It seems that electronic forms of communication like text messaging on mobile phones and email have created a new kind of language. People often like to communicate as quickly as possible when they are texting or emailing, and have therefore invented lots of abbreviations or ‘text speak’ that they use instead of complete words.
In many countries text speak has divided the generations: under-20s are very good at using it, while over-50s often find it difficult to understand! In English, the most common examples of text language include the use of the number ‘2’ for ‘to’ or ‘too’, ‘4’ instead of ‘for’, ‘u’ for ‘you’ and ‘c’ instead of ‘see’. It is also common to drop vowels, so that ‘can’t’ becomes ‘cnt’, and ‘have’ becomes ‘hav’ or ‘hv’.
While some people think text language is good way of saving time, others think it is lazy and that it has a bad effect on language. In Britain many teachers complain that some students don’t know that using text speak in their schoolwork isn’t appropriate, and that they are forgetting how to use Standard English.
Some studies suggest that Standard English is already changing because of text and email language. One study has even suggested that ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ could disappear from the English language during the 21st century because so many people now use ‘hey’ or even ‘yo’ at the start of texts and informal emails, and ‘laters’ at the end.
A couple of years ago a mobile phone company in Britain began a service in which it sent text messages summarising books that young people were studying at school. The idea was to turn famous works of literature into text speak, so it would be easy for young people to understand what the books were about. Of course not everyone liked the idea of characters from Shakespeare speaking in text language, and it is certainly true that the famous ‘To be or not to be?’ speech from Hamlet loses something when it begins with ‘2b?Ntb’.