Мосієнко Ю.О. Texting in English: modern trends and tendencies

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Мосієнко Юлія Олегівна – студентка Педагогічного інституту Київського університету імені Бориса Грінченка, напрям підготовки «Початкова освіта», кафедра іноземних мов і методик їх навчання Київського університету імені Бориса Грінченка

У статті досліджується поняття смс-мови, розглядається специфіка її формулювання на прикладі англійської мови. Автор аналізує сучасні тенденції смс-мови, переваги та недоліки її використання, на основі наукових досліджень та практичного досвіду різних країн. У статті виокремлено прийоми щодо використання смс-мови та подано приклади найуживаніших мовних одиниць.

Ключові слова: смс-повідомлення, смс-мова, сленг, емотікони.

В статье рассматривается понятие смс-языка, анализируется специфика его формулирования на примере английского языка. Автор изучает современные тенденции смс-языка, преимущества и недостатки его использования, на основе научных исследований и практического опыта различных стран. В статье выделены приемы по использованию смс-языка и поданы примеры наиболее употребляемых языковых единиц.

Ключевые слова: смс-сообщения, смс-язык, сленг, эмотиконы.

This article examines the notion of SMS language or textese, specifics of its formulation in the English language. Advantages and disadvantages in using textese, scientists’ and linguists’ opinions about this issue are describes. The author highlights the main rules and tricks in using SMS language.

Key words: SMS, slang, textese, emoticons, abbreviations.


Problem formulation

We live in the 21 century when everyone is in a hurry. Young people try to short everything, so Short Message Service (SMS) has become an integral part of communication in many countries today. That’s why SMS slang appeared [8].

Cell phones are becoming a modern day necessity, they are a “must have” for every teenager and adult. Human beings are growing increasingly attached to these devices, depending on them more and more while communicating with other people, performing job duties, and other daily routine. SMS texting in mobile phones has been seen an unprecedented growth in the field of communication since its introduction in the 1980s and has become extremely common among young people all over the world [13]. But lately it has got a mainstream use by every ages or professions; you can see it in friendly communication and even in formal language. Lots of scientists think that it may be a fresh approach for usual and stereotype language rules and SMS slang is like a weapon against correctness of aristocratic society [1]. Others say that it’s a disaster and people don’t have to use it. So, is it good or bad? Our article is dedicated to this question.

Studying this material is interesting and necessary in some way because it's like a “language in language” which is becoming more and more widely used every day. That's why not just linguists, but also sociologists, psychologists and teachers have to be interested in doing some researches according to this issue. So, it highlights the actuality of this work more and yet more.

Analysis of recent achievements and publications

SMS slang is examined by such scientists: Plester Beverly, Gillian Perrett; linguists: David Crystal, Kristy Freudenberg, John Humphrys, Richard Ling, Helen J. Watt; journalists: Pullum K. Geoffrey, Lily Huang, John Humphrys, Alex Jude,Aidan Radnedge, Crispin Thurlow.

The objective of the article

SMS language is a figure of speech, widely used in films, newspapers and journalistic texts. But this figure of speech is still poorly understood and it has not found its place in textbooks on rhetoric.

It is likely that learners of English as a second language who don’t know SMS language have to spent hours examining its specific. Yet, there are very few studies which describe seriously into the issue of social identity and SMS.

The objective of the article is to find general features of texting in English. Analyzing educational literature and publications in the field of SMS slang we try to highlight following top-priority goals: 1) analyze modern trends and tendencies in the English texting language; 2) define the place of SMS slang in the modern language; 3) find out advantages and disadvantages of textese appearance in the modern English language.

The statement of the fundamental material

Text messaging is an interesting example of how English can be creatively used today. To the older generation, the language of SMS may be difficult, or even impossible to understand, but younger people use it every day, creating new combinations and experimenting with words [12].

Due to the fact that the English language has many letters and numbers that sound like words or parts of words, the scope for substitution in text messaging is great. The main aim of texting is to reduce the number of characters used and so save time and perhaps money. In other words, texts should be “short and sweet”!

As a rule, all nonessential letters must be removed from words, leaving just enough to guess the intended meaning. Articles, prepositions, conjunctions and endings on words may also be omitted as long as the meaning of the sequence can still be inferred. Statement questions are also allowed where they would otherwise be considered ungrammatical [14]. To save time and energy texting slang words and abbreviations have come into play. According to the Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary slang is defined as «very informal words and expressions that are more common in spoken language». SMS text is an amalgam of actual words, acronyms, abbreviations, short forms and emoticons such as, «smiles». A shortened version of a single word can be formed through many process of truncation, omission of letters, or substitution of chunks of consecutive letters in a word with a shorter chunk of consecutive characters that are phonetically equivalent [9]. The problem is that there are so many slang words and abbreviations in the modern English language and if you don't know them all, you might think someone is speaking a foreign language. We would like to show you some examples:

