Will SMS English Doom English Language? :
By S. Subrahmanya Sharma
There appeared a short note on English usage in The Hindu. The sentence in question was - ‘Hopefully the eggs are fresh’. Purists of the language took objection to it and maintained that people should say : ‘I hope, the Eggs are fresh.’
Their objection was to the word HOPEFULLY. But it is difficult for the purists to stand in a market place and teach people how to ask questions. Still, the purists tried to maintain what they said was correct. The matter was referred to a Professor of English who understood their anguish and told them that their stand was correct but added that the sentence HOPEFULLY THE EGGS ARE FRESH are also acceptable.
The purists became incensed and retorted: “You are like a priest practicing celibacy for yourself but advocating adultery to the parishioners.”
When I read the article in the open page, September 18, ‘God save the English Language’ with comments “have some consideration – for someone who prefers not to butcher the English language.” I could as well understand the anguish of the purist in her.
Mobile messages have various aspects, though the messages we collect for analysis do not represent the whole range of people.
We hear people say :
Language on the internet is a huge disaster.
All abbreviations on the internet are rubbish.
If students tend to forget how to spell words particularly when they use abbreviations such as C U, gr8 and 2mrw, these misspellings might feed into their exam also.
People feel that spelling, punctuation and capitalization are at stake in mobile communication. Does the language indeed suffer because of these abbreviations?
How many people use them and how do they use them?
A closer scrutiny reveals that all words are not abbreviated.
Standard English still has its sway.
Perhaps abbreviation is a crude, dramatic radicalization. All age groups use abbreviations, but surprisingly each age level has its own different ways. So these abbreviations are age-level, age-sensitive and also gender-sensitive.
The question is who invented these abbreviations?
C for see
U for you
Gr8 for great
We can see them even in the 18th century particularly in the Victorian era.
For Example :
ROFL - rolling on the floor laughing
RFD - request for discussion
RLF - real life friend
SWALK - sealed with a loving kiss.
Old people did (use) it at a time when there were no mobiles at all.
Why do people use abbreviations?
Two factors contribute to this practice : time and money.
For a question : Is TXTNGMSGS a revolution?
The answer is both yes and no.
Yes. It’s revolutionary in that it deviates from the traditional type of writing.
No. It’s not, because nothing new happens. Sounds paradoxical.
However, there are more convincing reasons to decide that it is not revolutionary for nothing NEW happens in vocabulary, grammar, morphology and orthography.
Does vocabulary change because of this? Yes. But the change it brought about is infinitesimal because not more than 1,000 words are added to the language.
With well over a million words in English, a slight change in mere 1,000 or 2,000 words is just a drop.
Secondly, there is no new order in grammar, for 99 percent of the grammar in mobiles, on chat-rooms and blogs and the internet is the same.
In orthography, the changes brought by TXTNG are becoming fewer and fewer in the world wide medium, particularly in punctuation, capitalization and spelling.
Informality standards have been extended by both mobiles and the internet. To put it metaphorically, we have some sort of linguistic wardrobe in our brains framed to bathing costume and we choose the right one at the right time. It has added to our linguistic wardrobe at the informal end of the spectrum.
Mobile communication is new medium to manipulate and to manoeuvre. However, the language used is almost the same as it was before its advent.
I happened to listen to a lecture by David Crystal in Wales University - U.K. some time ago. He discussed the TXTMSSGNG in mobiles and conversations in chat-rooms and concluded his speech with the following sentence : TXTMSSGNG does not foretell the demise of English language. It is a myth.
The writer is professor of English. His email id is : [email protected]