Saturday, April 10, 2010

more evidence

that texting is winning the battle. I have pointed out, in the past, that people use their cell phones more for texting than for calling. This trend has increased, though I have no statistics to bear it out. My present evidence is entirely anecdotal.

1. A friend of mine, in roughly the same generation, seen recently trying to text and walk at the same time, explaining that her children only text but that they needed to communicate nonetheless; I was jealous, in the sense that I still don't even know how to use my cell phone to text.

2. A relative, having unlimited texting on a plan, got a bill at the end of the month with 11,000 texts on it. An ordinary California teenager, not trying to set records or anything, just using what was available.

OK so these are entirely anecdotal. I'm beginning to lose touch with the media, but I can say this much: we should respond to this trend. By "we" I mean, primarily, linguists, academics, those who study human communication and culture. It's a profound change, and it will have many implications.

First, what people do and use is what establishes the records and patterns for the future. The business of life is being done by text. It is still English but with an entirely different way of spelling and appearance; it's an informal register. It may be seen as vile by some, but it's just a tool, like any other language. And it's winning.

Second, its patterns have a lot to teach us. How do people establish words? Where do the emoticons come from? How do we know what is accepted or in use nationwide or in many different environments? Lots is happening here, and I'm sure linguists and other academics are at least watching. But if nobody is documenting, a lot of information will be lost in the "formative years"...

Third, the shift over to writing throws a whole system into a different balance. The traditional relationship of writing to speaking will not continue to be the same; this has profound implications for the way we understand language and understand the oral language to be "first" is still first, in some ways; we especially in the older generation are more likely to consider language to be "something to help us talk to each other"....hopelessly outdated, maybe.

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