There’s a special place in purgatory reserved for scientists who make bold claims based on tiny effects of uncertain origin; and an extra-long sentence is imposed on those who also keep their data secret, publishing only hard-to-interpret summary statistics from statistical models. The flames that purify their scientific souls will rise from the lake of lava that eternally consumes the journalists who further exaggerate their dubious claims. Those fires, alas, await Drew P. Cingel and S. Shyam Sundar, the authors of “Texting, techspeak, and tweens: The relationship between text messaging and English grammar skills”, New Media & Society 5/11/2012:
The perpetual use of mobile devices by adolescents has fueled a culture of text messaging, with abbreviations and grammatical shortcuts, thus raising the following question in the minds of parents and teachers: Does increased use of text messaging engender greater reliance on such ‘textual adaptations’ to the point of altering one’s sense of written grammar? A survey (N = 228) was conducted to test the association between text message usage of sixth, seventh and eighth grade students and their scores on an offline, age-appropriate grammar assessment test. Results show broad support for a general negative relationship between the use of techspeak in text messages and scores on a grammar assessment.
Some of the journalists who will fuel the purifying flames: Maureen Downey, “ZOMG: Text-speak and tweens: Notso gr8 4 riting skillz”, Atlanta Journal-Constitution; Sarah D. Sparks, “Duz Txting Hurt Yr Kidz Gramr? Absolutely, a New Study Says”, Education Week; Mark Prigg, “OMG: Researchers say text messaging really is leading to a generation with poor grammar skills”, The Daily Mail; Gregory Ferenstein, “Texting Iz Destroying Student Grammar”, TechCrunch; the anonymous author of “Texting tweens lack ‘gr8′ grammar”, CBC 7/26/2012; … And, of course, in a specially-hot lava puddle all his own, the guy who wrote the press release from Penn State: Matt Swayne, “No LOL matter: Tween texting may lead to poor grammar skills”, 7/26/2012.
Go to Prof. Liberman’s post for details and links. Naturally, I would be glad to link to any responses.