SMS and the Death of Language

Posted Friday August 8, 2008 by John Gunders in |

Much has been said about how text messaging will spell the end of civilisation, turning young people (why only young people, I wonder) into illiterate zombies, unable to communic8 without resorting to bizarre and unreadable abrevi8ns.

An article in The Guardian by linguistics professor and all round legend, David Crystal, puts paid to that one. Crystal points to recent research that suggests that rather than harming children’s writing skills, texting improves them:

The most important finding is that texting does not erode children’s ability to read and write. On the contrary, literacy improves. The latest studies (from a team at Coventry University) have found strong positive links between the use of text language and the skills underlying success in standard English in pre-teenage children. The more abbreviations in their messages, the higher they scored on tests of reading and vocabulary. The children who were better at spelling and writing used the most textisms. And the younger they received their first phone, the higher their scores.

Crystal goes on to talk about a number of literary endeavours aimed specifically at the text message, likening the constraints imposed by the technology to similar constraints in forms such as haiku. A competition run by a UK phone company to mark the 2007 World Poetry Day produced 200 entries (check out the article for the winner and runner up).

And it was this that reminded me of one of my favourite online things: 140 Characters by Twitterfiction (A.E. Baxter). For those of you on Twitter, check it out (and maybe contribute something—it’s been a while since the last post). Microfiction in 140 characters: some are clever; some are poignant; all demonstrate the miracle of language.

A language that surely can survive a few clunky abbreviations and neologisms.

Your Comments

Commenting is closed for this article.