Tag Archives: digital language

“Txtng is killing language. JK!!!” by John McWhorter (deconstruction #2)

Texting is tended to be perceived something that impacts negatively a literacy, especially in terms of writing abilities. Unsurprisingly, a linguist McWhorter’s presentation of its beneficial features and his view of texting as a new linguistic and cultural phenomenon and even calling it “miraculous” seemed to be more than challenging.

He starts his talk with the origin of writing within language existence which emerged considerably later than a speech, thus pointing writing’s secondary role in an entire linguistic evolution. As for me, this fact does not lessen the significance of writing in language and culture development. More than that, much of literary and cultural heritage could reach us through manuscripts written by particularly those who were familiar with a writing literacy. Further, he highlights the language basics by opposing its written and oral forms and literally infers language as a speech, not a written form. McWhorter’s attempts at providing evidence through the depiction of the historical development of language from speech to writing was not convincing as it looked more like a general claim.

It is exactly a speech, in his opinion, through a hand, mechanical equipment and then technical devices was transmitted to our days, which led to an emergence of texting. And since people do not keep in mind punctuation and grammar rules while talking, there is no necessity of their mentioning them in texting as well (“You do not think about these things when you talk, no. So why would you when you are texting?”). Then immediately comes a question to what extent texting is beneficial for cultural and linguistic development, and on the contrary, wouldn’t it lead to a linguistic regress? Or even to obsolesce of writing skills overall?

Although presenter mentions concerning questions above, giving examples of a new language structured in texting, referring to it as “an emerging complexity” – still there appear more questions than answers. Two only given examples during the presentation of “an emerging complexity”- analysis of “LOL” and use of a slang “Slash”, their acquisition of a new meaning in the context of online texting – somehow do not disclose and explain the “complexity” of them. How can acronyms and slangs even with a new meaning be referred to the “complexity” and how would they affect the intelligibility of texts?

However, the speaker addresses numerous questions on grammatical accuracy and sophistication in writing with a series of instances of grammarians’ concerns throughout the history and did in the most humoristic and agreeable manner. Samples of scholars’ worries and dissatisfaction with students’ low writing performance and ignorance were displayed from 1956 to 63 A.D., thus he showcased the process of concerns on writing literacy as endless. In addition, the latest example of a Latin teacher worried of Latin literacy in 63 A.D. whose only trouble, by Mr. McWhorter, was scholar’s unawareness of French language establishment from Latin at that time, could give food for thoughts on that possibly a new globalized language might be established through the texting. Also, by demonstrating excerpts of scholars’ passages of worries linguist wanted to persuade audience on how those worries for language purity and literacy become vain, and his statement “people worrying about these things, but planet keeps spinning somehow” adds humoristic and skeptic view to that point.

Another convincing argument of the speaker is the importance of texting in a bilingual and bi-dialectical cognitive development when young people use knowledge of both forms (formal writing and texting) of a language, that adds a scientific value to the presentation.

John McWhorter presented an optimistic and full of scientific curiosity view on texting. His personal charm with a sense of humor, the ability of collaboration with the audience and confident speech could be advantageous in his successful presentation of the topic. However, a lack of exact linguistic examples or at least small research results contributed to the weakness of arguments and unconvincing presentation overall. Throughout the talk, he did not provide any evidence why he called texting “a miraculous language” as well.