• Recent Posts

  • Categories

  • Archives

Is texting killing language?

“People have always spoken differently from how they write, and texting is actually talking with your fingers “, says John McWhorter, American academic, political commentator, and linguist. (watch his talk below)


According to McWhorter one can’t compare texting to actual language since they’re not the same thing. Texting has its own grammar and that’s okay, he says. Since ancient times written and spoken language have been different.

Just look at grammar in the classical texts. This is not how people spoke. Nor will they begin to speak or write in texting language. Or so McWhorter implies and believes “… there is no evidence that texting is ruining composition skills.”

Others don’t agree. The topic of texting language and especially students’ ability to write properly is a much-debated topic in school staffrooms, academic institutions and in media. 

In an article, “Flipping the Switch,” Kristen Turner tells how the informal electronic language is slipping into the work of students and that the quality of work has been degrading. Many a teacher and lecturer might be able to attest to this phenomenon.

Words are generally shortened due to the character limit of platforms like Twitter and of course, texts. Numbers replace letters because they are shorter. (for example 2, instead of too) More slang terms are used, for example, bae or on fleek. Punctuation is omitted, as well as capital letters. 

After surveying 2000 families, John Sutherland, professor emeritus at University College London, observed that 86% of parents do not understand most of the terms their children use in their electronic media. He therefore aptly refers to text language as “barbed wire for an older generation”. As soon as the older generation learns the language, the youth moves on and creates a new one. 

And then we have autocorrect. We no longer need to be able to spell. We have something that does the spelling (and typing) for us. It would be difficult to believe that all these factors do not have some influence on the writing skills of students.

A third group argues that text language is merely indicating that a language is growing and changing. David Crystal, author of Txtng: The Gr8 Db8, believes it adds another dimension to language.

What is your experience in the classroom with students or with your children at home? Should we be worried or are we being needlessly paranoid?

Comments are closed.


© 2013-2022 Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author(s) and content contributor(s). The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by Stellenbosch University.