Mighty Red Pen

July 6, 2008

The end of grammar as we know it

Filed under: Word wars,Wordsworthy — mighty red pen @ 7:45 pm
Tags: , ,

Oh, here’s an article I read the other day I keep meaning to share: “Is Language Dead or Evolving?” It has the best first line I’ve seen in a while:

“Doomsday grammarians are not in the mood to LOL.”

We’ve covered this topic before on MRP but it’s always interesting to hear what the harbingers of the Four Grammarians of the Apostrophocalypse are up to these days. This article explores a study that disputes another study that says that language is going to hell in a handbasket because of txt-speak.

A growing body of research shows electronic communications channels like instant messaging have created a kind of semi-speech – language that is between talking and writing. Some say it is evidence of evolution, not of decay.

“Languages are always changing, and that’s a fact that language snobs need to get over and accept – because the only language that doesn’t change is a dead language, like Latin,” said Derek Denis, a graduate student in linguistics at the University of Toronto. This spring, he coauthored a study comparing the way teens speak and chat online. It was published in the journal American Speech.

Denis’s study, “Linguistic Ruin? LOL! Instant Messaging and Teen Language,” followed the online and spoken conversations of 71 Canadian teens over three years, tracking about one million IM words and 250,000 spoken words.

Contrary to the view that abbreviations and cute emoticons are at the radical edge of English language, the researchers found that the hybrid of written and spoken language is actually more conservative than speech alone.

Read more.

4 Comments »

  1. A reply reading “that was funny, you made me laugh” doesn’t really get the feeling across as much as a well-placed “LOL”, does it?

    Comment by tk. — July 7, 2008 @ 1:59 pm | Reply

  2. One trouble with the claim that text messaging or kids today are ruining grammar is that no evidence it assumes we know what an unruined language looks like, what a ruined language looks like, and how to measure ruination. It assumes we know a lot more about language than we currently do.

    Comment by goofy — July 7, 2008 @ 3:22 pm | Reply

  3. let’s try that again…
    One trouble with the claim that text messaging or kids today are ruining grammar is that it assumes we know what an unruined language looks like, what a ruined language looks like, and how to measure ruination. It assumes we know a lot more about language than we currently do.

    Comment by goofy — July 7, 2008 @ 3:23 pm | Reply

  4. A sensible article on texting by David Crystal:

    http://books.guardian.co.uk/departments/referenceandlanguages/story/0,,2289259,00.html

    “Children could not be good at texting if they had not already developed considerable literacy awareness. Before you can write and play with abbreviated forms, you need to have a sense of how the sounds of your language relate to the letters. You need to know that there are such things as alternative spellings. If you are aware that your texting behaviour is different, you must have already intuited that there is such a thing as a standard…”

    Comment by goofy — July 9, 2008 @ 8:39 am | Reply


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