Reading and Writing

, Volume 27, Issue 5, pp 855–873 | Cite as

Undergraduates’ text messaging language and literacy skills

  • Abbie Grace
  • Nenagh Kemp
  • Frances Heritage Martin
  • Rauno Parrila
Article

Abstract

Research investigating whether people’s literacy skill is being affected by the use of text messaging language has produced largely positive results for children, but mixed results for adults. We asked 150 undergraduate university students in Western Canada and 86 in South Eastern Australia to supply naturalistic text messages and to complete nonword reading and spelling tasks. The Australian students also completed two further real word and nonword reading tasks, a spoonerisms task, a questionnaire regarding their reading history, and a nonverbal reasoning task. We found few significant correlations between literacy scores and both use of textisms (such as u for you) and measures of texting experience. Specifically, textism use was negatively correlated with spelling for the Canadian students, and with scores for timed nonword reading, spoonerisms, and Adult Reading History for the Australian students. Length of phone ownership was negatively correlated with spelling (Canadians), but positively correlated with Word Attack scores (Australians), whereas daily message sending volumes were negatively correlated with Word Attack scores (Australians). Australian students who thought that using textisms was more appropriate had poorer nonword reading and reported having had more difficulty learning to read, than those who found it less appropriate. We conclude that there is inconsistent evidence for negative relationships between adults’ use of textisms and their literacy skills, and that these associations may be influenced by attitudes towards the appropriateness of textism use. A model of the potential relationship between adults’ textism use and literacy skills is presented.

