January 14, 2009

Texting: Gud r bd?

I was born in 1989 in the generation where the Internet has grown up with me. This new avenue of total connectivity is something that is a part of my life and I can't seem to think of a life without it. I'm connected to others every single minute of my life, either with my mobile phone or home PC. This change is something that can't be ignored. It's a part of our lives just as the car has become inseparable from modern life.

This affects many things: productivity, efficiency, laziness, new paradigms, fears and languages. A new form of written English is arising within our midst: textlish. Or whatever clever portmanteau writers come up with. It is a language that is written by teens and young adults all over the world and it originated by shortening text messages.
A quick example:
"Hw r u 2day?"

Many traditionalists quickly stamps this as "bad" English and describes it as a downfall of modern English.
However, I'd like to differ and see another side of this new change. You might blame me for being a part of this demographic and I'm merely defending it, which is partly true, but I'm only going to give you the other side of the coin.

Many linguistics will tell you that there is no such as a "primitive" language or bad language, as language itself is born out of rules and is an innate ability within all humans. Noam Chomsky laid out this theory and called it Universal Grammar. It doesn't matter how you look at a language and how chaotic it seems, it is still governed by rules.
A good example of ridiculous language typification as that which is often seen where the language or dialect of the oppressor or minority is a bad form of the language. In South Africa, this was the very case during Apartheid.

The language spoken by the leading party at the time was Afrikaans, however in certain areas of the country and different form or Afrikaans was spoken by coloured people called "Kaapse Afrikaans". It borrowed lots of English words and dropped morphemes and all such chaotic nonsense. However after studying the language it was found that it had rules and regulations like all dialects and languages.

So what I'm getting at is that Textlish also has rules and is actually more context based than modern English, similar to Mandarin. An example in Afrikaans texting is the abbreviation "j". This could me "jy" (you) or "jou" (your). It depends where in context this abbreviation is used. It often drops strategic vowels in words that have more than one vowel, so that the word is still discernible.
In example:
"strtgic" - strategic
It also drops vowels and consonants if they are doubled:
"stutr" - stutter
"gud" - good
In the latter example a replacement for the "oo" sound is "u", which is another rule that somehow managed to arise to discern the abbreviated good, "gud" from "god".

So this is just some of the few examples of how rule bound Textlish is.
However, here is the negative side of this new found change in written English. When you have to deal with professional matters or writing an essay where standard English is involved, Textlish must stay away at all costs. This is perhaps the fear that is in the back of all parents. "How will my child cope with this horrid language!?"

Hopefully all teens will realize there are boundaries to be set, just as I'm writing this article in standard English so that older and uninformed people can understand me. These boundaries are prevalent within all forms of life: kids playing video games and watching violence on television should distinguish between fiction and reality. So the concern of parents are valid, however instead of totally going haywire over fears, inform your child of the distinction.

Textlish should remain on mobile phones and instant messaging programs where the use of is it is a necessity for comfort and efficiency. However, I personally think that if you have the time to write in normal words, there is no need to abbreviate.

So, in conclusion, Textlish is not a bad form of English; a bad influence? Perhaps. Let's hope the future shows us that children know where to draw the line.

C u l8r.

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