Is texting killing the English language?

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Is texting killing the English language?

Anne Trubek recently made the controversial assertion in Wired magazine that texting culture is not harming the English language, but helping it to evolve, and that such evolutions are normal. As she points out, it wasn’t until the enlightenment that the idea of precise spelling became standard anyway. (Tell that to the kids carrying around dictionaries the size of tackle boxes in Spellbound, the documentary about the National Spelling Bee.) Printed language precision is a feature of print culture, and as a critical mass became literate the need for standards and norms for how oral words appeared in a printed page became apparent. This didn’t happen until, believe it or not, the 18th century. There’s even variants in the way William Shakespeare (Shakespear? Shakespere?) wrote his own name.

As we move forward into a new world where screens constrict writing space, the need for more efficient ways to express ourselves will change how we compose words. As it has before, language will evolve.

R U w/ me?

Cue literati wailing.

For the record, I like it both ways. Obviously my words in this space confirm my training and socio-cultural literate heritage. I recognize the power and value of print. There’s no better illustration of a communication medium’s presence in culture than through the art the culture creates, and I as much as anyone love a well-composed sentence. Good writing is art. Yet I advocate the need to assimilate new technology. Fighting changes in communication systems is a losing game. And, I love film and video, and the ability of the image to capture meaning. I am both a text and an image guy. So, while I am not sure I am completely on board with Trubek’s fascination with texting language, I agree with her underlying premise that language evolves, whether we like it or not. Communication systems, as much as we try to pretend otherwise, are not static.

Why does this matter? If communication systems are simply a tool for an “unchanging message” then perhaps it doesn’t. But what if the means we use to communicate change the meaning of what we communicate? What if our systems form our thinking? This, my friends, is much more radical.

Do you think technology is changing how we communicate? How?