Language Beyond the Text: txt msgs 4 a new gnr8n

Corissa Bush (bio)
caraggie00@hotmail.com

Millions of people use digital technology in their daily lives from turning on a computer for data processing, communication, information, and playing games, to accessing the Internet as well as using mobile phones to communicate verbally and textually across space and time. As this technology races forward to create new ways to communicate, we must pause and question the drastic changes in our culture, language, and values, in the last thirty years due to technological advances in communication. What specific technologies are changing languages? How and why are those technologies changing languages? What are the effects of those technologies on language?

1.  Text Messaging Changing Written Discourse

Born into the Information Age, a world with fast and easy access to information, growing up with the Internet, email, chat rooms, handheld computers, and phones capable of multiple medium formats, how are people managing the new communication tools? What is the critical response to these new modes of communication? Analyzing the latest trend in technologically advanced communication, text messaging, also called short messaging system (SMS) or texting, I will show how people are manipulating written discourse to fit their needs for communication and how other countries and languages, specifically France, have reported similar changes in language when their citizens use text messaging. Before explaining how text messaging is changing written discourse, I first provide background information as to how and why text messaging became such a prevalent mode for communication.

2.  History of Technological Shifts Affecting Language

Technology throughout the last several centuries has greatly influenced human language. The first big revolution of technology affecting language was the invention of the printing press. As a result of the printing press, language became more standardized because of the ability to print in mass and make copies available to the public; in return, regulation of spelling and grammar became a concern among academics. The great English lexicographer, Samuel Johnson, undertook the important prescriptive task of regulating spelling by creating the first dictionary in the English language. In his preface, Johnson asserts:

When I took the first survey of my undertaking, I found our speech copious without order, and energetick without rules; wherever I turned my view, there was perplexity to be disentangled, and confusion to be regulated; choice was to be made out of boundless variety, without any established principle of selection; adulterations were to be detected, without a settled test of purity; and modes of expression to be rejected or received without suffrages of any writers of classical reputation or acknowledged authority.

The most significant technology in the 16th century, the printing press, caused a transitional shift in the English language and though many technological advances have been made since then, none has affected language beyond the creation of new words and redefining old words until recently. The digital technology in the 21st century is causing another transitional shift in language moving beyond naming and redefining to creating a shortened language system with accompanying rules. Both Samuel Johnson, a revered scholar of the 18th century, and the average Internet and phone user in the 21st century, attempt to prescribe rules of the language to work with the technology of the time.

Today, networked computer-mediated communication technologies are the latest ways to communicate quickly since the invention of the telephone. People who use the Internet, referred to as "users" in popular culture and throughout this paper, must wade through a sea of new and changing semantics because of space and/or time constraints. In Hale"s (1996) guide to computers and computer language, she questions the recent semantic changes. "Writers today must navigate the shifting verbal currents of the post-Gutenberg era. When does jargon end and a new vernacular begin? Where's the line between neologism and hype? What's the language of the global village? How can we keep pace with technology without getting bogged down in buzzwords?" (p.2). Although there are no easy answers, users are changing written discourse to work with the technology, changing the language first in the chat rooms and making even greater changes when using text messaging. Traditional prescriptivism, grammatical rules about written language, originating with Samuel Johnson and others, does not exist in the digital world; users are attempting to define themselves stylistically to their groups by playing with the language and creating new prescriptive rules for written language in the process. Scholars are not making the rules any longer; our language is distinctively being changed by technologically savvy users who are primarily young adults.

3.     Recent Technology Causing Semantic Shifts

The invention of the computer does not belong to one person, rather it belongs to various individuals who contributed toward technological advances in creating "machines" that aide in the computation of numbers. Not until the 1980"s did companies build computers available for the public that did not require a punch card. The invention of the desktop computer and the software that utilizes the computer is the cause of a language revolution creating new prescriptive rules. The pc (personal computer) not only caused significant semantic changes in English by adding new vocabulary and expanding/generalizing existing vocabulary, but also delivered the capability to retrieve information as well as communicate remotely through the Internet. Although a few individuals and the United States military were attempting to network computers in 1968, Tim Berners-Lee, a researcher at the infamous CERN institute in Switzerland, is the person to credit for starting the World Wide Web. The Internet soon became a medium for a select group of people to communicate. As more citizens connected to the Internet, these newbies either had to learn the new prescriptive rules original users created to communicate selectively with one another or forfeit an understanding the new modes of communication. The Internet allowed users to create something similar to a new dialect or vernacular only people using the this technology would understand, often called "netspeak", "netlish", "weblish", "cyberspeak", "electronic discourse", "electronic language", and "computer-mediated communication (CMC)" (Crystal, 2001, p. 17).

