language change and slang language technology

Why speak, when you can text?

Check out this article about how many texts teenagers send in a month. Over 3,000! Even with pitfalls such as thumbos and Blackberry thumb, the trend for SMS texting continues apace. The article quotes a recent study in which the ability to send texts was the number one reason teenagers bought a mobile phone. For more on this subject, David Crystal’s book, Txtng: The Gr8 Db8, lays out this current phenomenon in fascinating detail. The scariest part of this article for me though, is the fact that spoken language has decreased in teens by 14%. Will we bother speaking to each other at all in ten years’ time? A worrying thought.

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Beth Penfold


  • I don’t think we should be scared by this. The article doesn’t actually say that spoken language has decreased by 14% – it says that teens make 14% fewer voice calls, which is not quite the same thing. Before they all had mobiles, teens used chatrooms if they had access to the internet, and before that – well what did they do? They certainly didn’t write letters to each other. If they were on their own, there was no real means of interactive communication with anyone else (except maybe using their parents’ phone). My guess is that use of language overall must be increasing massively thanks to mobiles, twitter, facebook and the rest. It doesn’t always look like the language we think we grew up with, but it’s still language, and still something worth celebrating.

  • Presumably these are figures from the USA, given that they talk about “cell phones”. I’d have thought the figures would probably be higher here in the UK seeing as texting is more established here and has been commonplace for over a decade.

    Like Stephen says above (or below…not sure where comments appear) we shouldn’t be scared. If teenagers really prefer text to voice then literacy levels may creep up. The research by Bev Plester’s team here and elsewhere suggests that those who text more have higher spelling and writing ability. Good news then!

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