Keywords

Text-messaging Adults Literacy 

References

  1. Anis, J. (2007). Neography: Unconventional spelling in French SMS text messages. In B. Danet & S. C. Herring (Eds.), The multilingual internet: Language, culture, and communication online (pp. 87–115). New York, NY: Oxford University Press, Inc.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baron, N. S., & Campbell, E. M. (2010, October). Talking takes too long: Gender and cultural patterns in mobile telephony. Paper presented at the conference of Association of Internet Researchers, Göteborg, Sweden. Retrieved from https://www.american.edu/cas/lfs/faculty-docs/upload/Talking-Takes-Too-Long.pdf.
  3. Burt, J. S., & Long, J. (2011). Are word representations abstract or instance-based? Effects of spelling inconsistency in orthographic learning. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 65, 214–228. doi:10.1037/a0023708.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Coe, J. E. L., & Oakhill, J. V. (2011). ‘txtN is ez f u no h2 rd’: The relation between reading ability and text-messaging behaviour. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 27, 4–17. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2729.2010.00404.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Crystal, D. (2008). Txtng: The gr8 db8. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  6. De Jonge, S., & Kemp, N. (2012). Text-message abbreviations and language skills in high school and university students. Journal of Research in Reading, 35, 49–68. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9817.2010.01466.x.Google Scholar
  7. Deacon, S. H., Parrila, R., & Kirby, J. R. (2006). Processing of derived forms in high functioning dyslexics. Annals of Dyslexia, 56, 103–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dixon, M., & Kaminska, Z. (1997). Is it misspelled or is it mispelled? The influence of fresh orthographic information on spelling. Reading and Writing an Interdisciplinary Journal, 9, 483–498. doi:10.1023/A:1007955314533.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Drouin, M. A. (2011). College students’ text messaging, use of textese and literacy skills. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 27, 67–75. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2729.2010.00399.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Drouin, M., & Davis, C. (2009). R u txting? Is the use of text speak hurting your literacy? Journal of Literacy Research, 41, 46–67. doi:10.1080/10862960802695131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Drouin, M., & Driver, B. (2012). Texting, textese and literacy abilities: A naturalistic study. Journal of Research in Reading. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9817.2012.01532.x.
  12. Elbro, C., Nielsen, I., & Petersen, D. K. (1994). Dyslexia in adults: Evidence for deficits in non-word reading and in the phonological representation of lexical items. Annals of Dyslexia, 44, 205–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gallagher, A. M., Laxon, V., Armstrong, E., & Frith, U. (1996). Phonological difficulties in high-functioning dyslexics. Reading and Writing an Interdisciplinary Journal, 8, 499–509.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Grace, A., Kemp, N., Martin, F. H., & Parrila, R. (2012). Undergraduates’ use of text messaging language: Effects of country and collection method. Writing Systems Research, 4, 167–184. doi:10.1080/17586801.2012.712875.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Green, N. (2003). Outwardly mobile: Young people and mobile technologies. In J. E. Katz (Ed.), Machines that become us: The social context of personal communication technology (pp. 201–218). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.Google Scholar
  16. Hatcher, J., & Snowling, M. (n.d.). York adult assessment. The University of York Centre for Reading and Language, York. Retrieved from www.york.ac.uk/media/psychology/crl/documents/YAA.pdf.
  17. Herring, S. C., & Zelenkauskaite, A. (2009). Symbolic capital in a virtual heterosexual market: Abbreviation and insertion in Italian iTV SMS. Written Communication, 26, 5–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Humphrys, J. (2007, September). I h8 txt msgs: How texting is wrecking our language. Daily Mail. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-483511/I-h8-txtmsgs-How-texting-wrecking-language.html.
  19. International Telecommunication Union. (2010). The World in 2010. Retrieved from www.itu.int/ITU-D/ict/.
  20. Kemp, N. (2010). Texting vs. txting: Reading and writing text messages, and links with other linguistic skills. Writing Systems Research, 2, 53–71. doi:10.1093/wsr/wsq002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kemp, N., & Bushnell, C. (2011). Children’s text messaging: Abbreviations, input methods and links with literacy. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 27, 18–27. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2729.2010.00400.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kemp, N., Parrila, R., & Kirby, J. (2008). Phonological and orthographic spelling in high-functioning adult dyslexics. Dyslexia, 15, 105–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lewandowski, G., & Harrington, S. (2006). The influence of phonetic abbreviations on evaluation of student performance. Current Research in Social Psychology, 11, 215–226.Google Scholar
  24. Lewis, C., & Fabos, B. (2005). Instant messaging, literacies, and social identities. Reading Research Quarterly, 40, 470–501. doi:10.1598/RRQ.40.4.5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Martin, F., & Pratt, C. (2001). Nonword reading test. Melbourne, Australia: Australian Council for Educational Research, Ltd.Google Scholar
  26. Massengill Shaw, D., Carlson, C., & Waxman, M. (2007). An exploratory investigation into the relationship between text messaging and spelling. New England Reading Association Journal, 43, 57–62.Google Scholar
  27. Neville, L. (2003). Cn U rEd dis? The causes and consequences of a ‘text message language’ in young teenagers (unpublished undergraduate dissertation). Oxford, UK: University of Oxford.Google Scholar
  28. Parrila, R., Corkett, J., Kirby, J. R., & Hein, S. (2003). Adult reading history questionnaire—revised (unpublished questionnaire). Canada: University of Alberta.Google Scholar
  29. Plester, B., & Wood, C. (2009). Exploring relationships between traditional and new media literacies: British preteen texters at school. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, 14, 1108–1129. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2009.01483.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Plester, B., Wood, C., & Bell, V. (2008). Txt msg n school literacy: Does texting and knowledge of text abbreviations adversely affect children’s literacy attainment? Literacy, 42, 137–144. doi:10.1111/j.1741-4369.2008.00489.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Plester, B., Wood, C., & Joshi, P. (2009). Exploring the relationship between children’s knowledge of text message abbreviations and school literacy outcomes. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 27, 145–161. doi:10.1348/026151008X320507.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Powell, D., & Dixon, M. (2011). Does SMS text messaging help or harm adults’ knowledge of standard spelling? Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 27, 58–66. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2729.2010.00403.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Rosen, L. D., Chang, J., Erwin, L., Carrier, L. M., & Cheever, N. A. (2010). The relationship between “textisms” and formal and informal writing among young adults. Communication Research, 37, 420–440. doi:10.1177/0093650210362465.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Shortis, T. (2007). Gr8 txtpectations: The creativity of text spelling. English Drama Media Journal, 8, 21–26.Google Scholar
  35. Tagliamonte, S. A., & Denis, D. (2008). Linguistic ruin? Lol! Instant messaging and teen language. American Speech, 8, 33–34.Google Scholar
  36. Thurlow, C. (2006). From statistical panic to moral panic: The metadiscursive construction and popular exaggeration of new media language in the print media. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, 11, 667–701. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2006.00031.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Thurlow, C., & Brown, A. (2003). Generation txt? The sociolinguistics of young people’s text-messaging. Discourse Analysis Online. Retrieved from http://extra.shu.ac.uk/daol/articles/v1/n1/a3/thurlow2002003.html.
  38. Tossell, C. C., Kortum, P., Shepard, C., Barg-Walkow, L. H., Rahmati, A., & Zhong, L. (2012). A longitudinal study of emoticon use in text messaging from smartphones. Computers in Human Behavior, 28, 659–663. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2011.11.012.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Tseliga, T. (2007). “It’s all Greeklish to me!” Linguistic and sociocultural perspectives on Roman-alphabeted Greek in asynchronous computer-mediated communication. In B. Danet & S. C. Herring (Eds.), The multilingual internet: Language, culture, and communication online (pp. 116–141). New York, NY: Oxford University Press, Inc.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Varnhagen, C. K., McFall, G. P., Pugh, N., Routledge, L., Sumida-MacDonald, H., & Kwong, T. E. (2009). Lol: New language and spelling in instant messaging. Reading and Writing, 23, 719–733. doi:10.1007/s11145-009-9181-y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Wechsler, D. (2008). Wechsler adult intelligence scale-fourth edition (WAIS-IV). San Antonio, TX: The Psychological Corporation.Google Scholar
  42. Wilkinson, G. S., & Robertson, G. J. (2006). Wide range achievement test (4th ed.) (WRAT-4). Lutz, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.Google Scholar
  43. Wood, C., Jackson, E., Hart, L., Plester, B., & Wilde, L. (2011a). The effect of text messaging on 9- and 10-year-old children’s reading, spelling and phonological processing skills. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 27, 28–36. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2729.2010.00398.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Wood, C., Meachem, S., Bowyer, S., Jackson, E., Tarczynski-Bowles, M. L., & Plester, P. (2011b). A longitudinal study of children’s text messaging and literacy development. British Journal of Psychology, 102, 431–442. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8295.2010.02002.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Woodcock, R. (1999). Woodcock reading mastery tests—revised/normative update. Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service, Inc.Google Scholar
  46. Woronoff, P. (2007, December). Cell phone texting can endanger spelling. Retrieved from http://www.articlesbase.com/cell-phones-articles/cell-phone-texting-can-endanger-spelling-276413.html.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Abbie Grace
    • 1
  • Nenagh Kemp
    • 1
  • Frances Heritage Martin
    • 2
  • Rauno Parrila
    • 3
  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of TasmaniaHobartAustralia
  2. 2.School of PsychologyUniversity of NewcastleOurimbahAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Educational PsychologyUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

Personalised recommendations