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What is interactional competence?



Interactional competence involves knowing and using the mostly-unwritten rules for interaction in various communication situations within a given speech community and culture. It includes, among other things, knowing how to initiate and manage conversations and negotiate meaning with other people. It also includes knowing what sorts of body language, eye contact, and proximity to other people are appropriate, and acting accordingly.


A conversation with a checker at the check-out line in a grocery store in the US or England shouldn't be very personal or protracted, as the purpose of the conversation is mainly a business transaction and it would be considered inappropriate to make the people further back in the queue wait while a customer and the checker have a social conversation. Other cultures have different rules of interaction in a market transaction.

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Go to SIL home page This page is an extract from the LinguaLinks Library, Version 3.5, published on CD-ROM by SIL International, 1999. [Ordering information.]

Page content last modified: 15 September 1998

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