What Is Linguistic Competence

What Is Linguistic Competence

“What is linguistic competence?” The question is relatively uncommon, which does not necessarily come up while having coffee with your friends. Still, the answer to that question has long been a subject of discussion for decades among scholars in the field. Together, these two words refer to the implicit and innate knowledge individuals have of the rules and principles of their language even when they have no access to the formal rules that govern how you should combine these words. 

Linguistic competence goes beyond knowing the rules of grammar and syntax. It is an internalized and tacit grasp of how we should arrange and speak words and sentences. Hence, it is not surprising that many people specialize in that field, with some even getting doctorates or PhDs in linguistics. And getting a doctorate in linguistics is no walk in the park.

If you are interested in getting it and wondering how long is a doctorate degree in linguistics, the answer is anywhere from four to six years. Moreover, the length depends on how prepared you are when getting into the program. On the other hand, you may decide to get a PhD in linguistics instead. How long is a PhD in linguistics? It will take you six years to complete it. 

Components of Language Competence 

Linguistic competence is only one of several components that make up language competence. These components work together so that an individual who possesses all of them to a reasonable level will be able to listen, speak, read and write effectively. These components include discourse competence, sociolinguistic competence, and grammatical or linguistic competence. 

  • Discourse competence is focused on how well an individual can express himself or herself.
  • Sociolinguistic competence refers to the ability to use language in a socially acceptable manner.
  • Linguistic competence measures the power of a person to apply rules of language.

Gaining Grammatical Competence 

Linguistic or grammatical competence means knowing and using the rules of a specific language. It also means having enough vocabulary to express what the speaker has in mind, pronouncing words well enough to be clearly understood, and spelling these words.

The intuitive knowledge about grammar rules is acquired naturally by children through firsthand exposure while growing up. Acquisition among children younger than seven years old is generally quick and comprehensive. Children learning a language at this age absorb everything in the spoken language, even the accent of the people around them. They will apply the grammar rules even without formal instruction if they hear these rules applied correctly and acquire the vocabulary they hear. However, other grammatical competence aspects need to be learned with some structure – these aspects include reading, writing, and spelling. 

Grammatical Competence and Native Speakers 

Not all native speakers can lay claim to grammatical competence. In fact, in many cases, native speakers or first language speakers violate grammar rules and speak in a substandard form popularly known as slang. The grammatical correctness acquired by native speakers in childhood depends on exposure from their environment. This environment now no longer consists of the actual speech children hear from adults because mass media has a pervasive influence even inside homes. 

Common Errors Become Accepted 

Grammatical errors typically become accepted as part of everyday speech without questioning what linguistic correctness is. One example is using the word “less” in express counters, telling customers the counter is only for “five items or less.” Since grocery items are “countable,” the correct word instead of less would be “fewer.” However, because everyone has become familiar with this usage, people have lost any innate reluctance to use the word. 

The same thing goes for the use of the word “me” when answering the phone. Usually, people will say, “It’s me, Mary.” To answer the question “Who am I speaking to?.” The correct pronoun would be “I” (It is I, Mary). However, more people would feel awkward using this pronoun because “me” has become familiar. 

Sensitivity to What Is Linguistic and Grammatical Competence 

Brilliant linguists like Noam Chomsky have proffered the theory about an inborn ability to discern and tacitly apply grammar rules. However, there is no denying that today, the presence of multiple languages in any community and constant media exposure leave their mark on language acquisition. For competence to be obtained, you must develop a greater sensitivity to correct grammar through exposure to standard and not substandard discourse. 

Pursuing further studies about linguistics would undoubtedly be helpful. Since it is an uncommon area, there is a greater need for competent linguists to teach what they know to others. You could be one of them if you got into a doctorate program in linguistics. Or you may explore alternative options to getting into a doctorate program by considering buying a doctorate or PhD instead. You will find more information about that here.

The question of how long is a doctorate degree or how long is a PhD will not be much of an issue, especially once you start working and reaping the rewards of having a doctorate in linguistics. 

Prospects for Linguistics Jobs 

Linguistics is very interesting, and many young people are intrigued by the subjects they can learn in this course. Such is their interest in linguistics that they do not care how long is a doctorate degree. For them, a few more years spent in school will be worth it once they start getting paid for their competencies in linguistics. You probably have the same mindset. Nevertheless, one of the severe considerations you may have before enrolling is how vast the linguistics job market is for someone like you. 

Placement Prospects 

There are several good placement prospects for people who have taken up linguistics as a major in college. Because the field is counted as a social science specialty, its scholars acquire a broad perspective of society. Such philosophy, coupled with the ability to analyze all forms of speech, allows them to gain entry into any endeavor that requires deciphering behavior through the words people say. 

Linguists can find employment in educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, high-tech corporations, consulting firms, the federal government, and the military. Academic requirements and qualifications will, of course, depend on the jobs applied for. 

Academic Work 

Basic entry-level work in the field will require a bachelor’s degree. A master’s degree with a year’s experience or two will increase the chances of suitable employment. Those who want to teach must get a doctoral degree to do so. We have already discussed earlier how long is a doctorate degree is and how long to earn a PhD in linguistics. However, while pursuing postgraduate studies, there are good opportunities to work as teaching assistants. In turn, this will provide good exposure to a classroom situation from a pedagogical perspective and allow the candidate to earn a stipend while studying. A doctoral degree is also needed for advanced research.

Some of the research done includes creating a detailed profile of a language, especially those in danger of becoming extinct. Language scholars study the grammar, the syntax, and the vocabulary of a dialect so that it can be relearned or revived. 

Linguists do a lot of work reviewing and researching literary works, particularly those that need their authorship confirmed. They also do a lot of work analyzing pieces to find out what era they belonged to. They also work on providing good insight into the context of old manuscripts. 


Depending on their majors, linguistics graduates can also teach non-degree courses in English as a second language. This means conducting tutorials or conversational English classes or accent reduction. 

Nonprofit Work 

Many nonprofit organizations hire language to create instruction books, do background community research, or translate material from English to a dialect. One of the best-known linguistic nonprofits is SIL which sends linguists to live with communities, learn the community’s dialect, and translate the bible into that dialect. 

High-Tech Corporate Work 

High-tech companies, especially those with businesses related to information technology, may need linguists to work with them in several ways. For example, linguists and computer scientists often do collaborative work to develop new computer languages or discover language to make computers respond to voice commands. Companies that sell electronics and other devices also hire linguists to create practical instruction books and translate these into languages. 

Federal Government Jobs 

The federal government has hired linguists for a variety of job descriptions. A new graduate with little or no experience could start working for an annual salary of $45,000 to $114,000. An individual with a master’s degree could earn a salary of up to $130,000. On the other hand, a person with a doctorate could begin working with $100,000 per year. 

Federal Bureau of Investigation 

The FBI hires linguists to translate documents and materials under the jurisdiction of the agency. These documents may relate to investigations of covert operations, terrorist activities, or organized crime. Usually, linguists determine when the documents indicate serious problems based on their analysis of the material and its context. Materials studied by linguists study include interviews, interrogations, polygraph tests, and written statements. 

Often, linguists do contractual work for the FBI, which means their contracts are from assignment to assignment. Linguists who work for the FBI are generally required to have US citizenship. Furthermore, they are requested to relinquish any dual citizenship they may hold. 

There are enough jobs for people in linguistics, and while linguistics jobs may not promise fame and fortune, they indeed open the door to an exciting and fulfilling career.