The language of text messaging:“Linguistic ruin” or resource?

Farina, Francesca and Lyddy, Fiona
Irish Psychologist, 37(6): 145—149, 2011

The language used in young people’s computer-mediated communication (CMS) has been labelled “teen-talk”, or more specifically “textisms”, “textese”, “textspeak” (in the case of SMS), “netspeak”, “netlingo”, and “weblishM(in the case of computer-based communication). Such terms support the notion of a distinct (and, it is generally assumed, deviant) language. It has even been suggested that there may be a link between CMC language patterns (while texting, IMing, social networking and so forth) and a perceived decline in literacy standards in children and young adults (Thurlow, 2006), who are the largest user groups of texting and CMC worldwide (Ling, 2005). However, a review of the empirical data suggest that text messaging language is not as deviant as media portrayals would have us believe. Furthermore, the use of textisms has been found to correlate positively with word reading, vocabulary and phonological awareness in children, and some aspects of language performance in young adults. This may reflect skilled use of metalinguistic knowledge, which allows the texter to switch between differing language systems. Thus, rather than signalling the demise of language. CMC and text language likely reflects the workings of a productive and flexible language system.