Do u lk 2 type like ths? The world is divided between those who say texting – and for that matter, any other technological innovation – add to the devolution and degradation of language, and others who assert that language is always evolving, even if that means using abbreviations or slang.
What people on both sides of the debate generally don’t realize is that texting can actually be used for improving phonological awareness and performance. What this means is that your phonological skills – your ability to spell words correctly – have to already be fairly high in order for you to be able to abbreviate words for use in texting or tweeting. Therefore, texting a message like “2nite @ Ben’s home 4 T” presupposes a phonological awareness of these words and their sound and letter patterns. A non-native speaker of English probably won’t be able to decipher this sentence because of this phonological knowledge gap that would allow them to match the abbreviations to the corresponding intended words that make up the sentence, “Tonight at Ben’s home for tea.”
A recent study by Coventry University has shown the proof of this phenomenon: that “textisms” improve children’s reading and writing skills. So instead of looking at texting as the death of language, it is more constructive to see it as a skill that improves a student’s phonological awareness. In other words, texting not only doesn’t damage people’s spelling skills, it improves them.
As students send out text after text, they’re constantly using the spelling and phonological rules that permeate language in order to create meaningful and generally applicable and intelligible abbreviations. While texting won’t be taught in language arts classes any time soon, it shouldn’t be condemned outright as something that causes language skills to decay, or worse, encourages illiteracy. Texting has a robust set of rules. Coming up with new textisms and other abbreviations requires advanced linguistic skills and creativity. Like all other aspects of English, they are based on a person’s basic knowledge of phonology, spelling. and even grammar.
People do argue that texting and tweeting using initialisms and the shorthand widely used on social media will ultimately make people forget how to properly spell words in formal contexts, but this argument loses sight of the mechanisms at work behind texting. This new form of English is still decidedly grounded in the same principles as the non-abbreviated language format, and due to its popularity it deserves study and support, not merely criticism.
Cross-posted on the Ultimate Spelling blog.
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