OMG, grammer sux.

The Fresno Bee recently ran an article on the effect of IM and similar technologies on the structure of language (Wut r u saying?). I was worried it would be another chicken little story, but I’m actually pretty happy with the balance presented.

What do you think about the effect of IM and similar technologies on people’s ability to write. I’m in the midst of grading, and I must say that I am often shocked at the range of writing among our undergraduates: from outstanding to embarrassing. I have a feeling a lot of that has to do with writing instruction in the high schools and the university, rather than any impact of technology.

Do those of you who are heavy users of IM and texting experience a change in the way you write because of the kinds of grammar and structure that are found there?

And, to ask a question the reporter asked of me, if you think that these new technologies are changing language, over the short or long term, what do you think that change will be?

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6 Comments

  1. Posted 10/8/2004 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    its like the linguistic trasition from city state, to universal rulers, to subjects of another empire: once subject, the laguage becomes even more uniform, and encyclopedic. Then the trasition from a polytheistic presurving of rituals to a monotheistic presurving; the vulgar vernacular becomes the driving force of what ordinary persons speak, but officially, there is more of a pressure to be like the rest of the world with less freedom, hence, the local becomes more subjected.

    Giambotista Vico was one of the first to embrace the italian vernacular, rather than the universal latin: he writes about The New Science of History. In this book we read about the cycles of history that take us from prehistory, or heroic conception of history, to the city state democracy, to the empirialism of larger empires. We also can see the emphasis of accounting and the organization of tax data as societies become more complicated. Hence, the modern discussion of city, and the discussions of archiving, and search engines, all point to a world coming to a hegemony: but language is both more controled (by more persons speaking english now than ever before.)

    James Joyce has an alternative Irish English that delineates how language is used by a people who are not “english.”

    We will see an accelarted and multiple state of political being occur: we will be more independent during our moments alone, but less free in other situations in the context of the day: we will subcatagorize our english into the cool of being with friends (not ustedes, you all) and an evolving structured world hegemony english. Is this happening with other languages: well in greek it is.

  2. Posted 10/8/2004 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    so as we store our data and then we search for it, it will influence how we structure our speach towards glogging and finding what we had at one time thought and dictated.

    So language became written with the early phonecian codes, and now, we increasingly link and cross reference on blogs: there is a learning curve, and the type writer makes language sound very differently than how one says things in a lecture, and how one text messages real quick, is also another of subcatagorization of language. we are also developing multiple internal dialogs for the different needs of the day: so hence, this is affecting internal dialog, and with the young, it fundamentally changes the piagetian milestones, and hence, our cultural norms and abstract notions of laws change with this.

    So we become relatavists, when it suits us, and fundalmentalists when this suits us: we change cognitive gears during the day, and use different thinking models to achieve our goals. This is reflected in the “Dromology” of Virilio (though not directly spelled out, i kind of infer this stuff from his treatise, so hence, i kind of make things up to make a point)

  3. stef
    Posted 10/8/2004 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    This is such an example of how literature captures the sounds of a city, and of a people: it sounds so irish. I guess, how we speak will influence how we describe: the manner in which we put words to screen will always be from life first. The internal, or the external: one cannot escape the many selves of postpostmodernism (eichhh, theres gotta be a better term: how bout, the decon era?)

    “Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. A yellow dressinggown, ungirdled, was sustained gently behind him by the mild morning air. He held the bowl aloft and intoned:
    — Introibo ad altare Dei.

    Halted, he peered down the dark winding stairs and called up coarsely:

    — Come up, Kinch! Come up, you fearful jesuit!

    Solemnly he came forward and mounted the round gunrest. He faced about and blessed gravely thrice the tower, the surrounding country and the awaking mountains. Then, catching sight of Stephen Dedalus, he bent towards him and made rapid crosses in the air, gurgling in his throat and shaking his head. Stephen Dedalus, displeased and sleepy, leaned his arms on the top of the staircase and looked coldly at the shaking gurgling face that blessed him, equine in its length, and at the light untonsured hair, grained and hued like pale oak.

    Buck Mulligan peeped an instant under the mirror and then covered the bowl smartly.

    — Back to barracks! he said sternly.

    this is so magnificantly well worded

  4. j e n n i e
    Posted 10/8/2004 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    I only feel so impressed by how IM conversations could be so interactive and I’m very behind of expressing myself comparing to my Chinese friends. They all are very good of using one word or some phrases to indicate a thing (anything like a comment, opinions, emotions, etc.) specifically. Especially some idioms or words in IM they used have totally alternated from the original meaning that I know and I’m just speechless (typeabless??!) to their responses. When thinking about the effect of IM and similar technologies on people’s ability to write, I find out there is fewer use of writing a whole paragraph. Instead, people are writing things in a poetic style, word by word, sentence to sentence.

  5. Jenn Heifetz
    Posted 10/8/2004 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    I strongly agree that IM has made a huge impact on the way I speak. I’ve been using instant messenger for years now, and have recently become obsessed with text messaging as well… and quite honestly, it’s no good. I constantly abbreviate (abbrev.) everything I say, whether i’m writing it or saying it. I admit, it’s not a great habit, but at this point, it’s real hard to quit. All my friends think it’s amusing, but my parents constantly criticize me for it. I guess what I’m getting at, is that IM has certainly had a negative effect on me, in this instance.

  6. Posted 10/8/2004 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    I have to agree – the writing of undergraduates is getting worse every year. My fourth year students handed in their first of 10 reading critiques last week, and I spent most of the time marking grammar. It was awful. I couldn’t get a sense of what they were arguing. Yes, writing is a process and some of use may not be that good at it – but I was still shocked. Many students seem to write as if they are speaking to someone – using jargon and very ‘personal’ speech rather than academic discourse.
    Having said that, some of the emails I receive from students are so ‘personal’ they are shocking to me. The short forms and the attempt to create a presence in the email often comes across as too familiar (hey, your in my virtual space) and disrespectful. I think we can attribute some of this to IM, and our need to create an interactive, personal exchange in the virtual world.
    It still ruffles my feathers though.

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