The Sunlight Foundation has published a (seriously wonky) report that measures the grade levels at which our congress critters speak. Their study covers 1996 to this 112th Congress, in both the House and Senate. It’s getting a bit of notice around the buhlogospheric-system and deservedly so. Fascinating stuff.
They say that congressional speech has dropped a full grade level in that period, with Tea Party freshman accounting for much of the most recent decline. (Which Senator speaks at the lowest grade level? Can you guess? Rand Paul bitches!)
The whole thing is here and there are a few interesting sidebars on their blog as well. I don’t think it’s at all clear from the study (I did say it’s wonky) if the change has any significant effect on clarity or successful communication, which after all, is the point of language. But even if utility is unaffected . . .
This grabbed my attention.
Today’s Congress speaks at about a 10.6 grade level, down from 11.5 in 2005. By comparison, the U.S. Constitution is written at a 17.8 grade level, the Federalist Papers at a 17.1 grade level, and the Declaration of Independence at a 15.1 grade level. . . .