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A distinction introduced by Chomsky into linguistic theory but of wider application. Competence refers to a speaker's knowledge of his language as manifest in his ability to produce and to understand a theoretically infinite number of sentences most of which he may have never seen or heard before. Performance refers to the specific utterances, including grammatical mistakes and non-linguistic features like hesitations, accompanying the use of language. The distinction parallels Varela's distinction between organization and structure. The former refers to the relations and interactions specifically excluding reference to the properties of the refi's components, whereas the latter refers to the relations manifest in the concrete realization of such a system in a physical space. Competence like organization describes the potentiality of a system. Performance like structure describes the forms actually realized as a subset of those conceivable. (Krippendorff)
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