Investigating the impact of SMS speak on the written work of English first language and English second language high school learners

Kristy Winzker, Frenette Southwood, Kate Huddlestone

Abstract


This study examined the impact of SMS speak on the written work of English first language (L1) and English second language (L2) grade 8s and 11s. The aim was to establish whether these learners make use of features of SMS speak in their English written work. The participants, 88 learners from an English-Afrikaans dual medium school, completed questionnaires from which the frequency and volume of their SMS use were determined, as well as the features of SMS speak they reportedly use while SMSing. In addition, samples of their English essays were examined for the following features of SMS speak: (deliberate) spelling errors; lack of punctuation; over-punctuation; omission of function words; and use of abbreviation, acronyms, emoticons and rebus writing. The questionnaires indicated that these learners are avid users of the SMS. All participants reported using features of SMS speak in their SMSes, and more than 40% reported using SMS speak in their written school work. Despite this, features of SMS speak infrequently occurred in the written work of the learners, which could indicate that the learners are able to assess when it is and is not appropriate to use a certain variety of language. That said, a number of SMS speak features were indeed present in the samples, which indicates that SMS speak had some impact on the written work of these learners. Not all of the nonstandard features of their written English could, however, necessarily be attributed to the influence of SMS speak; specifically some of the spelling and punctuation errors could have occurred in the written English of high school learners from before the advent of cell phones.


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5785/25-2-31

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ISSN 2224-0012 (online); ISSN 0259-2312 (print)

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