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Exploring different dimensions of language use

By C. Coffin


This article explores the way in which language teachers can diagnose language learners' competence from both a sociocultural and linguistic perspective. Using two sample 'letters of complaint', the article first considers competence in terms of how well the writers organize and structure their texts in relation to their social purpose and cultural context. It then examines the extent to which the learners have control over a range of grammatical and lexical resources: (a) for representing the world, (b) for interacting and building interpersonal relations, and (c) for creating cohesive text. The article argues that by teasing out these different 'functional' dimensions of language use, the language teacher and/or curriculum designer has a clear and systematic set of criteria for developing tasks and syllabi which are comprehensive in meeting the needs of language learners. Such an approach is underpinned by Systemic Functional Linguistics (Butt et al. 2000; Halliday 1985/1994), a theory of language as 'social action'. The approach has been particularly influential in language teaching and learning in the Australian context (e.g. Feez 1998; Hood et al. 1996; NSW AMES 1995)

Year: 2003
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Provided by: Open Research Online

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