Literacy is not in decline

    Nobody is forgotten, nothing is forgotten
    Since joining our school of the Internet, children's literacy has become worse and worse. On forums they often write with deliberate mistakes (to make it “fun”), but as a result they forget the rules of the Russian language. The situation today is catastrophic.

    ( NGS publication. News from 2006)

    Such complaints probably did not appear yesterday, and they can be found, probably in ancient letters. But today the situation with the language has developed completely new: literacy on the forums is low, mistakes "fumble", "from the first" do not stop. (We even leave the brackets for borrowing - for which there are no strict formal rules.) Indeed, if you think about it, it’s a nightmare, people are not able to remember simple school rules or even put punctuation marks. Language awaits disaster! Really?

    The “clogging” of the language noticeable to many is not a catastrophe or even a problem, but a symptom of processes with which the language can cope.

    The essence of the problem seems to be obvious: a lot of people can not write correctly, make terrible spelling mistakes, do not want to learn to write correctly and even check with automatic checkers (which now even exist in browsers - for example, I use this in Opera).

    It seems so, but not so. If you pretend that this is a problem of the whole language and the whole society, try to formulate it. The problem - “the state of the control object does not correspond to the desired.”

    “People write illiterate” - this is really a problem, by definition, not only of the whole society or language as a whole, but of individual people. Someone is not satisfied with the level of literacy, while others do not notice anything, not even suffering from dysgraphia. Some don't even like it when others write or speak hard.

    The argument "everyone should write correctly" does not work, because it is unclear how to implement it. Many are already in this “debt”, and so far have not been recovered from anyone. How much should the author of such an announcement? It is not from the Internet, but the Internet is full of such: The

    Lie down

    idea is clear to everyone, he did not take time from anyone, did not harm, and in general was unlikely to act maliciously. Make him go to literacy courses? For the sake of one ad per year? Have mercy! It is too impractical to satisfy purist feelings like that. There is no practical sense - the message has already been delivered to the addressee. All that remains is the sacred meaning, “language is sacred,” and so on. One can agree with this, one can believe, but continue to write with errors, and also correct others:

    A person writes with errors, but corrects others.

    The only reason that many people can write correctly is the way they look in the eyes of others, plus independent reviews. And this, in essence, is similar to politeness: who is willing to make how much effort to show their attention and goodwill and not cause others inconvenience with their inaction.

    Is there any notorious catastrophic drop in literacy?

    It seems to be observed in other public areas: in the press, on television, in advertising. They have complained about mistakes and inattention, saving on proofreaders all the years since the opening of a market economy (1992). This concern is well-founded, there are indeed more of them, but let's ask ourselves, is this true decline and disaster? Typically, catastrophe means the complete decline of the industry and the loss of craft. But on the Internet, as in the press and advertising, the number of writers in recent years is only growing.

    The number of publications has increased, the volume of unique texts, compared with the Soviet era, has grown by orders of magnitude, because now, for example, publishing a magazine has become very cheap and there are no administrative barriers. At the same time, the quality of private printing does not differ from printing, while in 1990 the products of small publishing houses (low-quality) were visible a mile away. Many wrote monographs on a typewriter until the end of the 90s. In 1992, there were few printers, they were almost all matrix, monochrome, they did not print everything. Instead, the price tags in the shops circled around the stencils, large signs were generally painted by hand. Nobody even dreamed about brochures and booklets that are distributed today left and right. The modern habit of printing everything we can on a printer has spread only towards the end of the 90s.

    We ask ourselves: did literacy fall among all these people who began to print brochures or announcements? No, before that they hadn’t written anything to the public at all.

    Route sign on the bus

    Obviously, when the number of people in the field of activity grows, that is, who should maintain good skills. At the same time, today anyone who publishes something will sooner or later receive a complaint about errors, just as stores receive bad reviews about impolite sellers. But to maintain one only high quality, as some would like, it is possible only if the letter would turn into an outdated form of expression, a niche form of retro art.

    As for the Internet, at the dawn of it, until 2000, it was not used by philologists at all, but the publication of the page was a big deal, and the attitude to it was special. The situation changed around 2001-2002, when PHP scripts spread, and it became the norm to make a comment section on publications on websites. Then came the massive blog engines (LJ, Blogspot, WordPress). And from that moment on, the Internet poured a powerful stream of what previously remained in the reader's head or was discussed privately. We saw a written speech by a mass of people who before that wrote perhaps only memos.

    Particularly remarkable is the story with the "language of scum" in 2005-2007. He was known before that, but only to Internet philosophers, diogenes, and in 2005 he was picked up by office plankton and home plugs. Everyone received the doses of his exposure; many experimented with this alternative spelling themselves. But the main pleasure was protest - against the requirement to write 100% "correctly", and when this hobby became mainstream, the pleasure disappeared. In 2008, no one even remembered about this. And what, did someone forget how to distinguish the letter “o” from “a”? Rather, on the contrary, people began to pay more attention to what they write.

    Finally, the proliferation of smartphones has led people on the Internet who rarely wrote anything at all. Their level from this certainly did not fall. Yes, mobile phones with SMS have long been widespread, but this is a purely personal communication, where not everyone perceives errors.

    The dissemination of a public written discussion is an event comparable in scale to the emergence of a birch bark writing culture in Russia (the website has recently shut down). Is it possible from those who only yesterday began to write a lot to expect a high level of language proficiency? Not. How can they raise this level, and whether to indicate to the interlocutor errors to us - these are other questions.


    Literate speech is one of the forms of politeness that acts in a public field, and almost does not work in a personal one. Until recent years, most Russian-speaking people wrote something only in private correspondence, and public written speech was the destiny of specialists. Today, when printing has become widely available, and the Internet literally lies in the pocket of many, we finally began to write massively to the public. The concern that, compared to the previous, “elitist” era, the texts read as they fell, is understandable, but there is no disaster here.

    Users will sooner or later self-organize and learn not to make many eye-cutting mistakes today. On the other hand, the most irregular rules will be discarded. In any case, the language is not waiting for decline, but the growth of use and development.

    PS when all the battles died down, I caught the eye of a lecture by the linguist Maxim Krongauz, where he (at 19:00) makes exactly the same conclusions.

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