‘Texting/ SMS Language:’ A Real Threat or Opportunity to English



Maruthanikattu (H); Kurianad (P.O)
Kottayam- 686636
Ph: 8156941712

Texting/SMS/Short Hand Writing is now setting a revolutionary change in the English
Language usage. This paper focuses on to prove that this new method of language is not a threat
but the opening to a new era in English language. Though SMS language with its order less form
deconstructs the structure of traditional English Language, it definitely is capable of taking
English to a further level of simplicity and adaptability. Though this form lacks perfect grammar,
syntax and so on, it has been widely accepted all over the world. It makes the usage of English
much easy, not only for those who are versatile in handling the language but also for those who
are not very good in it. Texting not only serves its purpose as a mere communication tool but it is
actually even being used to help literacy in developing countries. For instance, a UN SMS-based
literacy program in Pakistan aims to help women in Islamabad to read. All these points help us
to prove that texting is not a threat to English but an opening to limitless scopes in the
The term Language is considered to have derived from the Latin word ‘lingua’ which
means tongue. Language is essentially a tool of communication used in human communities. The
term language is usually used in the restricted sense of languages used by human beings alone,
which may also be referred to as Natural Languages. Language is not a static thing. Since
language is so intangible, changes over time are not only unavoidable; they are also common and
expected. There may be many reasons for the change like culture, technology, events in history

etc. But the most influential reason for the change in today's era is technology. Things like email,
texting, and Face book have led to new words forming, new grammatical changes, and other
modifications that are both subtle and noticeable. Technology could eventually help the language
become easier to follow, growing similar to other languages, and stray away from the numerous
irregularities that we all struggle to master. You cannot expect English language to remain the
same while the world around us and particularly the way we communicate is subject to so much
variation. Text messaging is not merely a fun or playful way to communicate.

What is Short Message Service?

Texting/ Short Message Service (SMS), is a text messaging service through phone, Web,
or mobile communication systems. It uses standardized communications protocols to allow fixed
line or mobile phone devices to exchange short text messages. The term "SMS" is used for both
the user activity and all types of short text messaging in many parts of the world (CNN,
December 3, 2012). ‘Texting’ as used in modern handsets originated from telegraphy, in radio
memo pagers using standardized phone protocols. These were defined in 1985 as part of
the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), a series of standards as a means of
sending messages of up to 160 characters to and from GSM mobile handsets. Adding text
messaging functionality to mobile devices began in the early 1980s. The first proposal which
initiated the development of Text/ SMS was a contribution of Germany and France in the GSM
group meeting in February 1985 in Oslo. The first Text message was sent over
the Vodafone GSM network in the United Kingdom on 3 December 1992, from Neil
Papworth of Sema Group using a personal computer, to Richard Jarvis of Vodafone who was
using an Orbitel 901 handset. The text of the message was "Merry Christmas" (BBC News,
September 3, 2002).

According to the book authored by Asoke K. Talukder, Hasan Ahmed and Roopa
Yavagal, messages are sent to a short message service center (SMSC), which provides a "store
and forward" mechanism. It attempts to send messages to the SMSC's recipients. If a recipient is
not reachable, the SMSC queues the message for later retry. Some providers allow users to
request delivery reports, via the SMS settings of most modern phones (Talukder K. 338).
Andrew Baxter also in his work, GSM and UMTS, the Creation of Global Mobile

Communication describes about the first commercial deployment of a short message service
center (SMSC)

‘Texting’ Now: Its Reception by the Society

‘Texting’ was the most widely used data application, with an estimated 3.5 billion active
users, or about 80% of all mobile phone subscribers at the end of 2010. In 2010 alone, somewhat
6.1 trillion (6.1 × 1012) SMS/ Text messages were sent. This translates into an average of
193,000 SMS per second. ‘Texting’ is also employed in direct marketing, known as SMS
marketing. As of September 2014, global SMS messaging business is said to be worth over USD
100 billion, and SMS accounts for almost 50 percent of all the revenue generated by mobile

While ‘Texting’ is still a growing market, traditional SMS is becoming increasingly
challenged by alternative messaging services such as Facebook, Messenger, Wahtsapp and Viber,
available on smartphones with data connection. Though these are alternative message services,
they are also found to be using exactly the same kind of language used in ‘Texting’. In
2014, Caktus Group developed the world's first SMS-based voter registration system in Libya.
So far, more than 1.5 million people have registered using that system, providing Libyan voters
with unprecedented access to the democratic process.

