Text or talk?

April 24, 2013

Linguist John McWhorter’s talk at TED explores texting in the context of language as a whole.

In a world where texting is continually attacked as a scourge on the written word, his thesis that texting is not writing at all, that it is in fact a form of speech and is therefore necessarily much less formal and less reflective.

To illustrate the point, he shows us the converse; discussing ‘old-fashioned’ speech-giving, which had much more in common with writing than with natural speech patterns. Texting, he says is basically the same idea, usingg the mechanism of one form of communication, but behaving as the other. ‘Speaking’ in the written word i.e. texting, only became possible when we developed technology that allowed for instant sharing.

Ultimately, he sees texting as an expansion of our linguistic repertoire, much like learning a new language, rather than as a dilution of our ability to write.

Great talk, and well worth the 14 minutes, so grab a cup of tea!

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