3.1     Language in Media Discourse

In a postmodern society, contradictions define our lives. Linguists Aitchison and Lewis (2003) discuss these contradictions in the introduction of a collection of articles from a conference on Media and International Communication. The first contradiction they discuss is globalization versus fragmentation. In a world where technology allows us to connect to the world through instantaneous news and communication, the world has thus become smaller to us than it was to our forbearers, even our parents. Yet as this world seemingly becomes smaller, it also becomes more fragmented. Our technology separates us from others, because we no longer solely use face-to-face communication, but also communicate with others using a computer at home or work through email, chatrooms, instant messenger, etc. The Internet, especially, connects us to the world and others, making us feel as though many people surround us, but according to Wilbur (1996), the physical isolation of sitting in front of a computer fragments our experience because is it nothing more than a virtual reality. Also, digital technology has fragmented the audience because a homogenous mass audience does not exist anymore, but rather small communities of niche market (Hale, 1996). The users who belong to these small communities are the ones shaping and defining communication changes including, but not limited to, written language.

Aitchison and Lewis (2003) discuss a second contradiction of postmodern society, linguistic expansion versus language compression. The television and the Internet can be accessed for news around the clock, news reports for "special events" are extended, websites provide links for more information; however, the information we receive is compressed as well. Although we know more, we compress the language into headlines in newspapers that provide a summary of the article in a few short words and tickers in news shows with brief updates flashing across the bottom of the television screen. Other technologies, such as the Internet and mobile phone, have expanded the ways in which we can communicate with others across time and space; however, the users must compress the information due to the formatting of certain mediums of communication. For example, people in chat rooms must shorten language because of the required quick response and text messages can only have 140-160 characters due to the limitations of the technology. Scholars are also noticing trends that support postmodern tendencies in the information society; Green (2001) compares characteristics of modern and postmodern societies. She lists the following as postmodern characteristics in an information society: ambiguity, chaos, random, no certainty, surface (lack of depth), niche market, overlapping layers, shifting meanings, fragmentation (p. 71). Text messaging reflects these postmodern problems because the language is fragmented, text is abbreviated and words often left out; the language is ambiguous due to the elimination of words or letters in a word, as well as removing paralinguistic communication like facial expressions and hand movement from a conversation; lastly, communication lacks depth when stripping language to the basic element.

3.2     How Recent Technology is Changing Written Discourse

The Internet provided a new source for written language to change rapidly due to the ability to communicate with others, asynchronous (delayed time) at first and synchronous (real time) later. Unfortunately, the communication that occurred could only happen between those individuals with a computer (with a fast enough processing speed), and those who paid for an Internet connection, which formed the small communities of users who created unique language to communicate exclusively with one another. Laypeople using asynchronous communication, such as email and posting services (Listserv) began experimenting with language in terms of style and formatting. With the advancement of technology, faster computers and Internet, synchronous communication, like Internet Relay Chat (IRC) and Instant Messenger, became the popular way to communicate crossing the line between speech and writing.

The Internet strips written language to the most fundamental properties because of time limitation and lack of paralinguistic signs that exists in face-to-face communication or even a phone conversation. Millard (1996), a professor of communication at Oxford, refers to "Netspeak" or Internet lingo as "metacommunicative minimalism," which he describes as "Textual cyberspace filters away all qualities of a personal self save the highly mediated, acutely self-conscious elements that appear in written language. Phatic or metacommunicative cues, the linguistic and paralinguistic signs that maintain cognizance of the social relation between the sender and receiver of a message, are drastically reduced in this medium" (p. 147). As a result, users created their own prescriptive rules for written language and phatic interaction while chatting since none existed in the new communicative medium. Although there is still turn taking, the turn may be interrupted, or even out of order due to the amount of time taken to type a response and the users' physical capabilities, hardware, software and bandwidth. Due to a need for quick responses, a phenomenon occurred with synchronous discourse in the chat room; users shortened written language and responses as opposed to asynchronous forums like email. Crystal (2001) took 100 chat room samples from three studies including Werry, Bechar-Israeli, and Paolillo and found an average of 4.23 words occurred per contribution, 80 percent of the utterances were five words or less, and 80 percent of words were monosyllabic (p. 157). Users simplified language to save time and enable them to respond faster.

As the phone technology advanced to push communication from verbal to textual, many people used the language rules from chat rooms and expanded those rules for text messaging. In 1992, Vodafone Network sent the first SMS from a personal computer to a mobile phone (Kesseler and Bergs, 2003). Text messaging can be asynchronous or synchronous depending on if the receiver and sender are both available to use his/her telephone, and fuse speech and writing much like chatrooms on the Internet. The advancement in digital technology enables everyone to communicate easily through text messaging, because mobile phones do not require a user to be connected to the Internet, but rather the user can send a text message from anywhere a signal is available and to anyone with the phone capability. The limitations of the technology, 140-160 characters depending on the phone and the company, forced users to be creative with language, expanding the abbreviations observed in chatrooms.

Just as the Internet is a communicative tool utilized globally, so is text messaging. Text messaging is far more popular in Europe and Asia than it is in the United States. In 2003, according to The Mobile Data Association, users in England alone sent 20.5 billion text messages and this number is expected to rise to 23 billion in 2004 ("UK will send," 2004). According to the Economist, the global average for text messaging is 30 messages a month, the average in parts of Asia is as high as 200 messages a month, and the average in America is 7. Americans prefer to talk because it is cheap and companies offer "free" minutes as opposed to other parts of the world where it is cheaper to text than to call. In addition, texting is not a standard in packages in the US, and it is difficult to know who has the option enabled, as well as incompatible technologies of the different mobile operators ("No Text Please," 2003). Due to the popularity of text messaging in other countries that speak English as well as other languages, English is not the only language affected by text messaging shaping the language.

Within each country, adolescents make up the primary group utilizing text messaging and are therefore often responsible for changing the language. In 2001 the BBC reported that 90 percent of 11-16 year olds in England have a mobile phone and the top reasons to text someone include sending a greeting like happy birthday and arranging or canceling a date ("Txting heads for," 2001). By 2003, adolescents made up 43 percent of those sending messages, as opposed to 25 percent of those 30-34 ("R ur txt," 2003). Kesseler and Bergs (2003) suggest in their study that text messages are replacing love letters between adolescents and even though text messages are simplified, the love mail still contains the same images, metaphors, and codes. Prior to text messaging, adolescents in most countries used slang to define their specific group, but language used in text messages goes beyond the creation of new words to redefining the rules for the language.

4.     Text Messaging Data

The data I present in this paper is a collection of abbreviations from five Internet text messaging "dictionaries"[1]; I extend "dictionary" to include websites that provided the latest text messaging abbreviations and the "definition," which is a word or phrase. There are some discrepancies between the dictionaries. Not all of the dictionaries had the same spelling or the same definition for the abbreviations, which is a result of the fact that there is a lack of "defined" or "fixed" prescriptive rules for digital communication. The five dictionaries combined contained 665 different abbreviations, and I separated the abbreviations into nine separate semantic categories: Homophonic Single Grapheme, Numeric, Aphesis/Abbreviation, Dropping Vowel, Acronym, Alphanumeric, Grapheme Changes, Abbreviated Phrase, and Contraction. Table 1 represents the total number of examples found in each category.

The people sending text messages, texters, are experimenting with written language, manipulating it to fit the technological limitations of space and style. Many of the abbreviations originated in chat rooms to allow for faster response time and texters expanded the abbreviations to create a writing system that contains new prescriptive rules and reflects a better phoneme-grapheme match in spelling than traditional English spelling. Since texters are limited to approximately 150 characters, 75 percent of the abbreviations in this study are phrases, as opposed to 25 percent of single word abbreviations. I also show how similar semantic experimentations with written language are occurring in other languages; I only found research pertaining to French, however, critics from other countries articulate similar changes in language. Natalie Pomier, Editor of Oxford French Dictionary completed a similar text messaging study using French words, which I include limited examples to prove these changes are not restricted to countries that speak and text in English.

