As Gage so aptly pointed out, the English language is a fickle beast. It is ever changing and growing to fit the needs of those who use it to express themselves. These types of changes are not unique to English. The Royal Spanish Academy, a nearly three-century-old institution in charge of regulating the Spanish language, is currently considering the elimination of accent marks on widely used words such as “este” (this), “aquel” (that) and “solo.”

While accent marks are not an issue in the English language, there are evolving forms that present new and interesting challenges to those who make a living using and teaching the language. The past few days, at work, have been spent reading student essays based off several articles that speak to the potential positive or negative outcome of a sudden increase in various online and hand held technologies.

After comparing notes and philosophies, a question was raised: Is the language of the “text message” destroying the use of grammatical English? We, here at Phreelance Writers, appreciate diverse points of view. Please consider our thoughts and submit your own as comments.

******

Dash

I think the emergence of a “text message” language is proof positive that the English language is alive and well. Sending text messages or “IMing” is a type of language that is read and understood by a specific set of English language users. When a subset of language users develop their own version of that language it’s called a dialect. The language of the text message is becoming a dialect and should be respected as such.

Moreover, the text message language allows for greater expression of ideas and emotions. While writing “I love you” is standard and accepted, writing “I ❤ you” is also acceptable in the text message language. The ability to use visuals to communicate harkens  back to earlier forms of language. I think it is great that this type of modern language is able to incorporate older forms and make them relevant and useful.

Ori

First and foremost I use texts when I need to commnicate small amounts of information, whether urgently a la “pick up toilet paper on your way home!” or topically, “I just saw ?uestLove at starbux.”  You’ll notice that those are sentences in the quotes.  I don’t use text-speak.  I rarely abbreviate words.  Why not?  1) I’m a writer and I’m simply neurotic about using words.  Plus, I like people to feel as though my communications are thoughtful.  I write out the extra letters because I care and 2 ) because some text-speech is just dishonest.  How often have you actually laughed out loud while or just before using “lol”?  This does not mean I disapprove of all text-speech: while I don’t use it and I frown upon its use in formal settings, such as for academic papers, I think text-speech is an amusing language evolution.

In particular, it has instantly streamlined acronyms.  I used to feel that with exception of acronyms that have entered the lexicon as words such as “scuba” (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus), “snafu” (Situation Normal All Fucked Up), and “laser” (Light Amplified by Salubrious Egrets Recreating) could be spelled without entering a “.” between each letter, text speak eliminates this convention. Ultimately, I’m in favor of streamlining language, and admit that there are other elements of text-speech I could benefit from using in certain settings, and while I fear that over-simplification can lead to the dilution of detailed expression, I believe communication is resilient and flexible enough to withstand and perhaps even benefit from an increase in text-speech conventions.

Gage

Destroying is a strong word, but yes, text and instant message lingo are certainly detrimental to learning formal English language.  I’m not against creativity with language, coming up with new words and changing the meaning of words, but like my boss always says, you can start breaking the rules only after you know them.

I think my concern with the prevalence of text-speak has to do with the ways that people learn.  It’s obvious that the things we do often become habits, so if people text “ur” twenty times for every “you’re*,” that’s what they’ll learn and become good at.  I don’t want to sound like a conservative language snob, but I do believe that standard English is more valuable than text slang.  It’s more widely applicable in all writing situations, and aside from the emerging “cell phone literature” niche, it’s the way that all writing is done.  If you want to read and write, learn the regular way first, then mess around with it.

*Side note: The fact that “ur” can become “your,” or “you’re” is a problem in itself, and overuse of “ur” can only lead to more homonym confusion when it comes to writing real English.

Barbara

Texting is certainly altering grammatical English.  When I text, (at least several times each day), I break every grammatical rule I know: e.g. I do not use capitals, I write sentence fragments, I do not use formal language, I leave out apostrophes, and I frequently use ellipsis instead of laboring to express my full point.  Why?  The keyboard is tiny and frustrating.  Rather than deal with a tiny, frustrating keyboard, I do all of the above because it saves me time.

However, I know each and every error I commit.  My concern is for those who do not have a command of grammar and syntax.  The language we use shapes the language we will use.  A perfect example of this comes from earlier lessons; e.g.; in the 1980’s, an ad campaign misused the word “it’s,” using it as a possessive pronoun, and viola!  Suddenly every student was confused about the difference between “it’s” and “its.”  While it is true many people made this error before this ubiquitous ad campaign, it seemed the problem mushroomed.

I think texting has that same potential–to make error appear correct.  Although I realize language is alive and tends to simplify, it is that simplification of texting that most alarms me.  Complex language structures enable complex thought.  In an era of simplicity in thought, it is hard not to see that simplicity lead to, quite frankly, stupidity.  It is hard not to fear that texting, as another form of multitasking, creates even more distraction and contributes to the inability of people to concentrate over a reasonable length of time, or enjoy the privacy of their own complex thoughts.  One of my closest friends, a published author, told me she realized texting, chatting, and constant distractions had diminished  her ability to sit and read for two or three hours at a stretch.  If this woman, middle-aged, educated, and literate, finds herself diminished in ability to concentrate, what does that portend for those who do not have the background and experience she has?  Are we destined to become a bunch of twittering fly-by-nights who cannot think complexly enough or long enough to solve the enormously complicated problems we face, or even the enormously complicated lives that we live?  Can we fulfill the purposes of our soul or contemplate our individual place in the cosmos if we cannot slow down enough to think a grammatically correct, complex thought?

Advertisements