Language Lens

A blog about life, discovery and culture through the lens of language and linguistics.

Texting isn’t the death of written language but its evolution

I remember when text messaging first became popular, when you had to hit a number on the keypad three times to reach the desired letter.  I prided myself on how fast I could do it, and even wondered on more than one occasion if I should enter a texting competition.  This was the beginning of a new era.

The quantity of text messages that teenagers sent a month and even a day was alarming!  Driving while texting was becoming a big problem, and many experts said it was worse than driving drunk.  And of course there were new terms or lingo that made communication even faster, such as “LOL” (laugh out loud) or my personal favorite “LMK” (let me know).    Texting was changing many things, including how often people talked to each other on the phone and the importance of spelling and writing.

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This was “then” but new phenomenas are happening “now” – all the time in fact.  I often see people celebrating on Facebook that they just learned how to do a keyboard shortcut for an icon/image.  A now old example is the ❤ for a heart, and one that I discovered tonight  is **== for the American flag, although one person called it a duck! (LOL)

As chat and text ‘lingo’ began (and continue) to increase in use, opinions and attitudes naturally emerged (emerge).  Many viewed (and view) this as a negative change, one that has dumbed-down society to yet another level, which they won’t be able to spell once they get there.  John McWhorter, however, an American linguist and political commentator, gives us a different perspective.  It is one based on evolution rather than death.

Watch John here.

In summary: John tells us that of the approximate 6,000 languages in the world, only around one hundred have a written language.  Written language is in fact relatively new, compared to speech.  Although we do not typically talk in the same way we write, there are examples of people speaking like they write.  For example, imagine a poor speech giver that is glued to the pages in front of him, rather than relying on his own knowledge of the subject.  There is now a form of writing like our speech, and that ladies and gentleman is the modern text message, or text.

John calls the texting of today “fingered speech.”  He credits this phenomena to modern devices like tablets and smart phones that are now allowing us to write faster than we speak.  Evidently text lingo like “LOL” and “TTYL” have grammatical use as well; they are considered particles, which are words or a parts of a word that have grammatical purpos but often have little or no meaning.  John also gives an example of how word meaning has changed (or evolved as I like to think), because of the communication medium.  The example given was the word “hey,” which is a way of getting someone’s attention in oral speech, however in texting when one can’t benefit from body language, “hey” is used as a way to change the subject.

Text lingo is just one way that communication has been influenced.  Other examples are the many shortcuts that exist, making communication faster than ever, bc (because) that is what the world is about now isn’t it – the speed in delivering information?  Here are some examples of modern text shortcuts in English. (Warning: not recommended for English student use in work emails.)

  • Thx (Thanks)
  • 2night (Tonight)
  • xoxo (Kisses and Hugs, known as Hugs and Kisses in speech)
  • Luv ya-ttyl (I love you-talk to you later)
  • IDK bc I lft.  (I don’t know because I left.)

The video and blog post pertain to English, but of course other languages are influenced by the same phenomena.   Here are a few examples of common Spanish-modifications due to texting:

  • salud2 (Saludos) – Greetings / farewell
  • porfi/porfa (Por favor) – Please
  • tb (también) – Also
  • pera (Espera) – Wait a second
  • TQM/TKM – (Te quiero mucho) – I love you very much
  • grax x too (Gracias por todo.) – Thanks for everything

There are even rules on how to form text lingo in Spanish!  For more info on Spanish text shortcuts, see the links below.  Happy texting!

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http://www.webopedia.com/quick_ref/textmessageabbreviations.asp

http://www.netlingo.com/acronyms.php

http://www.disabled-world.com/communication/text-shortcuts.php

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One thought on “Texting isn’t the death of written language but its evolution

  1. Here’s another perspective: 5 Things I’ve Learned About Life Through Text Messaging http://tiny.cc/hyqstw

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