With the increase in accessibility to talk and share with friends and family through technology, questions are raised about how the immediacy of conversation will affect the millennial generation in the future. 

According to John McWhorter’s article on Time Ideas, “Is Texting Killing the English Language?” “there is no evidence that texting is ruining composition skills. Worldwide people speak differently from the way they write, and texting — quick, casual and only intended to be read once — is actually a way of talking with your fingers.”

Members of the Keene State College community explained they have differing opinions.

In the quest for figuring out how technology, social media and cell phone usage affects language, Communication Professor, Michael McCarthy, shared how he believes language through texting may affect daily language.

“We speak both formally and informally,” McCarthy said.

“We’re not quite like other countries where there is a complete and defined level of formal and informal language, and you’re supposed to know which to use and when. I think with the advent of instant messaging—now texting, and because people can come up with shortcuts when they are texting, language will be affected,” McCarthy continued, “Shortcuts are always going to be found by people looking for shortcuts; in some ways you’ve got to admire that.”

Denise Grattage / Equinox Staff

Denise Grattage / Equinox Staff

McCarthy then said, “We may be adding words because of technology, but we’re also encouraging people not to think in complete thoughts, write in full sentences, write in coordinated and subordinated points and have a good parallel structure when writing or speaking. So, I have concerns about that, but I try to address that in the ways that I teach.”

Sophomore English student, Alyssa Bonin, reflected on her life before she relied on a cell phone.

“I remember my first flip-phone that I got when I was thirteen. I was the only one of my friends that had a phone at the time, so my only contact was my mom. I could only send two-hundred-and-fifty messages per month. Those were the good days,” she said.

“I remember being young and having a house phone, that was our primary way of communicating by phone. About five years ago, we got rid of our house phone and now each member of my household has their own personal cell phone which is our primary form of communicating by phone,” senior psychology student, Kourtney Poland,  said.

Poland said she does not believe texting affects her academically.

“I do not text in class, because I have a realization that I am paying a lot of money to be in school and strive to do well. The only way I see it affecting me negatively when it comes to my academic life is when I write papers or formal letters, and I have to rethink the way I spell words and make sure I write correctly and not with my texting lingo,” Poland said.

Arts and Humanities Assistant Professor, Emily Robins Sharpe, said the advances in cell phone use have added to the amount of time students spend writing.

“I have noticed more and more that there isn’t that gap between getting over that anxiety of sitting down to write, because so much of the day is spent writing emails, texting, Facebook statuses, tweets and all of that. That doesn’t necessarily translate into it being easier to write a paper for class, but I definitely think that it can be really positive,” Sharpe said.

Bonin agreed with Sharpe. “I spell everything out when I text. The only abbreviation I ever use is LOL, and I only use it on special occasions. Most of the apps I have are word games so I don’t think my academic life has been affected all too much by my phone usage,” Bonin said.

Sharpe said the language used through social media has created a “heightened awareness of communicating in different registers.”

“It is something that we all do all the time, anyway. Target what you are writing to what you are saying to your audience and to the specific context,” Sharpe said.

Sharpe continued, “Not everybody knows how to send an appropriately formal email. But that is something that our students are certainly very aware of. It is something that we all do all the time anyway, and now we are just more aware of it.”

Although McCarthy said he sees the advantage of technology, he also said it may be harmful. “I think it is damaging, in some way, a person’s ability to use the language as fluidly and efficiently as possible. When texting, I find myself trying to write complete sentences, but sometimes I get lazy and say, well, ‘I don’t need a period there…I don’t need a comma.’ My favorite expression is ‘lemme,’ even though it’s only one letter less than ‘let me,’” McCarthy said.

The professor continued, “I think if we keep doing that, we’re going to take what I think is a pretty interesting language—English—and we’re going to dumb it down.”

“There is not just one English—and there never has been just one English,” Sharpe said.

Sharpe continued, “Our language is also constantly evolving to adapt to new situations and new social norms. So whether or not it is because of a small pocket computer that everyone starts carrying, we are going to end up with new words in our language and we are going to end up with new constructions that are acceptable,” that once were not, she said.

“While I don’t always love the distraction or the annoyance of cell phones and text speak, texts and social media, I think that the best thing that we can do is try to harness the innovations that go along with it and be a part of this inevitable development,” Sharpe stated.


Nicole Carrobis can be contacted at nicole.carrobis@ksc.keene.edu

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