Developments in language are not uncommon, especially with the advent of new technology that enables the entry and production of information faster. The earliest typewriter, first patented in England in 1714 but not used widely until the 18th century, allowed the printing of text on paper and standardised and speeded up the publication process.
When first used, the task that took the most time in the process, once the operator was trained, was gathering the input information. Before the advent of audio dictation, and still existing today in reduced usage, the shorthand technique (which already existed before the typewriter) was used to allow a modification and shortening of dictated language to speed up the process of gathering input text. The shorthand technique did not become a part of our common written communication language because the device that could have brought it to the masses was only used by very few specialised and trained people. However text messaging and email are used on devices used by the majority of people in the developed world and hence we have devices that with formal grammatical language would be slow and cumbersome to use, hence a new communication style develops to allow speed and understanding. I, therefore, despite my dislike of text speak, see the use of contractions, slang and icons as the development of a new communication style and find myself using it as others use it with me.
Consider the written language used by Shakespeare and Chaucer and compare it to the formal written language we use today. Would these iconic authors consider our formal usage of language ugly and unappreciative of English? Possibly, however as people who created language usage they may have seen the reasons why language has evolved and understand that we can all understand and speak more than one language, differentiating between when and when they are not appropriate to use in communicating effectively. The appreciation of the communication style of authors such as Shakespeare has not declined over the years and is still read, used and quoted. However many would consider its use today and cumbersome in being understood.
Far from ‘contractions, slang and icons’ being viewed as the death of the appreciation of written language there is a discussion whether if someone had no appreciation of written language, would they be able to develop, understand and use such ‘contractions, slang and icons’?
The death of written communication has not been signalled today, however as this question is regarding the evolution of communication styles we would need to visit the discussion again in a decade or two to conclude whether the generation that is growing up with this new style as their main form of communication still appreciate it proper written form or whether there will be a new standard for “proper”.
Adams & McGrindle, (2008) Pandora’s Box: Social & Professional Issues of the Information Age. University of Reading: Wiley.
Dawson C: Text Messaging and the death of the English language [Online]. Available at: http://education.zdnet.com/?p=1021 (Accessed 7 December 2010).
Early Office Museum: Typewriters [Online]. Available at: http://www.officemuseum.com/typewriters.htm (Accessed 6 December 2010).