Adaptive literacy vs illiteracy vs idiocy

This charming video popped up on Twitter today (via @markdrechsler):

UPDATE: The video has now been removed. Essentially, it was an anti-Labor ad by the Liberal Party that flaunted gross misuse of the word ‘whose’.

It brought to mind a debate I’ve been having both internally and with others for a while now about the English language.

I fundamentally identify as a linguistic pedant. I am a stickler for accurate spelling, grammar, syntax and punctuation, and atrocities like the above tend to make me want to curl up in a corner in despair. And for a long time, so did txt spk, ditto fur teh LOLspeak (which iz not teh roxor).

But. In a previous lifetime I did half a degree in linguistics. And as such, I’m compelled to argue the case for the legitimate evolution of a vernacular. Widespread use of an English variant by a community should be seen as a legitimate means of communication. The ability to code-switch between these should be seen as a trait of an effective communicator.

Technology is often seen as the culprit when talking about the declining literacy rates and the proliferation of text-speak. However, I would argue that any decline in literacy is not a result of technology itself, but of a failure to adapt the bounds of literacy with the advent of particular technologies and new ways of communicating. I think there’s a lot of room in today’s definition of literacy for exploring the connectivity domain (internet, mobile devices etc) and how effective communication works within that community.

That said, it can’t be at the exclusion of proficiency in formal English. Especially (are you listening, real estate agents??) if you are operating in the professional domain. And if students are not attaining proficiency in formal English, that is a separate issue for education and not one to do with the use of technology. Whose driving that issue, Libs?

For some light humour, Taylor Mali demonstrates exactly why you can’t rely on spell-check, and why technology is no substitute for common sense:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OonDPGwAyfQ]

And finally, I’ll leave you with this:

I iz in ur langwijes, adaptin ur litrasees.

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