With cell phones becoming the primary means of distance communication, text messages and instant messages are becoming almost a new written language of their own, according to University of Tasmania lecturer Nenagh Kemp.
Professor Kemp, a psychology lecturer who specializes in language use, nicknames the new language "Textese". She performed a study in which she assigned 55 of her undergraduate students to compose text messages in textese and in normal English and then to try to read their classmates compositions.
Textese is a language of abbreviations, based on Standard English. For example "How are you doing today? Want to go for a coffee later?" might translate to "hi HRU 2day? wnt2go 4 a cofy l8r?".
The study revealed interesting insight into this emerging language. The study indicated that textese was not ruining students' traditional spelling abilities. However, it did indicate that significant differences exist between English and textese. Traditional English takes longer to write, but is less ambiguous and quicker to read. Textese is ultra-speedy to write but takes a longer time to decipher and often is misread.
Professor Kemp states, "It's quicker to write in textisms, but when you go on to read it, it took people longer. As skilled adult readers, we're used to reading full words and sentences, so it is harder for us to decipher."
Fortunately, adult texters' literary skills appear to be intact despite criticism of the trend. However, Professor Kemp emphasizes that the focus of grammatical structure on understanding textese makes texting a tricky business.
Cautions Professor Kemp, "It's fine to use textese on a mobile phone, as it saves you time, but you have to make sure your reader understands it. And don't let it creep into your emails, student essays or job applications. Keep the boundaries."