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Definition of Literacy

The meaning of being literate can be different contingent on where one is, whom he or she is communicating with, what he or she is attempting to achieve, and whether he or she is trying to make communicate through print, speech, visual imagery or a blend of any of these resources (Lemos, 2002; Hill, 2006). This is the basis for the different definitions of ‘Literacy,’ as explained herein. Said broadly, literacy is the capacity to develop and deliver meaning from, as well as by the use of various socially contextual symbols or ciphers (Wishart, 2009; Guzzetti, 2003). Again, this view implies that the meaning of literacy can vary socially, contextually and developmentally. For instance, what is said in the corporate setting might only be significant in the boardroom, but has an inadequate or irrelevant impression in the street (Guzzetti, 2003).

According to Temple, Crawford, and Gillet (2009), within the scope of developmental ability, a literate individual can deduce and deliver meaning and use his or her cognition to achieve a goal or purpose hoped for that needs the use of linguistic skills—spoken or written (Lemos, 2002). An individual said to be literate can mediate his or her world by purposely and adaptably coordinating meaning from one language knowledge domain and utilize or relate it to another knowledge domain. For instance, having knowledge that letters represent sounds, and that those sounds make words to which one can attach meaning, is a perfect example of the cognitive coordination of knowledge, a literate individual conducts.

Clearly, therefore, the definition of literacy is dynamic and demonstrates the continual development and diversity in society. In this view, it is crucial to note that the level of technology in the 21st century is superior to the levels in the previous centuries, a phenomenon that has resulted to new knowledge and lingual development (Selfe, 1999). Therefore, the justification of the use of various concepts in the meaning of literacy is based on the social dynamism, context and development.

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