What is Text/SMS Language?
Text/SMS language or textese (also known as txt-speak, chatspeak, txt lingo) is a term
used for the abbreviations and slang commonly used with mobile phone text messaging, but

sometimes also used with other Internet-based communication such as Email and instant
messaging, Facebook and Whatsapp. Text/SMS language is similar to that used by those sending
telegraphs, which are charged by the word. It seeks to use the fewest number of letters to produce
ultra-concise words and sentiments in dealing with space, time and cost constraints of text
messaging. It also shares some of the characteristics with Internet slang. In addition,
similarly elliptical styles of writing can be traced to the days of telegraphs some 120 years back,
where telegraph operators were reported to use abbreviations similar to those used in modern text
when chatting amongst themselves in between sending of official messages.
Some may view ‘Text’ language to be a nascent dialect of the English language. But it is
not the case. The mobile operating system such as Symbian and language packs enable the
linguistic localization of products that are equipped with such interfaces, that supports the scripts
and orthographies of over 48 languages and dialects, though such provisions are by no means
fully comprehensive as to the languages used by users all over the world. But using English for
the same purpose is found to be much more suitable for the situation, not only for those in the
Western countries but also people all around the other parts of the world. Since English acts as a
widely accepted language and of course also a lingua franca, using it will not be of much trouble
for anyone. Still, other languages can also be used for the same. This flexible and structureless
form is one of the unique features found only in the shorthand texting. Text message slang has
aided many children's language. By constantly using this ungrammatical form of texting so
frequently, it has become a part of their "normal language." Below given are instances of few
types of standard words in English and their translations into the shorthand language.

Standard English Words Vs SMS Words

Words in full SMS Language
Today 2day
Before b4
Great gr8
See you later c u l8r
Laugh Out Loud LOL

Oh my God/Gosh OMG
As soon as possible ASAP

‘Texting/SMS Language:’ A Real Threat or Opportunity to English
We are living in a world which is very hectic, competitive and much complex. Almost
everyone in the world today are found running after jobs and other means to make up a living or
a better and settled life. Such a world would definitely have no particular space for thick and
lasting bondage between friends, neighbours and unfortunately not even between relatives. While
comparing this present scenario with that of a world about 100 years before, the results we get
would be shocking. As life became swifter and complicated, people naturally went after much
more simplified means and methods in life. It was with the invention of mobile phones that text-
messaging or short message service (SMS) came into existence. Similarly with the advent of
computers and internet, there was also the up come of chat-rooms, instant messaging (IM) etc,
which has a very close functional resemblance with that of ‘Texting.’ All these are quick and
short hand methods of communication, where the language used is short, structureless and
against the conventional norms of any language.
Though this kind of communication and the language used in it, seems to be very helpful,
the controversial debates whether the ‘Texting’ language is a threat that would ruin and degrade
the value of English or, whether it is a phase of language development where English becomes
much more simple and easy to use, has led the world of literature and communication,
somewhere near to a “Dead End.” Why should the concept of ‘Text’ language lead the whole
world to such a great controversy? Borrowing the words of the great Physicist and
Mathematician, Isaac Newton, “every action has an equal and opposite reaction,” ‘Text’ language
also has both advantages and disadvantages. It is certainly not a one-way package.
 The changes we see taking place today in the language will be a prelude to the dying use
of good English. (Sunday Telegraph, April 24, 2001)
 Appalled teachers are now presented with essays written not in Standard English but in
the compressed, minimalist language of mobile phone text messaging. (Scotsman, March
4, 2003)
 The English language is being beaten up; civilization is in danger of
crumbling. (Observer, March 7, 2004)

 Baroness Greenfield, the neuroscientist, is worried that sending text messages may cause
young people to have shorter attention spans. (The Telegraph, Aug 12, 2009)
On the bright side, there have been studies with surprisingly unexpected conclusions:
 A new language of the airwaves has been born. (Guardian, June 26, 2003)
 Texting is penmanship for illiterates. (Sunday Telegraph, July 11, 2004)
 Not since man uttered his first word and clumsily held a primitive pencil nearly 10,000
years ago has there been such a revolution in language. (Daily Post, September 26,
 A 2006 study by two professors at Coventry University in Britain found that 11-year-olds
who used the most ‘textisms’ were actually better at spelling and writing. A command of
texting seems to indicate a broader facility for language. And these students seem to
switch easily between text messaging and Standard English. (The New York Sun, January
23, 2008)
 A UN SMS-based literacy program in Pakistan aims to help women in Islamabad to read
and text messages play a vital role.
These are a few examples that could give us a picture about how the text messaging is
viewed among people. There are both the positive and negative views. The striking factor anyone
could notice from the negative points given is that, it is only those people who look upon English
in the conventional manner who stand up against the new ‘Text’ language. There are even people
who consider English as the epitome of civilization and the changes in it could lead the whole
‘civilization’ (here meaning humanity) towards danger. Do we ought to take such blind and
blatant excuses seriously? It is time for those who view the ‘Text’ language as the degradation
and destruction of the so called ‘Traditional English’ to re-think about their opinions. Language
is not static and is always subject to change according to the shifts that occur in culture. Ever
since birth, language has had to undergo changes. English being a language has no exception. If
we look at the way English evolved and developed as a language, it will be clear. Then how
come these people claim so firmly about the ‘tradition’ and legacy of English? English alone
could stand without changes. Why did languages like Latin, Ancient Greek, and Sanskrit become
‘Dead Languages’ or ‘Extinct Languages’? They, with their refined and pure structure and norms
were not able to adapt themselves to a swiftly changing situation. Thus they were gradually over-
thrown by other languages which were simpler and easier. English itself became one of the

