It’s a complex issue. Texting, in itself, isn’t a good or bad thing. In this short article and in his TED talk John McWhorter talks about why texting isn’t destroying writing or the English language. I tend to agree. However, there *are* other problems associated with it, in my opinion, having less to do with linguistics and more to do with cognitive control, and not so much about texting per se as the constant presence of smartphones in our lives.
Texting has long been bemoaned as the downfall of the written word, “penmanship for illiterates,” as one critic called it. To which the proper response is LOL. Texting properly isn’t writing at all — it’s actually more akin to spoken language. And it’s a “spoken” language that is getting richer and more complex by the year.
First, some historical perspective. Writing was only invented 5,500 years ago, whereas language probably traces back at least 80,000 years. Thus talking came first; writing is just an artifice that came along later. As such, the first writing was based on the way people talk, with short sentences — think of the Old Testament. However, while talk is largely subconscious and rapid, writing is deliberate and slow. Over time, writers took advantage of this and started crafting tapeworm sentences such as this one, from The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: “The whole…
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