Texting refers to the use of abbreviations and other techniques to craft SMS and instant messages. Texting does not always follow the standard rules of English grammar, nor usual word spellings. It is so pervasive that some regard it as an emergent language register in it’s own right. This is largely due to the proliferation of mobile phones as well as internet-based instant messaging (IM).
For a number of years teachers and parents have blamed texting for two ills: the corruption of language and the degradation in spelling of youth writing. Is there any good to come from this “modern scourge”? In the evolution of language, are we witnessing a major change akin to that brought about by Geoffrey Chaucer, the 14th-century author who wrote in vernacular English language, rather than French or Latin?
To answer these questions, I wrote an issue paper that explores the issue of texting, first by defining literacy, then describing the empirical research available on the effects of texting on youth literacy, which underpin the positive perspectives a number of linguists ascribe to texting. Examples of positive interventions – in classroom and informal learning contexts – that leverage the popularity of texting are outlined. Finally, research questions regarding texting in the South African context are offered. All comments welcome!
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