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  • On Spelling, Literacy, and the (Rapid) Evolution of the English Language

    Posted on September 13th, 2013 sarahann No comments

    Over the past few weeks, many of the in-class discussions have focused on the evolution of language and the decline of literacy, especially with respect to the rise of text messaging and email. One question that comes to mind is whether “textspeak” actually contributes to a decline in literacy. For example, is it detrimental to spell the word “you” merely as the letter “u”? Spelling is not the same thing as language. Spelling is simply a graphical representation of an idea.

    In a language such as English, with notoriously complicated grammar rules, it is important to remember that for every rule there are dozens of exceptions. How did these exceptions become rules? The history of the word “goodbye” comes to mind. This common farewell is a shortening of “God b’w’ye” (different sources provide different spellings), which is itself a contraction of the original phrase “God be with ye.”

    As I see it, language serves to convey ideas. The danger arises when students are not able to either express their own, or comprehend others’, ideas through language. If both “u” and “you” are understood to mean the same thing, then nothing is lost. Exchanging one spelling for another does not limit one’s range of expression.

        Of course, it is important to consider one’s audience when writing. It would be foolish to use textspeak in resume writing, but it might be perfectly appropriate to use when contacting a friend. However, with the evolution of both spelling and language, perhaps someday it will be the norm. And that might be ok.


    1 responses to “On Spelling, Literacy, and the (Rapid) Evolution of the English Language” RSS icon

    • I completely agree that the shortening of words in “textspeak” doesn’t reduce someones ability to convey a message, but I do find it detrimental to overall literacy. Students who use “textspeak” way more frequently than they use proper English become accustomed to the shorted language rules. Then, I think, it becomes harder for them to write papers, professional e-mails, cover letters, ect. that require a more proper form of English. I don’t think that the shortened Twitter version of language should become the norm across all forms of communication. I just can’t wrap my head around the idea that my kid one day could write an e-mail to a Professor that says “C u in ur office at 2” and that would be acceptable. Maybe that just means I am being obstinate to change but I hope that traditional English doesn’t die off for this new abbreviated form.

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