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  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: June 2012

6 - Acquiring knowledge for L2 use



In this chapter, we continue our consideration of the acquisition of communicative competence by examining the knowledge that is needed for second language use. After beginning with an overall characterization of communicative competence, we will see that we must distinguish between (1) knowledge that must be learned in order to fulfill academic functions and (2) knowledge required for interpersonal functions. Areas of knowledge needed are then categorized and prioritized according to traditional levels of language (vocabulary, morphology, phonology, syntax, discourse), and according to activity type (reading, listening, writing, speaking). This chapter thus brings together and integrates the elements of SLA study that we have been exploring within separate linguistic, psychological, and social frameworks in the previous chapters.


Pragmatic competence

Academic competence

Interpersonal competence



Bottom-up processing

Top-down processing



Speech acts

Contextualization cues

Communication Strategies

Competence and use

The definition of communicative competence introduced in Chapter 5 is broadly inclusive in scope: “everything that a speaker needs to know in order to communicate appropriately within a particular community.” This construct combines the knowledge of language which defines linguistic competence, knowledge of the specific components and levels of a language, and knowledge that is required for their appropriate use in communicative activities. Accounting for competence in this broader sense also requires considering “encyclopedic” cultural knowledge concerning the content of what is written or talked about, and recognizing the social significance of the context within which language use takes place.

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