People think that the written language seen on mobile phone screens is new and alien, but all the popular beliefs about texting are wrong. Its graphic distinctiveness is not a new phenomenon, nor is its use restricted to the young. There is increasing evidence that it helps rather than hinders literacy. And only a very tiny part of it uses a distinctive orthography. A trillion text messages might seem a lot, but when we set these alongside the multi-trillion instances of standard orthography in everyday life, they appear as no more than a few ripples on the surface of the sea of language. Texting has added a new dimension to language use, but its long-term impact is negligible. It is not a disaster.
Although many texters enjoy breaking linguistic rules, they also know they need to be understood. There is no point in paying to send a message if it breaks so many rules that it ceases to be intelligible. When messages are longer, containing more information, the amount of standard orthography increases. Many texters alter just the grammatical words (such as “you” and “be”). As older and more conservative language users have begun to text, an even more standardised style has appeared. Some texters refuse to depart at all from traditional orthography. And conventional spelling and punctuation is the norm when institutions send out information messages, as in this university text to students: “Weather Alert! No classes today due to snow storm”, or in the texts which radio listeners are invited to send in to programmes. These institutional messages now form the majority of texts in cyberspace – and several organisations forbid the use of abbreviations, knowing that many readers will not understand them. Bad textiquette.
Admittedly, it did take me some time to learn how to use predictive texting (taught, predictably enough, by one of my own teenagers), and it took me longer still to bite down on the fact that hours of toggling the nodules meant that I could touch-text, something I’ve never achieved with the conceptually more difficult qwerty keyboard. But I like texting as much as the next kidult – and embrace it as yet more evidence, along with email, that we live now in the post-aural age, when an unsolicited phonecall is, thankfully, becoming more and more understood to be an unspeakable social solecism, tantamount to an impertinent invasion of privacy.
We pedants are supposed to hate texting, but we don’t. We are in love with effective communication, and there’s nothing more effective than sending a message direct from your phone to someone else’s, sometimes from the hairdresser’s (which I mention for a reason). “I CANT BELIEVE U PUT APOSTROPHE IN HAIRDRESSERS,” a friend texted me recently (he obviously had a bit of time on his hands, too). “Oh, I felt the apostrophe was required,” I texted back, happily – in both upper and lower case, with regular spacing, and a comma after “Oh”.
Postato da: IM