10 May 2007

literecy cat ≠ linguist cat

the lolcats phenomenon is ridiculous, if not a bit amusing. (i think the real reason i enjoy it is because it pokes fun at those people who take photos of their cats and post them to flickr ad nauseam.) recently the phraseology of lolcats has been noticed by linguists, and it's been asked whether there is an actual rule-based lolcat dialect, and therefore, sentences which are ungrammatical in lolcat. i think this is true, even if the rules were historically derived from snowclones. there are morphological changes, such as simplification of the paradigm of have (has is used in for all persons and numbers). there are syntactic changes, including modifications to the ways that modals combine with predicates (i can has X, i is be Y, etc.). so i was all ready to conclude that yes, cats can has grammar, when this appears on I CAN HAS CHEEZBURGER, the canonical lolcats site:

dammit! here i am, ready to call lolcat a real, if contrived, dialect of English, and this guy has to go fly in the face of it. things that are wrong with it:

it doesn't know what grammar is. the sentence "Literacy Cat is amazed at your perfect grammar" is itself a perfectly grammatical sentence of standard English. deliberate misspellings have been conflated with ungrammaticality.
it enforces the concept of a standard. even though it doesn't say so explicitly, it implies that lolcat is "not perfect" and therefore stigmatizes it. (please though, don't take this as an endorsement that should there be people out there actually speaking lolcat that we shouldn't stigmatize them. there are no native speakers of this dialect, and deliberately invented dialects shouldn't have equal status as native dialects. it's just the principle of the matter.)
literacy is not language. everyone in the world, with a handful of exceptions, can and does speak a language. most of the world cannot read or write. i guess literacy cat really isn't qualified to be making linguistic generalizations. it's just that no one else realized that. and that is be my problem with stuff like this.

No comments: