Iz txt spk bad 4 U?: The relationship between text messaging and English grammar skills

Texting, techspeak, and tweens: The relationship between text messaging and English grammar skills

From New Media & Society

Throughout the world, cell phones have become omnipresent in classrooms, cafeterias, and hallways. This boom in popularity has led to diverse uses by adolescents. A 2010 report by the Nielsen Company found that American adolescent teens send more text messages than any other age group. This has led to an evolution in grammar, the basis of which we shall call ‘techspeak.’ This dramatic rise in popularity has led parents and teachers to question the effect of using this technology on adolescents’ understanding of English grammar during a developmentally critical period of language-skills acquisition. There is much debate among leaders in education, teachers, and parents as to the effects of techspeak on the grammar and writing skills of adolescents in the classroom setting.

This study considers if there is a causal link between text messaging adaptations and adolescent grammar. A survey was conducted to test the association between text message usage of students and their scores on an offline, age-appropriate grammar assessment test. The results of this study lend support to a general negative relationship between text messaging and adolescent grammar skills. The findings have many implications, especially in the classroom. Adolescents should be educated to understand the differences between techspeak and standard English grammar, recognizing that there is a time and a place for both forms of communication. It is impossible to stop techspeak entirely; indeed, it is a very useful form of communication when confined to places where formality takes a backseat to efficiency and speed. The study concludes that electronic technology usage for the purposes of teaching should be monitored to ensure that this does not allow adolescents to further habituate to using techspeak in the classroom.

Abstract

 

The perpetual use of mobile devices by adolescents has fueled a culture of text messaging, with abbreviations and grammatical shortcuts, thus raising the following question in the minds of parents and teachers: Does increased use of text messaging engender greater reliance on such ‘textual adaptations’ to the point of altering one’s sense of written grammar?

A survey (N = 228) was conducted to test the association between text message usage of sixth, seventh and eighth grade students and their scores on an offline, age-appropriate grammar assessment test. Results show broad support for a general negative relationship between the use of techspeak in text messages and scores on a grammar assessment, with implications for Social Cognitive Theory and Low-Road/High-Road Theory of Transfer of Learning. These results indicate that adolescents may learn through observation in communication technologies, and that these learned adaptations may be transferred to standard English through Low-Road transfer of learning. Further mediation analyses suggest that not all forms of textual adaptation are related to grammar assessment score in the same way. ‘Word adaptations’ were found to be negatively related to grammar scores, while ‘structural adaptations’ were found to be non-significant.

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Article details
Drew P. Cingel, & S. Shyam Sundar (2012). Texting, techspeak, and tweens: The relationship between text messaging and English grammar skills New Media & Society : 10.1177/1461444812442927

     
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