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TEXTING SHORTHAND GR8s ON PURISTS, BUT IT HAS ITS CHARMS

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If и cn rEd tits, ur doin gr8

It is the newest variant of English, a compressed jumble of letters and numbers that has emerged in recent years as the language of the tele-telephone text message driven by the young.

Quick, inventive and utilitarian, it is a minimalist form of the language that some linguists call ir­relevant and many schoolteachers say is an insult to its mother tongue.

But with more than a trillion text messages sent every year it is impos­sible to ignore. Fatalists say there is no keeping Text Speak from insinuat­ing itself into the language at large.

Texting is pure communication, pragmatic and brief, a facsimile of the sounds of English cut loose from the roots and history of the language.

It has produced its own vo­cabulary of acronyms, homonyms and abbreviations, things like LOL (laughing out loud), WYGOWM (will you go out with me), SUP (what’s up) and CUL8R (see you later) that have, in their own context, become new English words.

The vocabulary of text messag­ing realizes an old lexicographical dream — attempted and failed at by luminaries like George Bernard Shaw — the realignment of spelling with sound. No more rough, trough, thought, through — just ruf, trof, thot, thru. New conventions in spell­ing have emerged, like the use of a capital letter to denote a long vowel: ths is EzE to rEd.

The question is whether this new lingo is anything but a curiosity.

The Internet is changing everything from a linguistic point of view,” said David Crystal, author of “English as a Global Language.” For example, it has already produced blogging — the unfiltered personal essays that are filling the Internet.

Crystal adds that telephone text messaging has evolved purely as a re­sponse to a technological restraint. That restraint is the little screen on a mobile telephone where in Crystal’s opinion texting would remain, leaving little imprint on the language at large.

But there is evidence that some spellings are leaking out into broader use. Last November, the Scottish Qualifications Authority, which sets standards for the testing of students, said phrases like 2B R NT 2B and I LUV U would be ac­ceptable in exam papers.

Also last year, education offi­cials in New Zealand said they might accept some abbreviations like WOT or WANNA or CU2 on examinations. There was, of course, a backlash. Newspapers called the Scottish proposal ridiculous.

Denis Pyatt, linguist, thinks text messaging is another wonderful ex­ample of how language grows, and how language change cannot be stopped.

Even the British Council, one of the arbiters of the international use of English, seems to be giving ground. Its Web site offers a lesson plan for Valentine’s Day that lets students “create their own romantic text message in English.”

This bastion of the Queen’s English offered a couple of sugges­tions: WUBMV, it said — Will you be my Valentine?

And xoxoxoxoxo — hugs and kisses.

Adapted from Seth Mvdans. International Herald Tribune

 

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Читайте в этой же книге: Part Three | Vocabulary Notes | COMMUNING THROUGH CLEANING | Герои своего времени | THE LANGUAGE WE SPEAK SHAPES HOW WE THINK | TEXT XVI | Cultural References | TEXT XVII | Самый близкий язык к Богу | ACROSS ALL CULTURES, ENGLISH SAYS IT ALL |
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TEXT XIX| Vocabulary

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