Table 1. Percentage graph of the number of abbreviations for each linguistic category discussed


4.1     Revisiting Existing Linguistic Devices

When communicating through text rather than speech, paralinguistic communication is lost, such as facial expressions, gestures, and body language critical for determining meaning in context. First appearing in email and chatrooms, texters borrowed smileys (also spelled smilies) and emoticons; both are modern forms of ideograms designed to show emotional and facial expression. Smileys and emoticons use letters and symbols on the keyboard to create the appropriate emotion: symbols such as :) or :-), for smile or happy, ;) for a wink, :-O for shock, and the list continues. Many applications now recognize the ideogram code and turn it into a pictogram such as J L on Internet applications. However, in text messaging, texters still use the original smileys and emoticons if the phone has the keyboard capabilities, or if texting from a computer. Only one dictionary listed smileys/emoticons, possibly because they are not abbreviations of the language, they are mainly used for IRC (internet relay chat), and few texters have the capability to send or receive smileys/emoticons. Therefore, I only mention smileys/emoticons and do not include them in the research.

4.2     Homophonic Single Grapheme Abbreviation

In the chatroom, users began changing words, appearing as phonetically transcribed sounds to shorten the language, thus allowing for faster response time and similarly texters abbreviate language due to the limitations in the number of characters allowed per message. I have found no agreed name for this occurrence, but Victoria Clark, a graduate student at Jesus College, discusses in her dissertation this same phenomenon in Internet chatrooms, labeling it "homophonic single grapheme abbreviation" and Natalie Pomier (2004) labels it "phonetic transcription" when discussing text messaging in her article. Although phonetic transcription may not be the best term since many of the examples may not qualify using that specific term.

In English, some common phonetic transcriptions include "c" replacing "see", "u" replacing "you", and combinations such as "cu" replacing "see you". Texters use thirteen letters in the English alphabet for homophonic single grapheme abbreviation. Out of the five dictionaries, three dictionaries agreed "u" for "you", however the dictionaries had discrepancies on "b", which varied from "be", "bee", "bye"; "n" varied from "and", "no", "an", "in"; "r" varied between "are", "or". In French, texters are using the same linguistic devices, for example "k" replaces "qu", "c" replaces "c"est", forming combinations such as "cki?" which means "c"est qui" (Pomier, 2004).

Table 2. Homophonic Single Grapheme Abbreviation

Abbreviation

b

Definition

be/bee, bye

c

See

cu

see you

f

If

i

eye, I

k

Okay

n

and, no, an, in

o

or,oh

q

Queue

r

are/ or

ru?

are you?

s

Is

t

tea, tee

u

You

ur

you are, your

y

why, yes



4.3     Numeric Characters Replacing Homophones

In the English language, texters use four distinct numbers to replace the sound in a word. The number 8 replaces the sound /et/, 4 replaces /fr/, 2 replaces /tōō/, 1 replaces /wun/. See Table 3 for abbreviation listings and definitions. There are two special cases with using numeric characters. The first is the use of the number 3 to indicate the amount three; "a3" means "anytime, anywhere, anyplace", "3some" means "threesome". Also, 9 appears in only one dictionary, which references the saying, not necessarily using the number to replace the homophone, "cld9" for "cloud 9". Another anomaly using 9 is in the abbreviation for "g9" for "genius". Texters similarly use numeric characters to replace letters in French as well, "6ne" for "cinema", "K7" for "cassette" (Pomier 2004).


Table 3. Examples of numeric characters replacing homophones; I did not list all examples.

Abbreviation

a3

Definition

anytime, anywhere, anyplace

activ8

Activate

adctd2luv

addicted to love

b2

back to

b2b

back to businesss, back to back

b4

Before

b4n, bfn

bye for now

cld9

cloud 9

cr8

Create

cu2moro

see you tomorrow

cu2nite

see you tonight

cul, CUL8R

see you later

cul8r alig8r n whl crcdl

see you later alligator, in a while crocodile

cw2cu

Can't wait to see you

d8

Date

d8ing

Dating

db8

Debate

dict8

Dictate

dv8

Deviate

e2eg

ear to ear grin

every1

Everyone

f2f

face to face

f2t

free to talk

g2cu, g2sy

glad/good to see you

g2g

got to go

g2r

got to run

g9

Genius


4.4     Aphesis and Abbreviation

Although there are only seventeen examples of aphesis and abbreviation, less than three percent of the total abbreviations, it is still worth mentioning as a technique texters use in sending text messages. I combined aphesis and abbreviation because both sever the word; aphesis severs the beginning of the word and abbreviation severs the end of the word. "lo" for "hello" is an example of aphesis and "sec" for "second" is an example of abbreviation. The most common abbreviation mentioned in three of the five dictionaries is "cos" or "cuz" for "because". In the French language, texters also use aphesis, "zic" for "musique", or abbreviation, "poss" for "possible" (Pomier, 2004).

