Multiliteracies in ELA Classrooms

Changing Language Over Time and Text

July 15th, 2014 · 1 Comment

One of the topics of discussion this past week was whether texting and instant messaging are in fact abominations of the English language and have no place in schools or whether they are valuable forms of literacy. While I don’t think the articles by Carrington and Baron intended to completely disregard instant messaging culture, they made it very clear that this type of literacy is not the dominant form and should not be the dominant form. I would argue, however, that texting, messaging and even some form of e-mails are already the dominant way of communicating for young adults and adolescents. Baron references a traditional ideology stating, “if some traditionalists are correct, we must take swift action now, before these children are reduced to marginal literacy” (pg. 29). I do not feel that the author agrees with this sentiment entirely but there still is anxiety surrounding the possible loss of traditional literacy. There is also the suggestion that adolescent literature, which consists of these instant forms of communication and perhaps the genre of YA fiction, is not formal enough (pg. 31).

My question then is who makes the rules about language? Who says a text is not formal enough and why does it have to be formal? We know that language is always changing with new words being created daily. Some of them fall into habit (twerking, irregardless, selfie etc.) and some don’t. Not one person, or small group of people, control the use or misuse of English. Today perhaps more so than any other time in history, evolution of language is happening at a faster and more prolific pace simply because of the tools of instant communication we have so readily available to us. Those who are afraid of this change in language should be reminded of the changes English has undergone throughout its history. We are very far away from English as it was spoken in Shakespeare’s time and we will continue to evolve in the near future.

Finally, to return to the idea that texting is already the dominant form of written language for many young individuals my point is confirmed by the fear that “recreational use of texting may ultimately lead to addictions and a lowering of an individual’s ability to shift between text types according to social context—that increasing mastery and use of text ipso facto lead to withering skills around other text forms embraced within the parameters of Standard English (Carrington pg. 167) If we are concerned with individuals becoming addicted to this form of writing does that not mean that it is heavily influencing young minds and is a dominant force in their consciousness? I do know young individuals that struggle with the difference between conversational register and formal register just like many young people did before the instant messaging revolution. This does not mean that the bright minds of the next generation will confuse texting with academic work.

Carrington, V. (2005). Txting: The end of civilization (again)? Cambridge Journal of Education, 35(2), 161-175. doi:10.1080/03057640500146799

Baron, N. (2005). Instant messaging and the future of language. NEW YORK: ACM. doi:10.1145/1070838.1070860

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1 response so far ↓

  • afenn // Jul 15th 2014 at 9:30 pm

    I agree with your post on many levels. Texting and emailing are common forms of communication amongst young people, yet this is not necessarily a bad thing. Language, like all things must adapt and change over time. Although the next generation may use more abbreviations and altered phrases during communication, this does no correlate to less intelligence. Fluency in this new form of informal communication can actually be viewed as a great asset in many respects. For instance, many businesses have social media sites where they need to relate and communicate with the online generation. One way to effectively do this is through using the same language. Competency in online and informal language can be an excellent way to reach a particular audience. Another concern addressed in the article you critiqued revolved around the idea that the next generation will confuse texting with academic work. Similarly to you, I do not think that the next generation is confused in the slightest. Alternatively, more and more schools and teachers are creating online environments for students to explore and showcase their savvy through texting and online messages. Fluency in this type of language if often viewed positively. However, this is not to say that academic writing is devalued, it is simply another avenue that allows students to show their abilities. Students are still writing essays and responding to writing prompts using correct grammar and sentence structure. Texting has not diminished this practice. Texting has simply allowed a generation to communicate with one another on a level they feel comfortable with and this allows them agency within their environments. I agree with the questions you pose, “My question then is who makes the rules about language? Who says a text is not formal enough and why does it have to be formal?” Communication and language is a form of expression as much or more than simply proper grammar and sentence structure. Language is something that should be shaped and augmented for the purposes of the users.
    A. Fenn

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