Twelve-year-old Mia Schuemaker, of Riverside, sends a text to a friend. Picture: PHILLIP BIGGSTEXT messaging and social media lingo cannot be blamed for bad spelling and grammatical errors.
Parents have raised concerns that mobile phone texting could ruin a child’s ability to spell, and impact on their understanding of grammar, including word structure, capitalisation, punctuation and use of apostrophes.
A study jointly led by University of Tasmania language psychologist Professor Nenagh Kemp and a fellow leader in the field from Coventry University in the UK, Clare Wood, gathered data over five years to see whether texting or “textism” had destroyed the English language.
Professor Kemp said the research clearly showed that it was not ruining spelling or grammar ability, and in some cases was actually doing the opposite.
“Sometimes we found a positive relationship, especially with younger children, where the ones who made the most grammatical errors in text messages performed better in grammatical texts,” Professor Kemp said.
“We asked about 250 primary, high school and university students to provide us with samples of their recent text messages and then we gave them formal spelling and grammar tests. A year later we came back to those same people and repeated the process.”
Professor Kemp said people deliberately made grammatical errors while texting or on Facebook to find shortcuts in communication.
She said this tech-language, including emoticons, was a new form of expression, used not just by children but also adults.
“They are working out the best ways in which they can miss out words so their friends can still understand what they mean,” she said.
“Some kids, who might not have been interested in writing at all, are actually being forced to engage with writing and it is giving them more practice.
“If you asked, `would you write like this in your school work?’ most kids would laugh and say no.
“Rather than detracting from their standard writing skills, it is an added skill; a third form of language. So you have normal speech, formal writing and this written speech where you add facial expressions and don’t worry about capitals or apostrophes.”
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