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Instant Messaging Builds Language Skills

This could well be our most counter-intuitive good news story of the week...or month, even:

Are you worried the acronyms and other linguistic shorthand used in casual computer instant messaging may be corrupting your kids' grammar and syntax?


New research by two University of Toronto sociolinguists, to be presented tomorrow at the Linguistics Society of Canada and the U.S. annual meeting, shows quite the contrary.

"Everybody thinks kids are ruining their language by using instant messaging, but these teens' messaging shows them expressing themselves flexibly through all registers," associate professor Sali Tagliamonte, 46, said.

"They actually show an extremely lucid command of the language."

We were pleased to report last week how SMS is saving lives in China -- so we're second to none in promoting unexpected benefits of this kind of technology -- but I think the best anyone could have hoped for in regard to what instant messaging is doing to teenagers' language capability would have been that it isn't somehow completely destroying it (along with good-size chunks of their brains.)

But, no. Apparently it isn't doing any particular harm and may be providing some help.

While parents still might cringe at much of the spelling and grammatical usage displayed in instant messaging, the researchers report that kids are actually developing a:

[L]linguistic hybrid, a fusion of formal and vernacular features of language.

No doubt, purists will continue to wring their hands about "what's happening with kids these days," but there is clearly an argument to be made that developing and practicing with a whole new modelof communication allows kids to flex lingusitic muscles which otherwise would have remained dormant.

As long as they don't carry too many of the alternate spellings and weird abbreviations into more formal written language, maybe there's something for us all to be happy about.



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My work travel schedule prevented me from getting this out earlier this week but I've always found that good news tends to arrive just in time. In this week's edition: A good time to be born Instant Messaging improves... [Read More]


I wanted to txt you a congrats for this post but unfortunately found I had deleted your number - it's rare that I would talk with Internet people outside of Skype or IM!

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