Arab World English Journal (AWEJ) Volume 15. Number 1, March 2024                         Pp.384-400

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Testing EFL Communication: Speech Act Theory and the Communicative Approach

Syed Sarwar Hussain
Department of English Language, College of Language Sciences
King Saud University, Riyadh, Saud Arabia

Abdulwadood Khan
Department of English Language, College of Language Sciences
King Saud University, Riyadh, Saud Arabia
Corresponding Author:


Received:12/27/2023         Accepted:03/06/2024                 Published:03/20/2024

The study examined the relationship between Speech Act Theory and the Communicative Approach in assessing foreign languages, emphasizing the theoretical foundations and everyday applications of each approach. The study aims to present the theoretical and practical connections between these two approaches and highlight the emphasis on real-world communication in the Communicative Approach. The opening section examines Speech Act Theory as a forceful linguistic framework for analyzing the semiotic functions of language, elucidating how speeches not only communicate information but also enact actions within communicative encounters.  The speech act theory’s illocutionary, perlocutionary, and locutionary actions are explained in depth, emphasizing that language usage is dynamic and how its context affects interpretation. Examining existing research on Speech Act Theory, the Communicative Approach, and their applications in language assessment, the paper investigated the Communicative Approach to Foreign Language Testing, which deviates from conventional paradigms for language evaluation and builds on Speech Act Theory. It was found that the Communicative Approach, which has its roots in Speech Act Theory, emphasizes the practical use of language in real-world contexts.  The results shed light on the theoretical foundations of the Communicative Approach, enhancing its application in practice.
Keywords: communicative approach, foreign language assessment, pragmatic approach, real-world
communication, semiotic function of language, speech act theory

Cite as:   Hussain, S. S., & Khan, A. (2024). Testing EFL Communication: Speech Act Theory and the Communicative Approach.  Arab World English Journal, 15(1): 384-400.  DOI:


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Received: 12/27/2023  
Accepted: 03/06/2024 
Published: 03/20/2024 

Syed Sarwar Hussain is an Associate Professor at the College of Language Sciences, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He has been teaching English since 1981 in universities in India. In 1996, he joined the English Department at the College of Language Sciences and has been teaching there since then. Syed Sarwar Hussain has published a number of research papers on language teaching and translation in various online and printed scholarly international journals. Email:
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Abdul Wadood Khan is an Associate Professor at the College of Language Sciences, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He has been teaching English at the College since 2002. Abdulwadood writes articles and research papers regularly on topics ranging from language teaching to practical linguistics and literary studies. His works are published in several academic journals, online and printed.  ORCid ID –