A new study has found 'text speak' - such as shortening words and leaving out punctuation - does not have a negative impact on the development of children's grammar and spelling.
Primary, secondary and university students copied all the text messages they had sent within a two day period, exactly as they'd written them, and sat formal tests of grammar and spelling. They repeated the same process 12 months later.
Researchers at the University of Tasmania and Coventry University in the UK analysed the relationships between the texts and the results of the formal tests.
The study (Exploring the longitudinal relationships between the use of grammar in text messaging and performance on grammatical tasks), published in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology, found there was no evidence that breaking grammatical rules in texts was related to children's understanding of written and spoken grammar.
'[This finding] ... adds to the growing body of evidence that there is no need for panic about the effects of textism use on the language skills of children, adolescents, or adults,' the researchers say.
For the study, text violations were grouped into six categories, including word reductions (writing 'gonna' instead of 'going to') and grammatical homonyms (using they're/their/there incorrectly).
According to the study results, the use of deliberately ungrammatical word forms in texts (for example, ‘they is' instead of 'they are') by primary students at the start of the project was positively linked to their spelling ability 12 months later.
For high school students, the same category of text violation, along with omission of punctuation and capitalisation, were all positively linked to a growth in spelling ability one year on.
'When children are playing with these creative representations of language, they use and rehearse their understanding of letter-sound correspondence,' Clare Wood, Professor of Psychology at Coventry University's Centre for Research in Psychology, Behaviour and Achievement, says.
'So, texting can offer children the chance to practice their understanding of how sounds and print relate to each other.'
Dr Nenagh Kemp, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Tasmania, adds that although text speak can reflect a lack of care or knowledge it can also represent a 'playful exploration' of language.
The 2014 study involved 83 primary-age and 78 secondary-age students in the West Midlands of England.
The researchers urge educators to continue to teach their students about the conventional rules of formal written grammar, whilst making them aware of the contexts where it is essential to apply standard conventions and when they can be relaxed.
Wood, C., Kemp, N., & Waldron, S. (2014), Exploring the longitudinal relationships between the use of grammar in text messaging and performance on grammatical tasks. British Journal of Developmental Psychology. doi: 10.1111/bjdp.12049
Have you experimented with incorporating ‘text speak’ in your classroom as a tool for teaching spelling and grammar?
What did you do? What were the results?
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