Texting affects ability to interpret words

February 20, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- Research designed to understand the effect of text messaging on language found that texting has a negative impact on people's linguistic ability to interpret and accept words.

The study, conducted by Joan Lee for her master's thesis in , revealed that those who texted more were less accepting of new . On the other hand, those who read more traditional print media such as books, magazines, and newspapers were more accepting of the same words.

The study asked university students about their reading habits, including text messaging, and presented them with a range of words both real and fictitious.

"Our about text messaging is that it encourages unconstrained language. But the study found this to be a myth," says Lee. "The people who accepted more words did so because they were better able to interpret the meaning of the word, or tolerate the word, even if they didn't recognize the word. Students who reported more rejected more words instead of acknowledging them as possible words."

Lee suggests that reading traditional print media exposes people to variety and in language that is not found in the colloquial peer-to-peer text messaging used among youth or 'generation text'. She says reading encourages flexibility in language use and tolerance of different words. It helps readers to develop skills that allow them to generate interpretable readings of new or unusual words.

"In contrast, texting is associated with rigid linguistic constraints which caused students to reject many of the words in the study," says Lee. "This was surprising because there are many unusual spellings or "textisms" such as "LOL" in text messaging language."

Lee says that for texters, word frequency is an important factor in the acceptability of words.

"Textisms represent real words which are commonly known among people who text," she says. "Many of the words presented in the study are not commonly known and were not acceptable to the participants in the study who texted more or read less traditional print media."

Lee's study, What does txting do 2 language? The influences of exposure to messaging and print media on acceptability constraints, is available at gradworks.umi.com/MR/75/MR75222.html

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4 comments

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Sean_W
not rated yet Feb 20, 2012
Other studies have found the opposite but since this one had a sample size of 33 university students... it must be true.

Oh, and the conclusion does not follow from the premise but let's get scared and sanctimonious anyway.
Mrplunge
not rated yet Feb 20, 2012
I don't really like the way this article is worded or even the title. "(Medical Xpress) -- Research designed to understand the effect of text messaging on language found that texting has a negative impact on people's linguistic ability to interpret and accept words." This implies that text messaging is the sole reason people have poor linguistic ability. That is bullshit.

The study was comparing the amount of text message's read per month to the amount of books read per month. If say someone read 200 text messages and 3 books in one month. Someone else read 100 text messages and 3 books in one month the linguistic understanding would be the same. Text messages have no impact on reading comprehension of print media. You become better at reading print media by READING PRINT MEDIA. This is another example of a news writer taking things out of context in order to write an interesting article.
Callippo
not rated yet Feb 20, 2012
Correlation doesn't imply causation here. The people who are spending their time with texting are extroverts in general and they don't prefer to spend their time with reading of fiction. It doesn't mean, the texting itself is the reason of poor vocabulary.
Lurker2358
not rated yet Feb 20, 2012
I never text, and usually never use any form of shorthand. I find it rather inconvenient, lazy, imprecise, and annoying.

On the other hand, I also dislike superfluous words, even though I usually know what they mean, because they seem to have been invented for no reason other than for somebody to make another person look and feel foolish.

Just as an example, when watching the news many anchors will unnecessarily use words to which you KNOW someone else in the room definitely doesn't know the definitions. People who are particularly gifted in language arts skills should also be aware of the fact that not everyone is a full time student or researcher or master linguist. Whether or not they realize it, they actually lose their audience.

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