The “Death” of the English Language: Or How Language Will Never Die

Texting and texting shorthand have claims thrown around of people proudly proclaiming that texting is ruining the English language. News sources claiming that “Texting fogs the mind like cannabis” were common in the early 2000’s when texting was just growing in popularity. Before texting had entered, even if reluctantly, the more traditional generation, it was seen as a destructive and distracting fad that was ruining the brains of the youth. I think it’s safe to say that claims like stated above would be wildly criticized with today’s popularization of texting.

Graduation: Class of 2020
Graduation: Class of 2020

The Guardian put out an article in 2012 stating that 4 billion people were now texting across the world. This is a vast difference from the average of .4 texts sent per person per month in 1995. The Guardian also claimed that over 6 trillion text messages were sent in 2010. Almost no form of technology has had such amazing growth at such an alarming rate. Even the internet took almost twice as long to catch on with the general population. Now, as with any sort of non-traditional advance in technology, there are naysayers claiming that texting will be the death of language. I disagree, and here’ why:

1. Reading is reading, no matter where it’s done.

Look at this litter nerd.
               Look at this little nerd.

In the past few years, I’ve noticed a large amount of “book shaming” and “smart shaming” in the youth culture. Book Shaming occurs mainly in the elementary to middle school age, where some children look down on others that enjoy to read. I’ve personally experienced Book Shaming and been ridiculed because I chose voice my love for reading. Smart Shaming is nearly the same, but instead of ridicule coming from choosing to read books, it’s ridicule caused by succeeding in school. The worst part is that this doesn’t end at middle school, as this was very noticeable at a high school level as well.

This is terrifying to me.

Which is one of the reasons that I choose to believe that texting is helpful for developing the reading skill in the youth of today who choose to actively not read. Communicating through text is now a necessity in an adult world and children who choose not to read will be at a disadvantage when they realize this.

Texting, on the other hand, is a great way to develop many skills you would find in reading books. Skills like context clues, interpretation, and rhetorical communication are developing when communicating through text. These are skills that don’t require the “right” form of communicating. Texting short hand is irrelevant when it comes to these skills.

Reading is practice at communication. Whether it’s a book or a text, that skill is being developed. Many kids who choose not to read, yet choose to text, can at least have some practice at reading and communicating through written communication. And that’s important to have.

2. Language is a tool and will adapt.

Not this kind of tool.
Not this kind of tool.

There is no “right” form of language, because we use language to communicate effectively. Whatever forms gets our message across quickly and efficiently is how we should use language. Of course, discourse communities each have different dialects to their language. A discourse community that uses hashtags and abbreviations will not communicate the same way as an academic setting. The point is communication is still occurring in a way that is rhetorical to members of that discourse community.

Claiming that this or that is “ruining language” is ridiculous. In the past, there have been events that have been dangerous to the English language. In 1066, the Duke of Normandy, called William the Conqueror took the throne of England. He did not speak any English, but he spoke French and Latin. Effectively, this meant that the royals of England for years to come would speak mostly French or Latin, not English. Somehow English survived in the laborers and peasants of England. For nearly 300 years, English was kept alive only by the peasants and generations of bilingual children. In 1377, King Richard II became the first king to use English exclusively since William the Conqueror. Thus, bringing English to the house of the royals again.

Thank this dude.
         Thank this dude.

What does this mean?

It means that language will develop with the society and culture surrounding it. Our language cannot be killed by us using it in different ways. It is meant to be used in whatever way is most effective between people. There is no “right way”. There are right ways for certain discourse communities, but we will all use our language differently.