Well according to a new report it does! These latest findings of an ongoing study at the University of Coventry contradict any expectation that prolonged exposure to texting will erode a child's ability to spell and instead suggests that pupils who regularly use text language - with all its mutations of phonetic spelling and abbreviations - also appear to be developing skills in the more formal use of English.
Children who are heavy users of mobile phone text abbreviations such as LOL (laughing out loud), plz (please), l8ter (later) and xxx (kisses), are unlikely to be problem spellers and readers, a new study funded by the British Academy has found. The research, carried out on a sample of 8-12 year olds over an academic year, revealed that levels of “textism” use could even be used to predict reading ability and phonological awareness in each pupil by the end of the year. Also, the proportion of textisms used was observed to increase with age, from just 21% of Year 4 pupils to 47% in Year 6, revealing that more sophisticated literacy skills are needed for textism use. The study conclusions will come as a surprise to many who believe that textisms are vandalising the English language.
The theory behind the research, carried out by Dr Clare Wood, Reader in Developmental Psychology at Coventry University, relates to one of the early developing skills associated with (and believed to underpin) successful reading and spelling development. ‘Phonological awareness’ refers to a child’s ability to detect, isolate and manipulate patterns of sound in speech. For example, children who can tell which words rhyme, or what word is left if you remove a letter, have particularly high levels of phonological awareness.
The forms of text message abbreviation (or ‘textism’) that are used when sending messages include:
- Shortenings: cutting the end off a word, losing more than one letter, e.g. bro = brother.
- Contractions: cutting letters, usually vowels, out of the middle of a word, e.g. txt, plz, hmwrk.
- G Clippings: cutting off only the final g in a word, e.g. goin, comin, workin, swimmin.
- Other Clippings: cutting off other final letters, e.g. I’v, hav, wil, com.
- Symbols: using symbols, including emoticons, and x used symbolically, e.g. &, @, ;-), :-p, xxx.
- Initialisms: a word or group of words is represented by its initial letter, e.g. tb = text back, lol = laughing out loud, gf = girlfriend.
- Letter/Number Homophones: a letter or number is used to take the place of a phoneme, syllable, or word of the same sound, e.g. 4, 2, l8r, u, r, c.
- Non-conventional Spellings: a word is spelled according to legitimate English phoneme-grapheme conversion rules, but not the conventional one used to spell the word, e.g. nite, cum, fone, skool.
- Accent Stylisation: a word is spelled as it is pronounced in casual speech, e.g. gonna, wiv = with, av = have, wanna, elp = help, anuva = another.
- Missing Apostrophes: left out either in possessive or traditional contraction form, e.g. dads, Im, Ive, cant.
So what do you think does txting help or hinder spelling?