• Revista Speak Up Digital
  • Revista Speak Up Digital


Dedicado a todos aqueles que combatem o texto em SMS, julgando-o um inimigo mortal da ortografia. Não é verdade, afirma David Crystal. Siglas e abreviações sempre existiram, não são marca de ignorância, e até revelam conhecimento. Além disso, podem se tranquilizar, porque já está saindo de moda... by Mark Worden


In this final instalment of his talks on the English language, David Crystal discusses his book Txtng – The gr8 db8, in which he defends text messaging against the accusation that it is destroying the English language:

David Crystal (Standard British accent)
The reasons why people objected to texting and said things like, “Text messengers are causing deterioration in language” – same thing happened in any language that used text messaging – “They’re filling their messages full of abbreviations and they are introducing newfangled abbreviations and nobody knows how to spell any more!” And this was all a huge myth because text abbreviations were never more than about 10 per cent of the words in a text message, anyway. Most of the abbreviations were not new, they’d been in the language before: you know, an abbreviation like the letter c for the word see (s-e-e) isn’t a modern phenomenon, it’s been in English for over 100 years. And, certainly, text messengers knew how to spell because, if it’s cool to leave letters out, you’ve got to know that the letters are there in the first place, in order to leave them out! And it turns out that the best texters are in fact the best spellers, and texting does improve literacy skills , rather than causes them to deteriorate.


Now, all of this happened in the early 2000s. It was a novelty, all the young people in particular, although it was never exclusively a young person’s phenomenon. All the young people thought this was the coolest thing ever, to put all these abbreviations in. Ten years on, and they’re going out of fashion. I was in a school just the other day with a group of sixth formers, that’s kids aged round about 17, 16, 17, one of the things we did was we collected a lot of their text messages, to analyse them: there were no abbreviations there at all! I said to the kids: “Where are your abbreviations?” and they looked at me and said “Oh, we used to do that when we were young,” they said. They said, “It’s just not cool any more.” One kid said to me, “I stopped abbreviating when I realised my parents were starting to do so!” In other words, when the older generation takes on the younger person’s patterns , it ceases to be cool. And so, you know, text messaging in that distinctive sense seems to be on its way out . It’s probably a relatively brief period in language history that we’re talking about here.


So will the impact of texting on English be less than that of the Internet?

David Crystal
The impact of texting on the English language is minimal. If you mean: what features of text messaging language have actually become part of the English language as a whole? The answer is: Well, none really! Well, OK, one or two examples, like LOL, meaning “ Laughing Out Loud ,” which was a texting abbreviation. You will now hear that in the speech of young people, and it’s actually got into the dictionary, but that’s just one example. You know, think of a second or a third, and you find it really rather difficult. The question of the Internet as a whole, you see, even that hasn’t had that much impact on the English language or, you know, on the Italian language or the German language or whatever. And if you think about it, what new grammar has come into English as a result of the Internet? You know, there’s just none. We’re using the same kinds of syntax, the same kinds of word endings that we were doing 30 years ago. Just because they’re on the Internet, the sentences might be a bit shorter, for example, but that’s just a stylistic thing, it’s not a novelty. One asks about vocabulary, what new words have come into the English language as a result of the Internet? And, of course, there have been several words like blog and tweet and all of these, but, if you add them all up, you’re not going to get more than a couple of thousand or so, maybe even as many as 5,000, which people say, “That’s a lot!” No, it isn’t a lot! That’s a drop in the ocean! With a vocabulary of a language over a million, what’s another 5,000? You know, it’s not a radical change in English that’s resulted from the Internet.

The only area of the Internet which has had a noticeable impact is in orthography, where punctuation has been affected, and capitalisation and spelling, to some extent. One notices it straightaway : you can receive an email with no punctuation marks in it at all. It doesn’t affect the meaning, you don’t need punctuation most of the time for clear meaning. And there is this minimalism in punctuation, which you notice. There is also a maximalism, an exaggerated use of punctuation you see on the Internet, which is novel. You know, somebody saying, “Fantastic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” and putting in 20 exclamation marks after it because it’s just so easy to do now; just keep the exclamation key pressed down, and it just comes out. So, you do see novelty in orthography, but at the same time, when you look at these strange uses of punctuation, or perhaps I should say “novel uses of punctuation,” in social networking, on Facebook and YouTube and the like, and then you compare it with the Internet as a whole, with the worldwide web, where the vast majority of pages are in absolutely standard punctuation, you realise that, actually, not that much has changed.