Pragmatic competence and the CEFR: pragmatic profiling as a link between theory and language use

Pawel Sickinger, Klaus Peter Schneider


The functional and communicative perspective on language advocated in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), hides the fact that, while the CEFR programmatically emphasises the role of pragmatic competence in language learning, it provides little guidance in how to transform the domain of language learning, teaching and testing, accordingly. In the present paper, we argue for an extended and more detailed treatment of pragmatic competence in the context of the CEFR, that we think is necessary to enable practitioners to implement this conception of communicative competence in their everyday work. Whereas a gap between the CEFR’s programmatic vision and practical requirements has been noted and addressed, e.g. by the creation of reference level descriptions (RLDs) for individual languages, the pragmatic component has thus far not been thoroughly covered by the respective initiatives, such as the English Profile.

Based on a review of definitions of pragmatic competence in the linguistic literature, we claim that a customised methodology will be necessary to fully integrate pragmatic competence into CEFR-based descriptions of language competence, especially if these descriptions are to be operationalised in language testing and certification. We then present our own approach to the issue of assessing pragmatic competence, which is part of an ongoing research project called Pragmatic Profiling (PRA.PRO). One of the main goals of this project is to establish pragmatic profiles of different varieties of English based on native speaker communicative behaviour, elicited via a variety of tasks in a standardized questionnaire format (the Questionnaire on English Usage), and other methods. The pragmatic norms derived from this empirical data can be directly compared with learner performance, which will ultimately allow us to assess divergence from native speaker norms and, thereby, evaluate levels of developing pragmatic competence in learners. Our primary concern is to point out that more empirical research is needed to link the levels of theoretical description and concrete communicative performance, and that the methodology employed in PRA.PRO is a promising route to achieving this goal


pragmatic competence assessment, cultural norms, learners of English, appropriateness, native speaker behaviour

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Copyright (c) 2014 Pawel Sickinger, Klaus Peter Schneider

Ljubljana University Press, Faculty of Arts
(Znanstvena založba Filozofske fakultete Univerze v Ljubljani) 

Print ISSN: 0024-3922
Online ISSN: 2350-420X