Number homophones: 4 (B4, 4ever, gud 4 u); 2 (2moro, 2day, me 2, face2face); 1 (NO1); letter homophones: B (b there); C (c u l8er, going 2 c 2moro); N (rock’n’roll, u n me, y n u (yes, and you?)); R (r u ok (are you ok?), wer r u (where are you?); U (luv u, n u (and you); acronyms and initialisms (formed from initial letters of various words): LOL (laugh out loud), btw (by the way), ROLF (rolling on the floor laughing), IMO (in my opinion), IMHO (in my humble opinion), asap (as soon as possible), B4N (bye for now), HAND (have a nice day), XOXO (hugs and kisses), Bf (boyfriend), Gf (girlfriend); non-conventional spellings: nite (night); contractions (deletion of middle letters) : "nxt" (next); g-clippings (excluding the end -g letter) : goin (going); symbols: @ (c u @7 (see you at 7), luk @ dis (look at this), @wrk all wk (at work all weekend), *$ (Starbucks) [2], [15].

During the construction of text messages, only exclamation marks and full stops are generally used. Emoticons convey emotions and represent human facial expressions. Examples include: :-) indicates a smile or happiness; :-/ indicates skepticism; :-( indicates sadness or a frown.

Although there are numerous resources that explain the adaptation of the English texting language. The website Transl8it! [1] is an example of a resource that can be used to translate English into SMS language, and vice versa. According to the researchers' knowledge, there are no resources available that provide this function in other's languages.

With the increased use of new technologies such as laptop computers, tablets, and mobile phones, the texting language has become very popular, but media and scholars have voiced their concern about the English language being overwhelmed by SMS language. The educators were of the opinion that SMS language is negatively influencing the written language skills in English as Home Language. The negative influence is perceived to lead to poor grades and a diminished knowledge of correct Standard English. This perceived influence can be described according to its perceived nature and degree. Furthermore, punctuation is also perceived to be influenced. The incorrect use of full stops, commas and exclamation marks are encountered the most in learners' written language tasks [2].

John Humphrys argued that texters are "vandals who are doing to our language what Genghis Khan did to his neighbours 800 years ago. They are destroying it: pillaging our punctuation; savaging our sentences; raping our vocabulary. And they must be stopped" [6]. As a new variety of language, texting has been condemned as "textese", "slanguage", a "digital virus". According to John Sutherland of University College London, writing in this paper in 2002, it is "bleak, bald, sad shorthand. Drab shrinktalk ... Linguistically it's all pig's ear ... it masks dyslexia, poor spelling and mental laziness. Texting is penmanship for illiterates" [3]. Baroness Greenfield, the scientist, is worried that sending text messages may cause young people to have shorter attention spans [4].

Teachers are usually intolerant to texting language. They claim using symbols and abbreviated words or sentences in order to save space and time distorts the students' ability to express themselves eloquently through writing, and it distorts their ability to use words appropriately in context. There have been many reports about poor punctuation, bad grammar and inappropriate abbreviations in exams and papers. Students sometimes do not realize they are using chat speak in their academic [11].

Experts say that children write more these days than they did 20 years ago, because of texting and social media. Most of that writing, however, is in text-speak, and that form of language becomes a bad habit. Students are now so used to write in text-speaking style that they can’t easily remember (or apply) proper language rules.

Many people argue against the use and or acceptance of “text speak”, say, that it encourages people to be lazy, destroys or diminishes peoples understanding of punctuation and grammar and results in the younger generation actually speaking that way in everyday conversation. Employers have also raised serious concerns over this due to the fact that they are seeing text language being used in job applications and sometimes even creeping into email and other communications to clients.

On the bright side, some educators think that whatever can get students to write is a positive influence. Indeed, the Internet and texting have made writing return to importance. Modern teenagers spend hours every day tapping out thousands of words. The generation of the 70s and 80s would spend hours on the telephone, instead [6].

Some people believe texting has no effect on Standard English whatsoever. They compare textese to some sort of modern jargon. Since every generation has its own jargon, and English grammar is still changing, the influence of chat speak on English grammar should not be exaggerated. Some say that it is a rite of passage for the younger generation, suggesting that it takes a good deal of literacy to grasp and a good deal of imagination to invent.

The English language is centuries old, if you take a look at Old English through Middle English, Early Modern English and present day Modern English you will see huge variations in grammar, punctuation and pronunciation. It has been used to construct some of the finest literature of the modern age but has it changed? The answer is yes, but not due to the text language – yet! [12]

It is worth remembering that many adults use this form of abbreviation, albeit to a lesser degree, in their daily personal digital communications while continuing to use the correct punctuation and grammar in their work lives.

One thing is for sure – this form of communication won’t go away with regards to the younger generation and the arguments both for and against will continue for some time for parents, teachers and employers [5].

