again from the CEFR we can say that Communicative language competences are those which empower a person to act using specifically linguistic means (p. 9), and we find that the document identifies three language related competences: linguistic, sociolinguistic and pragmatic.
Sociolinguistic competence deals with appropriateness, pragmatic competence with the strategies used to communicate and at the very base of all of it, linguistic competence deals with the knowledge of the linguistic code.
Nuria Aguilar Barrios