Saturday, May 17, 2008

Electronic renaissance

Thanks to Mr G for this one; it's a report about research into instant messaging, a blended mode of communication like text language that's somewhere between spoken and written. Parents, teachers and prescriptivists have long been concerned that this sort of electronic communication will lead to falling literacy standards, poor spelling and sloppy communication. But as the report in New Scientist tells us, this panic seems unjustified: young people seem to be much more standard in their IM language than might have been expected. They use fewer abbreviations than the stereotype of lazy teens might suggest: LOL, TTYL, KMT, OMG only making up 2.4% of the vocabulary studied.

Perhaps this shouldn't really come as a great surprise. As we've studied in the Language Change topic, many prescriptive views about falling standards have little basis in fact and have been floating around for centuries in one form or another. Have a look at Julie Blake's excellent Bilious Pigeon article in emagazine for a survey of such attitudes and how they're often founded in prejudice and snobbery.

So, as one of the Toronto University researchers puts it, IMing is "an expansive new linguistic renaissance" rather than a slide into illiteracy, short attention spans and moral depravity.

Useful for:
ENA5 - Language Change
ENGA1 (next year's AS spec) - Language and Mode

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