Textese is used all over the world, so we would like to compare the way of word transformation. We made a research to find out the difference and similarity between the Ukrainian slang language and the English speaking counties slang language. In the Ukrainian language textese is also commonly used, but there are a lot differences in writing. So, we have asked a group of students about text messaging in Ukraine they said that often start writing a word and then miss out the last few letters once it is clear which word is intended. For example, using clipped words (“можл” instead of “можливо”, “дяк” instead of “дякую”, “лю” instead of “люблю”); writing Ukrainian words using Latin letters to save more space (pryvit, jak ty?, wo robyw?) ; using foreign textese, but translate them in own way ( IMHO - in my humble opinion, translates as you can't challenge my opinion); using foreign textese with keeping original sense (LOL laughing out loud (голосно сміюсь), ЗЫ (PS - Post Scriptum); missing hyphen and letter spacing (будьде, отот; яплакав); using foreign words (“shop” instead of “магазин”, “okay” instead of “добре”); congratulations (“З НР” instead of “З Новим Роком”, “З ДН” instead of “З Днем Народження”) [5]. Another trend is to use “4” instead of “Ч , “6” instead of “Ш”, but this seems to make little sense because it is a one for one character substitution and doesn’t reduce the number of spaces in the message [13].

According to research results the most “SMS addicted” countries are: Great Britain, German and Australia; to the contrary in Asia people use textese rarely.

Of course, first ones who “ring the alarm” were British scientists and psychologists. Newspapers and magazines were full of articles on that subject and even different methods how to cure of this “disease”. We want to present you some of the most interesting according to this topic.

American scientists from Kaiser Family Foundation organization are sure that there is a relation between excessive SMS activity and bad behavior. They say that teenagers sending lots of SMS and using textese frequently are more intent to alcohol, drugs and violence than their peers that don't use SMS communication so often [14].

In 2012 psychologists from England worked with Rhee Vordli, the 15 year-old girl who sent one hundred SMS per day. As a rule, it was meaningless information about the weather, jokes, funny situations, domestic cases. A young resident of Liverpool spent about $ 2,000 annual and had never left her phone. Specialists had worked with Rhee for a month till she has started to live a normal life.

In 2010 two professors from Coventry University in Britain found that 11-year-olds who used the most textese were actually better at spelling and writing. A command of texting seems to indicate a broader facility for language. And these students seem to switch easily between text messaging and Standard English.

This new form of language communicates the range of human experience. A poll of young Canadians found that 50 % had flirted via text messages. At the other extreme, a new service allows prayers to be texted to Israel, which are then printed out and inserted into the Western Wall. We suspect that both these experiences lose something in the technological translation [15].

We decided to do our own research to find out textese place in our casual life. The group of students was selected. We proposed them to answer the following questions: 1) How often do you use textese? 2) Why do you use it for? (to save time, you like it, it's funny, you've already used to use it) 3) What do you think about textese influence on standard language? 4) Do you think it's necessary to know all these clipped words?

According to research results we can divide these people into 3 groups: 1 – don't use it, pejorative opinion; 2 – rarely use it, neutral opinion; 3 – use it very often.

The first group (70%) uses it rarely, in the case of when the conversation is in such style or when they need to write something quickly and don't have enough time. They are sure that textese can't influence people, but it's horrible to the ear when someone uses it every time and in this case everything depends on human, how you perceive such words, you can ignore them or start to use by yourself. Students think that people don't need these words, they neither help nor disturb us. You may learn them for general development or know where you can find the meaning.

The second group (20%) uses it often, every day they communicate with friends using SMS language and are really fond of it. Students think that it's the way of saving time and as some of them are gamers, so, they have to use it while playing. They don't think that textese may have a bad influence on standard language, as it is used just in special occasions and they don't use it in the essays or homework. Also they say that everyone should know these words to prevent misunderstanding between people.

The third group (10%) is people with pejorative opinion about this, they don't use it at all and think that people who use it don't respect companion if they can't spend more than 15 seconds every time answering the question. Students think that the SMS language has a great influence on the standard language, because people forget normal rules of writing and start to use it in live conversations, too.

As we see, people have different opinion on this issue, but most of them think that it doesn't have any influence on the standard language, as the world changes every day and people find another, more easier for them way to communicate. As our parents spent all time talking on the phone we spend it texting nowadays.


We have analyzed modern trends and traditions in English texting language and found out that it differs from standard, has its own “rules”. SMS language plays a great role in modern life, people can’t avoid its influence on the language, but it won’t go away with regards to the younger generation and the arguments both for and against can’t be stopped.

According to the research results textese has lots of advantages and disadvantages but it's important to use it in a proper way. Public sentiments about using SMS slang are rather different, mostly according to their age. The youth use it often and think that it can't be harmful, it's like an integral part of our life. The adult think that it's unnecessary and we don't have to use it as it spoils traditional language. But, of course, there are a lot of elder people who use it with pleasure, especially abroad. And it’s becoming more popular in our country, too. So, according to the data, we have found out that mostly modern society has neutral position, because people accept the SMS slang as one of the stages of the modern world.

That’s why, we advise our students and everyone who use textese to differ situations when it can be used and when the textese isn't suitable.


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