Table 4. Examples of all aphesis and abbreviation found

Abbreviation

lo

Definition

hello

mob

mobile

mom

moment

rad

radical

sec

second

stats

your sex and age

tel

telephone

tom

tomorrow

w

with, were, where

@coll

at college

add

Address

attn

Attention

brill

Brilliant

bros

Brothers

bye

Goodbye

cos, cuz,

Because

Fun

Funny

Info

Information


4.5     Dropping Vowels

Similar to the aforementioned, dropping vowels from a word is a quick way to shorten the language, but retain the consonants for word for recognition. Not all of the words dropped every vowel in the word, like "chlya", which suggests the need to keep at least one vowel to help understand the meaning of the word. Texters in French dropped vowels as well, "tt" for "tout", and "bcp" for "beaucoup" (Pomier 2004).

Table 5. Only words that dropped vowels are listed below; phrases that dropped vowels are not listed.

Abbreviation

lch

Definition

lunch

fwd

forward

bn

been, being

btr

better

chln

chilling

chlya

chill ya

cn

can

dd

dead

emsg

email message

fst

fast

ftbl

football

mbrsd

embarrassed

msg

Message

mtng

meeting

ppl

people

rcvd

received

rgds

regards

spk

speak

sry

sorry

thn

then

txt

text

wckd

wicked

wk

week

wknd, wkd

weekend

@hm

at home

@schl

at school

@wrk

at work


4.6     Acronyms

Acronyms are the most common way texters have shortened the language through text messaging. With 377 acronyms in this study alone, there is an infinite amount of acronyms texters use for their specific group and/or region. Using acronyms allows a texter to write more in a condensed space; however, there are many drawbacks to using acronyms. The use of acronyms is growing so rapidly that it is becoming a complex language system, every few months books are published to help define the acronym for new texters.[2] Many texters are unable to decipher the acronym because they are not familiar with the acronym or the definition. Also, the acronym can often be obtuse or imprecise. Thirteen of the acronyms listed have more than one way to abbreviate the word and/or phrase, for example "wuwh", or "wywh" for "wish you were here", also "uw", or "yw" for "your welcome", as well as "ttul", "ttul8r", "ttyl", "ttyl8r", or "tlk2ul8r" for "talk to you later", and "jas", or "jac" for "just a second". About fifty percent of the acronyms use the aforementioned single grapheme, for example using "u" as an acronym for "you". Many of the acronyms listed are very conversational and colloquial like "dns" for "don"t think so", "gol" for "giggling out loud", "kc" "keep cool", "wfm" for "works for me". Texters communicating in French also use acronyms such as "sup" for "s`il vous plait" and "asu" for "ge sexe ville" (Pomier 2004).

4.7        Alphanumeric Ellipsis

I found very few alphanumeric ellipses in my search, but since I found a few examples, I felt the examples are worth mentioning. The use of alphanumeric ellipses for communication became popular when people began using pagers as a way to communicate with each other and used a strictly numeric system to represent text, for example "07734" for "hello" when the numbers are turned 180 degrees. People were limited to communicating text through a numeric sequence until text pagers became available. As the mobile phones advanced to include text capabilities, people stopped using a strictly numeric sequence and combined numbers and letters. I have seen many examples in my own experience, but there is only one example in the data, "d00d5peak" for "doodspeak". Other examples are extensions of the alphanumeric that include symbols instead of numbers, "c percentl" for "cool", "c%d" for "could", and "dem&" for "demand". These abbreviations are limited because many phones do not have the symbols available.

4.8     Grapheme Changes

Texters often change the prescribed spelling so that only the letter needed for the sound is applied and they eliminate any extra grapheme that is not necessary. Out of 665 abbreviations, 52 have grapheme changes in the word or phrase (only words are listed in table 6). For example, "bcum" which is phonetically represented /bikam/ drops the initial grapheme <e> because the pronunciation of the grapheme <b> encompasses the sound /e/, the phoneme /a/ replaces the grapheme <o>. Consider the phoneme /a/ in /kam/ representing grapheme <u> in "cut" and "hut", so therefore it is logical for texters to follow the rules of the writing system and attempt to improve spelling to accurately reflect pronunciation. Another example, "ezi" or "ezy" keeps the initial grapheme <e>, drops the grapheme <a> because it is silent, replaces the <s> with <z> because the grapheme <z> represents the phoneme /z/, and keeps the <y> as the original spelling, or replaces the <y> with an <i> which both can represent the phoneme /I/. Why do texters not change "easy" to just "ez" if the purpose is to shorten the language? Shortening the language is only one reason for prescriptive changes to the language, the other is stylistic preference and self-expression, which are just as important. Similarly, in French, "o+i" is often "oua" or "moua", which does not shorten their language either (Pomier, 2004).


