Communicative, or pragmatic, competence is the ability to use language forms in a wide range of environments, factoring in the relationships between the speakers involved and the social and cultural context of the situation. Speakers who may be considered fluent in a second language due to their mastery of the grammar and vocabulary of that language may still lack pragmatic competence; in other words, they may still be unable to produce language that is socially and culturally appropriate.
Speakers employ a variety of communicative acts, or speech acts, to achieve their communicative goals, including Searle’s seminal broad categories – classification, commissives, declarations, directives, expressives, and representatives – as well as more specific acts such as apologies, requests, complaints, and refusals. A great deal of researches has been done on the speech acts in general, as well as on speech acts of apologies and requests. Fewer studies on complaints and refusals have appeared in the literature.
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