Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Txt spk gr8t for splling lol

The debate is over. The British Academy published a report today on a longitudinal research project which looked at children's phonological ability and their use of texts.

There were two amusing parts to this:
a) John Humphrys on the Today programme reciting this piece of doggerel:
Mary had a mobile.
She texted day and night.
But when it came to her exams
She'd forgotten how to write

He didn't know the source, but he also quotes it in this Daily Mail article from two years ago about why he hates text speak.

b) the fact that in the web announcement/ press release the British Academy felt the need to gloss all the text speak they used so that the older generation would understand. I mean, come off it, who doesn't know that xxxx is 4 kisses? (That's the number four, not the word 'for'.)

The general line goes like this: using text abbreviations is for people who don't know how to spell, and you get out of the habit of using correct spelling and punctuation and then in your GCSEs you accidentally use text language, not because you don't know better but because you're used to using the other. Well, says this report, actually children (and we're talking about under 10s here) who can manipulate text speak have a higher phonological awareness, which makes sense if you think about the fact that they are replacing sounds with appropriate symbols other than the letter combinations usually used. The researchers who compiled the report point out that this is the natural extension of the current emphasis on phonetics and phonology in teaching children to read.

But I'm afraid this isn't carte blanche. For starters, the report also shows that there is a negative correlation between mobile use and literacy ability: ie high levels of use are associated with lower literacy attainment. This isn't as contradictory as it sounds; it's the sophistication, not the quantity. Secondly, it only applies to phonology. It doesn't apply to grammar or punctuation, which excuses and upholds my much-maligned tendency to use semi-colons in text messages.

But I'm afraid you have to be very confident that your approach counts as sophisticated: I've met more than one person who used a text abbreviation in an English essay because they genuinely thought that was how the English word was spelled.

Anyway, there you go. Child Language Acquisition and E-language in one small package. Now to reduce it to 144 characters....

gd @ txt = gd @ fonology, BritAcademy shw.

And space left over for a hundred kisses.

2 comments:

Carys said...

There's nowt wrong with semi-colons in text messages

Victoria Elliott said...

I heartily agree; I think that the semi-colon is the most under-used piece of punctuation in the English language, with the possible exception of the en-dash. I was merely pointing out that some people who shall remain nameless take the mick when I use them.