Table 6. Grapheme Changes

Abbreviation

luv

Definition

love

ne

any

bcum

become

C zin

season

cud

could

czin

season

D

the

dat

that

dis

this/these

doin

doing

dxnre

dictionary

ezi, ezy

easy

fone

phone

gimme

give me

giv

give

givza

give us a

gizza

give me a

gonna, gona

going to

juz

just

ned

need

nethng

anything

nutn

nothing

ohmigod, omg

oh my god

ofis

office

ova

over

pls, plz

please

qix, qik

quick

qt

cutie

sez

says

stra

stray

thnq

thanks

thnx, thx, tnx, tks, tx

thanks

truluv

true love

uwot

you what!

vri

very

wen

when

wot

what

xlnt

excellent

xtra

extra

yer

your, you"re

yr

your


4.9     Contraction

Contraction is another way to condense the language by severing the middle of a word as in "bday" for "birthday" or severs the middle of a phrase as in "werru" for "where are you". The contractions listed do overlap with other abbreviations, such as grapheme changes and homophonic single grapheme, but I categorized the samples below because texters are dropping the middle of the word or phrase primarily. As you can see in Table 7, using contractions is not a popular way to abbreviate written language with only six examples, ranking slightly higher than alphanumerics.


Table 7. Contraction

Abbreviation

bday

Definition

birthday

cmon

come on

wassup

what"s up

wenja

when do you

werja

where do you

werru

where are you

 

4.10        Abbreviated Phrase

Many of the phrases used for text messaging combined several techniques, including using combinations of acronyms, contractions, numeric characters, dropped vowels, and homophonic single graphemes. For example, "howru" uses the homophonic single grapheme for "are" and "you", but keeps the word "how"; "aliwanisu" drops the last consonant off of "all" and "want" and uses homophonic single grapheme for "you"; "hldmecls" drops vowels from "hold" and "close". Out of the 84 abbreviated phrases, 76 combined more than one abbreviation technique and 8 combined three techniques.

Table 8. Abbreviated phrases are a separate category, but also utilize other semantic categories previously mentioned.


Abbreviation

grovbab

Definition

groovy baby

gudam

good morning

gudnite

good night

guidpm

good afternoon/good evening

hdepiyluv?

how deep is your love?

hldmecls

hold me close

gotluv

hot love

howru?, hru

how are you?

Ic**wenuxme

I see stars when you kiss me

igotubab

I"ve got you babe

Iounotn

I owe you nothing

Iwanu

I want you

aliwanisu

all I want is you

csthnknau

can"t stop thinking about you

luvu, luvya

love you

m$ULkeCrZ

miss you like crazy

msulkecrz

miss you like crazy

obab

oh baby

werubn

where have you been

wlubmn

will you be mine

wlumryme

will you marry me

XclusvlyUrs

exclusively yours

xmeqk

kiss me quick

yrplcomn

your place or mine


5. Region, Group Dependence

Some of the abbreviations texters use are common enough that a majority of individuals who text message are familiar with the abbreviations because they are easily identified. For example, "every1" for "everyone", "cuz" for "because", or the abbreviation is one that people have used for an extended period in written communication like, "iou" for "I owe you", "wk" for "week", "swak" for "sealed with a kiss". However, many of the words and phrases are region and group dependent. For example, texters in England and Australia would be more likely to use "m8" for "mate" rather than texters in the United States who do not refer to their friends with the aforementioned word. Many abbreviations are specific to a group and the group defines when to use and how to abbreviate the phrase and/or word through everyday usage. Text messaging is becoming a revised language system that has similar problems to the language system we use today where different regions use different words and meanings.

After analyzing the text messaging dictionaries, I found that not all phrases or words had the same abbreviation, nor did all of the abbreviations have the same definition. Twenty-two phrases or words had differing abbreviations and fourteen had a different definition for one abbreviation, which suggests that this new vernacular created from text messaging is unstable just as any language going through a transitional period where there are attempts to prescribe rules and create dictionaries in order to fix meaning. This data also suggests differences between region and groups like most languages.

