Grammaticality and Acceptability

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ESSAY I: GRAMMATICALITY AND ACCEPTABILITY IN RELATION TO COMPETENCE AND PERFORMANCE Introduction It is generally assumed that there is a difference between the “competence” and “performance” of native speakers. At least this is a widespread and well accepted notion in Chomskyan theory. In that theory “competence” is defined as one’s knowledge of language, whereas “performance” shows how one uses that knowledge to understand and utter sentences. This means that there is a strict line that distinguishes sentences in pure theory and real utterances as the actual use of language. Related to the competence-performance distinction are the terms “grammaticality” and “acceptability”. In theory a sentence is grammatical if it is generated by a grammar. In the case of grammaticality it is to be shown that native speaker judgements whether a sentence is grammatical or not are related to the speaker’s competence. Furthermore acceptability is related to performance and does not necessarily reflect competence in order to judge correctly about whether a sentence is grammatical or not. The purpose of this essay is to display how the competence-performance distinction relates to the notions of grammaticality and acceptability. Examples are to illustrate how grammaticality may oppose acceptability and how on the other hand ungrammatical utterances may nevertheless be perfectly accepted by most native speakers. The essay also aims to show to what extend the theory of competence is applicable to reality and in how far it remains a mere term in theory. Competence-Performance distinction Competence as the theoretical use of language has nothing to do with reality. It consists of grammatical concepts and knowledge of language on the part of the native speaker which refers to the sort of properties that enable native speakers to understand and speak. A native speaker gains the

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