Hundreds of grammatically incorrect text messages are sent every day. In this essay I will research and explore the creative techniques we use every day, when communicating via short messaging services, and how they are eradicating the English Language as we know it. I will also be analysing these techniques to discover when and why we use them. Today, we can assume around 4.1 million texts will be sent meaning few people can honestly admit that during their lives they have never sent a text. This agonisingly large number has developed since 1992, when the first text message was sent. I can conclude that this message would have been written in a formal format, as the creative techniques used so often today were yet to be discovered. During 1995, SMS was launched commercially in the United Kingdom. On Valentine’s Day 2003, 78 million texts were sent, this was a 37% increase in the text figures for 2002 and 6 times the number of traditional cards sent that same year.
This is proof that that texting was beginning to overpower the conventional world, as it is such a phenomenal rate of change. When messaging someone, we use many different procedures to approach the creativity within the techniques used. One of the main features of this multi-modal dialect is vowel omission. This is when the sender leaves out the vowel sounds, for example “pls” or “hv”. My data subject said “Cn brng mny” in an attempt to tell me she “can bring the money”. A study of this senders texts shows an idiolect developing as she uses vowel omission a lot when texting. However, with this girl being a teenager, she only seems to use this technique when contacting close friends of a similar age group, suggesting she understands that people who are not used to receiving these vivid techniques may not be able to figure out what they are meant to say. I am predicting she uses vowel omission purely for brevity as it would not affect the cost of the message.
On the other hand, with predictive text now being a prominent feature on the majority of phones, it is possible that this in fact a feature of dialect and is used for effect. Another technique is homophonic representation, which is the use of single letters and numbers which have a similar sound to the letters they have substituted within the word. Some examples of this would be “M8” or “u”. This is a colloquial technique used commonly as it is the shortening of words. The same data subject demonstrated this technique when texting her friends, “G2G M8” is and extract from one of her messages. I think this is a prevalent feature as you spell it phonetically as opposed to using the individual letters of the correct spelling, making it easier and faster to type. This technique being one of spoken language, it does not have the formality of written language. Acronymy is also a common feature in texting. This is because this multi-modal feature is a simple way of combining numerous words in to one. It is similar in initialism in this sense; however you pronounce it as one word instead of saying each letter individually.
An example of acronymy could be “rofl”, meaning “rolling on the floor laughing”. This feature can become misunderstood, as certain examples can have multiple denotations, such as “lol” which can mean “lots of love” or “laugh out loud”. This example has many versions so can lead to confusion in certain aspects. I often use this technique in my texts and have found it is affecting our sociolect as it is heard regularly in conversation. Controversy has arisen, claiming that text speak is the ‘language if the young’. This discrepancy is found mostly in older generations because of the possibility of miscommunication. For this reason, we have learnt to adapt our language depending on the receiver of the message. Extracting this from my data subject, “it depends of the amount of commitment required”. This lexical accommodation aligns the way we speak to prevent having to decipher the modern techniques.
On the contrary, throughout my research I have noticed that when texting loved ones, within any age range, we disregard this change and in fact use the techniques more; my example is my data subject receiving a text from her mother. “In da car atm, c u 5 mins x x x” is using many features such as variant spelling and homophonic representation. When I asked the data subject’s mother why she uses these, I was told “I thought that’s what the kids do”. This suggests that we are all expected to text like this and are oblivious to other people approach to texting. When furthering my research I discovered that the majority of younger people now own a smart phone with a QWERTY keyboard, making it easier to type the words out in full, so these techniques are becoming rarer. We also change the attitude of the message depending on the context, for example you would not text someone to inform them about a death as it comes across as insensitive. We also modify the language used to appear polite.
This would apply when texting someone new, “ey up slag ;)” would definitely be inappropriate even with the use of face-threatening acts, which means to offend someone but to show you are being sarcastic by including a emoticon. This technique should be used only with people you are comfortable with as certain people may not understand the joke behind the message. The question most often voiced is asking whether ‘text speak’ is ruining the English Language. My research shown that to be able to text appropriately, you have understand the original message to then edit the techniques into the text. However, it has also provided proof that it is creeping into the spoken language the more we use it, by forming bad habits and becoming accustom to using thw techniques.
Courtney from Study Moose
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