6. Effects of Internet & Text Messaging on Language

Linguists do not agree on the effects of language because of digital communication, regardless of whether it is synchronous or asynchronous. In an interview for BBC, Crispin Thurlow, a specialist of Language and Communication at Cardiff University, declares people will bend to technology, manipulating the technology for their needs. He also states that as more people access the technology, more dialects and subcultures will emerge (Eddo 2002). Also Crystal (2001) avidly believes, "the sheer scale of the present Internet, let alone its future telecosmic incarnations, has convinced me that we are on the brink of the biggest language revolution ever" (p. 241). Aitchison argues that most of these "new words will fade away and the rapid colloquial informality of "e-speak" is merely a reflection of a bigger language shift in society" (Eddo, 2002). She also states in her review of Crystal"s book, "language changes continually, and the Internet is unlikely to leave it unaffected" (Aitchison, 2002, p. 361).

However, Jesse Sheidlower, editor of the U.S. office of the Oxford English Dictionary, believes text messaging is going through a "natural progression of language" and is likely to affect speech and writing. As stated previously, texting is more popular in Europe than in America and texting in Europe is going through stages. Alex Bergs, a linguistics professor, observed that as more adults used text messaging in England and Germany, the lingo became unpopular ("R ur txt", 2003). Although the CNN article fails to state why, I believe teenagers and young adults are the ones who text the most and want to keep the lingo as their own. Naomi Baron, an American University linguistics professor, argues that text messaging is a trend in written communication and it adds to American society of sloppy or laissez faire ideals on the mechanics of writing ("R ur txt", 2003). Crystal (2001) also has concerns about how texting will affect our language, "There must be serious limit to the amount of information which can be conveyed using abbreviation, and a real risk of ambiguity as soon as people try to go beyond a stock set of social phrases. [. . .] what do we lose, informationally speaking, when a graphically elaborate text is reduced to such a scale? [. . .]" (p. 230). However, other linguists disagree, such as Carolyn Adger, director of the Language in Society Division of the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington, who believes there is nothing harmful in innovating with language because languages change. Adger further states that due to the ability to communicate easier, digital technology is expanding peoples" writing skills. Jon Katz, media critic, calls online communication "a whole new fractured language definitely not as elegant or polished as English used to be, but in a way, much more vital" (Hale, 1996). Andrew Wilson, editor of "Onesixty", a new text message poetry magazine argues, "The restrictions are liberating, forcing you to be clear and exact. You can be playful with language and in the way you connect things. That is very positive for creative writing" ("Text Messaging "boosts creativity"", n.d.). Gabrielle Mander, author of a text messaging dictionary, believes "texting is about articulating a cultural movement. There is a grammar and logic to it. The symbols of the text messaging language were invented by young people who were incredibly clever" ("Text Messaging "boosts creativity"", n.d.).

7. In Sum

In order to expand communication to cross time and space, people are manipulating current digital technology and changing written discourse to work with the various teachnologies of communication. This progression started with the invention of the personal computer and the ability to network all computers through a program, the World Wide Web. Users manipulated the computer programs to enable communication through synchronous and asynchronous forums. Now, large numbers of people are using mobile phones to communicate through text. The data shows how written language is more compressed and there are new prescriptive rules texters use to abbreviate the language. I do believe how users are abbreviating written discourse online and through mobile phones will influence how we write and communicate in the future. Already, an author published a fiction book written entirely in IRC (internet relay chat) format.[3] And many news articles are expressing concern about students using abbreviations in their formal writing at school.

For some teachers, they will have to translate the text message abbreviation used in essays as this new vernacular seeps into formal writing. One teacher from Britain asked her students to write about their summer and received the following essay: "my smmr hols wr CWOT. B4, we used 2go2 NY 2C my bro, his GF & thr 3 :- kids FTF. ILNY, it"s a gr8 plc." The translation for those of you who are not text message savvy: "My summer holidays were a complete waste of time. Before, we used to go to New York to see my brother, his girlfriend and their three screaming kids face to face. I love New York. It"s a great place" ("Girl writes", 2003). Educators will need to address this issue of separating conversational text from formal writing if our language goal is to continue using traditional prescriptive rules to communicate written discourse. Another concern for educators when teaching students writing and communication skills is how the postmodern tendencies appearing in the changing language will affect how we communicate when there is as lack of depth, ambiguity, and fragmentation.

