Is texting trouble? IDK, is this even an issue?

This post is by Shannon-Rose Clack, A Level English Language student at East Norfolk Sixth Form College. Shannon took part in a competition to create a blog post about Language and Technology, and her piece was selected as the winner. As part of her prize, she gets her first Guest Writer credit. Well done Shannon!

Texters have created what has evolved into a new sub-language, with mixed reviews.

phone-chat (2)

‘Mom’ seems to be a little confused by text talk (Textese). Misunderstandings with your mother? Best to avoid imo 😉

Textese is gushing out of the virtual world it has flooded, and is seeping into our irl chats. However, is the artful distortion of our language actually causing harm to it?

Well, depending on who you ask you’ll get a very different yet similarly certain response. A news article written by John Humphrey thinks texters are “vandals” of the language – that they “pillage” and “savage”… I wonder if the same was said of Shakespeare.

I’m in no way saying an overzealous use of “lmao” puts us on that revolutionist podium with Sir William, but, really, we are doing the same stuff: changing up what is and creating something new.

Young people are rather revolutionary, so no brows raise when they are automatically blamed for Textese spreading like a yawn. Even though 80% of texters are adults. And would you agree that adults can spell even though they are constantly seeing incorrect spellings on phones? So why worry that the 20% of young texters will fall short here?

Linguistics professor David Crystal found that worrying wearisome, so decided to slap on a cap and get investigating. Crystal learned that, in fact, young texters had more advanced literacy AND numeracy skills. Literacy improved because texting is essentially practice in reading and writing, no matter how much the words have deviated from their original form. Plus, a greater understanding of phonetics (sounds in words) is developed to be able to shorten words, omitting the least important letters. Maths skills heighten thanks to the code breaking skills required to translate some of the more confusing acronyms, (‘icymi’, I’m looking at you).

As the phone pictured above shows, occasionally people misinterpret the messages. This is one problem anti-text-talkers have with the language. It can lead to confusion where, with modern keyboard-adorned mobiles, there is little need. Although, regardless of it’s close links to English, like any language Textese needs to be learnt. In this argument, however, because the language is independent of English, its existence can’t take away from traditional talk.

Social media may be involved in the ubiquity of txt tlk. I mean, if Twitter will only give you 140 characters, ur not gna waste ltrs or expand on every little point. Is there a problem with being concise? And besides; abbreviations, acronyms, emojis… they are all identifiers of different writers’ styles. Surely anything that enhances expression through language is enhancing language itself instead of deteriorating it?

Text talk isn’t so new-fangled anyway. Emojis are reminiscent of Egyptian hieroglyphics. Abbreviations like ‘c u l8r’ can be tracked back 100 years according to Crystal. Traces of Textese in a postcard from 1907, found by Caroline Tagg (journalist) is proof of this.

Does that not make the fear of language devolution more than 110 years after the phrases were coined redundant? Ridiculous, like an unshaven sheep in a blue woolly jumper?

No matter how people feel, it looks as if Textese has been here a while and isn’t leaving the building any time soon. Personally, I’m glad; I love a good ‘lmao’.

Shannon’s original post can be found here


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