Study of Pennsylvania students links texting to poor grammar skills

In a culture where cell phones are fast becoming the primary form of communication for many young people, are text-speak abbreviations and misspellings handicapping the ability of kids to learn proper grammar?

According to a recent study, the answer is yes. (Or make that Y?)

Tweens who frequently text or instant message have a difficult time switching back to the rules of standard English language grammar when necessary, according to a study conducted by former Penn State University undergrad Drew Cingel
and supervised by co-director of Penn State’s Media Effects Research
Laboratory professor S. Shyam Sundar.

And they made the case using students at a local middle school.

“Texting, techspeak, and tweens: The relationship between text messaging and English grammar skills,” tested 228 children in grades six through eight at an undisclosed Pennsylvania school district. Researchers gave the kids a grammar assessment accompanied by a survey asking about their text and instant messaging usage and their use of “techspeak” – a language rife with abbreviations and misspellings that researchers say has sprung up around what they call “a culture of text messaging.”

The results, published in the current issue of New Media & Society, conclude that young people who text and instant message frequently and who most often send and receive messages containing the “short, terse exchanges, abbreviations and
grammatical compromises” that characterize this increasingly-popular “techspeak” showed poor written grammar results.

In particular, the more often kids reported sending and receiving messages containing “techspeak” in the form of abbreviations (OMG), non-essential letter omissions (wud) and homophones (gr8t), the lower they tended to score on the grammar assessment.

That led the researchers to conclude that not only does writing “techspeak”-laden texts and instant messages make it more difficult for kids to make the switch back to proper grammar usage when required, but also that young people may use poor grammar learned through messages they receive from others out of an all-too-common desire to imitate friends and family.

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