The abbreviations for text messaging are very complex and young people have taken the medium of text messaging to create a new vernacular with its own prescriptive rules. I do not believe as Aitchison (2002) that "e-speak" will fade. Specific abbreviations may not stay because language changes over time; however, text messaging will affect how we communicate with one another. The general populace will be more exact with words because the discourse used in everyday communication like email, IRC, chat room, and text messaging is compressed; however, the brevity of words will cause more ambiguity and the loss of paralinguistic features of communication. No longer can a person easily distinguish emotions when communicating which causes problems. A gap has always existed between scholars and the common people, but the gap has decreased in the last few centuries as more people have access to education. However, as more people turn to technology to assist them in communication, the further the gap will once again grow between scholars and everyday users of technology as the idea of written discourse changes.

References

Aitchison, J. & Lewis, D. M. (2003). Introduction. In J. Aitchison & D.M. Lewis (Eds.), New Media Language (pp. 1-3). London: Routledge.

Aitchison, J. (2002). Language and the Internet. Literary & Linguistic Computing: Journal of the Association for Literary and Linguistic Computing, 17 (3), 361-367.

Clark, V. (n.d.). Internet English: an analysis of the variety of language used on Telnet talkers. Retreived February 19, 2004, from http://www.tartarus.org/~vicky/talkers.pdf.

Crystal, D. (2001). Language and the Internet. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.

Do U Text? i wireless (2004). Retrieved March 23, 2004, from http://www.iwireless.com/ipower_ txtdictionary.asp

Eddo, M. Text Talk. BBC World. Retrieved February 19, 2004 from http://www.bbcworld.com/content/ clickonline_archive_08_2002.asp?pageid=666&co_pageid=2.

Girl writes essay in text message talk. News.BBC (2003). Retrieved February 19, 2004, from http://news.bbc.co.uk/cbbcnews/hi/world/newsid_2813000/2813955.stm.

Green, L. (2001). Communication, technology and society. London: Sage Publications.

Hale, C. (ed.). (1996). Wired Style Principles in English Usage in the Digital Era. Singapore: Publishers Group West.

How 2 Spk Txt. AT&T Wireless (2004). Retrieved March 23, 2004, from http://www.attwireless.com/ personal/features/communication/dictionary.jhtml

Johnson, S. Preface to A Dictionary of the English Language. Retrieved April 29, 2004, from http://www.gutenberg.net/etext/5430.

Kesseler, A. & Bergs, A. (2003). Literacy and the new media. In J. Aitchison & D.M. Lewis (Eds.), New Media Language (75-83). London: Routledge.

Millard, William B. (1996). I flamed Freud: a case study in teletextual incendiarism, David Porter (Ed.) Internet Culture (145-159) . New York: Routledge.

No text please, we"re American. (2003). Economist, 366 (8318), 58.

Pomier, N. (2004). Text Messages: En Francais Dans Le Texto. Ask Oxford. Retrieved February 19, 2004 from http://www.askoxford.com/languages/culturevulture/france/textmessaging.

R ur txt msgs :( or OK? CNN.com (2003). Retrieved February 19, 2004, from http://www.cnn.com/ 2003/TECH/ptech/02/13/text.messaging.ap.

Text messaging "boosts creativity." Ananova (n.d.). Retrieved March 23, 2004, from http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm­_428305.html.

Text Messaging Abbreviations. JupiterMedia (2004). Retrieved February 19, 2004, from http://www.webopedia.com/quick_ref/textmessageabbreviations.asp

Text Messaging Dictionary. SRT Communications (2001). Retrieved February 19, 2004, from http://www.srt.com/assets/pdf/wireless/textdictionary.pdf.

Text Messaging Shortcuts. Retrieved February 19, 2004, from http://www.swalk.com.

Txting heads for 1 billion a day. News.BBC (2001). Retrieved February 19, 2004, from http://news.bbc.co.uk/cbbcnews/hi/sci_tech/newsid_1600000/1600105.stm.

UK will send 23 billion text messages this year. Ananova (n.d.). Retrieved March 23, 2004, from http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_858377.html?menu=news.technology.mobilephones.

Wilbur, S. T. (1996). An arcaeology of cyberspace: virtuality, community, identity. In D. Porter (Ed.), Internet Culture (pp. 5-22). New York: Routledge.



[2] Random House Text Me: Everything you need to know about text messaging.                                                  

Gabrielle Mander Wan2tlk? Lil Bk of Txt Msgs

[3] ttyl (Talk to You Later) by Lauren Myracle

   
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