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Book Review: Txtng: The Gr8 Db8 - Part 2

The most interesting aspect of historical linguistics in Txtng: The Gr8 Db8 for an English reader not from the UK may be the reminder of how influential British English still is. Those of us in America probably default to thinking that the way the French, Japanese, and Brazilians use English is mostly influenced by American culture. Yet with text messaging, a lot of the standard conventions came from Britain because texting became popular in the UK sooner than in the US.

The most interesting aspect in regard to descriptive linguistics may be just how wrong most hyped ideas about texting are. David Crystal disabuses the reader of several common notions, such as:

1) Texting contributes to illiteracy: "I do not see how texting could be a significant factor when discussing children who have real problems with literacy. If you have difficulty with reading and writing, you are hardly going to be predisposed to use a technology which demands sophisticated abilities in reading and writing. And if you do start to text, I would expect the additional experience of writing to be a help, rather than a hindrance."

2) Texting damages spelling ability: "Texters are [...] prone to mis-spell, both unconsciously and deliberately. They would not be able to use the mobile phone technology at all if they had not been taught to read and write, and this means they all had a grounding in the standard English writing system."

3) The young generation tends to be looser in regard to "proper" usage: In one study, "surprisingly, it was the younger adults who were more likely to use standard capitalization and punctuation."

4) Texting is an unprecedented linguistic phenomenon: "Texting language is no different from other innovative forms of written expression that have emerged in the past."

In short, Crystal argues:
People who talk of texting as a "new language," implying that the whole of the writing system is altered, are inculcating a myth.


  1. Fascinating topic for one who, like me, has a bias against texting. Years ago, I heard George Will say one of the few things I agreed with him on when he commented about email (as opposed to writing letters): "We are using more and more sophisticated means of sending less and less sophisticated messages."


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