languages used worldwide, because of its simplicity and flexibility when compared with many
other languages of the world. But now it is time that even English is victimized to changes.
Today no one is interested in grammar, sentence structure, pronunciations and such other
conventional ideas of languages. Language now is not admired for its rich literary beauty, but for
its capability to convey messages or ideas with quickness and simplicity. Similarly, today
language is also cut short and only to the point, where as language was expressive and elaborate
in the past. ‘Text’ language could be called the “celebration of fragmentation” or can be said to
be the “deconstruction” of the traditional structure and form of English.
It would be apt to take the example of the T-20 cricket in this juncture. T-20 cricket being
the youngest in the cricket family took form not very long ago. From the moment such a concept
was shared with the world, the cricket fans or better the whole cricket family was divided into
three categories.
a. Those who agreed with the new format of cricket and welcomed the new member to the
family with much hope, happiness and expectations.
b. Those who disagreed and opposed the new format with all their might, both physical and
ideological. They were filled with wrath and contempt tip to top.
c. Now there is s a third category that is often avoided. This category could be found
anywhere and in any case. They never will have an opinion of their own. Such people
seem to be less bothered about what is happening around them. They neither accept nor
protest against anything. They are, just like a leaf in water that simply floats along with
the current.
Anyway whatever the situation was then does not matter now. Because now T20 is, the
most entertaining and fan following format of cricket. But what makes it so special? T-20 has
only a limited number of 20 overs (120 balls). Pointing out this as a limitation, even great and
well known cricketers came out against this new format. They played the conventional format of
cricket and were totally alien to the new one. So they went against it and even those who took
their words to be true also accused that the T20 would destroy the entire game. But we all know
what the result was and whether those accusations where true enough. In the T20 format, both
the batting and bowling teams would definitely be lot more aggressive than in a Test match or an
ODI because of the limitation in the number of balls. It was exactly this limitation that made
everybody including kids, youth and the elders alike to be fond this new format.

“I am going to have a cup of coffee. Do you want one?” This is a complete sentence
written in Standard English where as in ‘Texting,’ the same becomes, “gonna hav cofi…wnt
sme???” There are no concerns about the Subject- Verb- Object combination or grammatical
rules in ‘Texting.’ The whole standards in English are deconstructed into a formless and
structureless one when we come to the ‘Texting’ language.
It is not yet clear about why they look at ‘Texting’ with so much enmity. ‘Texting’ after
all is simply a change that is inevitable. May be after another 50 years, ‘Texting’ would stand in
the present condition of English, facing the call for change. This is because language is not fixed
and static. Language from the very time of its origin had to undergo various changes and will
have to undergo change in the coming future also. May be at least till the whole world starts
speaking a single language as we find in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible. According to the
Biblical story, before the fall of the Fort Babel, man used to speak a single language. But
gradually pride started to grow in him and his greed made him desire to be Godlike. As the
English proverb goes, “Pride goes before a fall”, man was punished for his pride and greed. God
scattered his language and they were no longer able to communicate or understand one another.
This led to the fall of the great Fort of Babel which was built as an icon of civilization.
Let us hope that another fall of humanity will not happen again. ‘Texting’ is in no sense a
threat to English or any other language. It is simply a new form of language that is structureless,
and providing more freedom to its users than all the other prevailing languages. It is a
requirement of this generation. Tomorrow another language might evolve setting this new form
aside. So do not look upon ‘Texting’ with hostility but do accept it into our communication
circles and make use of its benefits.

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York: Macmillan, 2002. Print.
2. Crystal, David. Txtng the gr8 db8. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.
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Inc. 22 July 2004. Web. 20 July. 2015. Web.
4. "SMS language." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 22
July 2004. Web. 23 June. 2015. Web.

5. Talukder K. Asoke, Hasan Ahmed and Roopa Yavagal. Mobile Computing: Technology,
Applications and Service Creation. India: McGraw Hill Education; 2nd edition, 2010.