Are We Witnessing the Demise of Grammar?

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Are We Witnessing the Demise of Grammar?

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There’s no denying that the English language taken some hits in the last few decades, and grammar nerds everywhere are getting extremely worried that they are witnessing its death throes. And for good reason. Textspeak, or textese, is practically a new language, cursive writing is no longer a part of elementary curriculum, and the alarming number of misspelled words that are appearing in public signs and on social media. Is there any hope for salvaging what’s left of “proper” English grammar, or should the grammar nerds just get over themselves?

TL;DR

It’s been proclaimed that the average American’s attention span is eight seconds, which is one second less than that of a goldfish. Although there’s been some push-back on this study, there’s no denying that social media has led to shorter, more concise, and highly-abbreviated conversations. Even after doubling the number of characters allowed in a message from 140 to 280, Twitter reported that the length of tweets hasn’t really increased.

Packing a lot of information into a smaller and smaller message has resulted is an amalgam of abbreviations, emojis, and syntax that actually do express a lot of words and emotions in less space and with fewer letters. Although some members of the millennial generation have taken credit for this language revolution, they’re not the first to attempt to reform the English language—and they won’t be the last.

History repeating

In fact, in 1768 Benjamin Franklin proposed a new, simplified alphabet that eliminated “redundant or confusing” letters and added new letters to represent phonetic sounds. Although Noah Webster found so much value in the idea that he adapted some of these spellings in his first dictionary in 1806, most of the changes didn’t catch on.

One hundred years later, billionaire Andrew Carnegie funded a spelling reform study that actually simplified 300 words by removing unnecessary letters and changing tricky spellings; “arbour” became “arbor,” “gauge” became “gage,” and “kissed” became “kist.” While some of these adaptations stuck, most didn’t, despite a 1906 executive order by President Theodore Roosevelt forcing the Government Printing Office to adapt the new spellings. The reaction to the order was loud, negative, and widespread, even “tho” the New York Times actually determined that they would continue using 131 of Roosevelt’s 300 new spellings.

Fast-forward another century, and it’s the same situation all over again. Once again, words are being simplified to make them easier for Americans to spell and use in conversation. Looking at today’s language situation through a historical lens should help to lessen the spelling panic of 2018. Sure, some of these shortened words and abbreviations will survive, and our language will continue to evolve, whether we like it or not.

But…what about the kids?!

The biggest fear of grammar sticklers is that textese is going to make its insidious way into the English education and literacy of our children. However, that’s not happening. Research studies have shown that students can indeed differentiate language that’s appropriate for texting from the language they should use in an academic paper. Some studies even suggest that students’ abilities to read and understand cryptic text messages actually have a positive impact on their spelling, reading, and writing skills; they liken the phenomenon to children who are fluent in two languages.

Teachers on all grade levels are still instructing students to use proper grammar and counting off points for errors when they don’t. Many businesses still adhere to old school writing rules, as well, and demand proper grammar in professional communications. Even bloggers, though perhaps the most informal of today’s writers, don’t resort to textese. Ask any teacher, business communications expert, journalist, essay writing service, tutor, blogger, or English major, and they’ll assure you that grammar is very much alive and thriving!

Author’s Bio: 

Md Rasel is a professional blogger.

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