Will We Stop Speaking and Just Text? Harbeck (2018)

Could texting slang replace spoken English? Throughout history there has always been spoken language regardless of ability to read or write. Written language was created to give a record of spoken language, but it has evolved into so much more than that. It has “gained features such as exclamation marks and italics to convey spoken features such as tone, but it has also evolved to convey things that speech doesn’t: the etymological traces carried by our spelling, the structure of thought conveyed by paragraphs, the aesthetics of fonts and other design elements.” Harbeck says here that speech and text have grown apart and evolved into different things entirely for different reasons, and have even formed different dialects.

He discusses how text-speak has transcended it origins to be used in spoken conversation, for example a place holder for profanity(ex. WTF on a headline) and how live internet vernacular (Live), got its real start in the 1990’s and how people played around with it in examples such as Shakespeare because it was “a new context of style of use”.

Interestingly, he cites studies done on emoticons, and it was found that instead of using emoticons and emojis to express the senders emotions it was usually used to smooth out interpersonal relationships. They are “not how the sender feels but more how the sender wants the receiver to feel”. I found this extremely interesting because when thinking about the way I text, I realized that this is true. We use emojis to lighten the mood or come across as funny. Not to actually show you are angry or sad.

On the other hand, Harbeck argues that some aspects of Live does convey the writers emotion. For example to emphasize the weight of “wtf” you can add extra letters “wtffff” to emphasize the meaning and tone. Another interesting point he makes is that sometimes the literal speech becomes completely divorced from the sound it represents. For examples we might say a drawn out “niiiiice”, but will mostly likely see that written as “niceeeee”. Another interesting thing he mentions is how typographical errors have come to have meaning that we all know. For example “ZOMG” became the z is lose to the shift or “teh” for “the”.

He concluded by asking, will this text speech replace spoken English? Is text speach slipping into formal writing?  Studies show that they aren’t but it is interesting to think about the endless possibilities of this evolving text language.




2 thoughts on “Will We Stop Speaking and Just Text? Harbeck (2018)

  1. Text vernacular is interesting in that it has turned into a slang form of writing. While I know not to use v. as an abbreviation for very in a formal essay or conversation, I frequently use it while texting and sometimes even speaking. I find the use of punctuation in texting quite interesting as well– for some reason, ending sentences with “.” make one seem tense or angry. Using capitalization vs. not also conveys meaning: for example, “fine” has a different connotation than “fiNE.” I do not think that texting will overtake formal writing; the only way that I can think of it having an impact is perhaps on vocabulary, as we have more ways to express emotion within texting (emojis, punctuation, etc) than words themselves.

  2. McClain,

    This is definitely a very intriguing topic. Texts, shortcuts, emojis, gifs, and memes have consumed our communication culture and it only seems like younger audiences are adopting these new forms of slang. I think most teenagers and young adults (Generation Z and Millenials) opt to use such methods to communicate because it is faster, easier, and funnier. It also allows the user to behave more lazily with grammar, diction, and punctuation— which makes the mood lighter overall. So, through texting people can be more creative and emotive with how they choose to express themselves with language opposed to a regular voice call.

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