The decline of writing in Dingburg

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The Zippy take on the baleful effects of electronic communication:

Here, Bill Griffith mocks the alarm over what electronic communication is leading to, as discussed in David Crystal's new book Txtng: The Gr8 Db8, which Ben Zimmer has begun posting about here on Language Log.

[Side point: the title as given above is what appears on the title page of Crystal's book. But the cover has it lowercased: txtng: the gr8 db8. As it might look when texted.]

We've been commenting on the texting panic for a while now: here, here, here, here. Dennis Baron did a piece on it on his Web of Language site in April; Geoff Nunberg did a "Fresh Air" commentary on it in July; and David Crystal commented on reactions to his book on his own blog in August. All these sources cite bits of the enormous body of hand-wringing about texting and the like.

Back in May, the Economist looked at the French reaction to text messaging ("Parlez-vous SMS?", 24 May, p. 70). President Nicolas Sarkozy in February (in the Economist's translation):

Look at what text-messaging is doing to the French language. If we let things go, in a few years we will have trouble understanding each other.

The magazine elaborates:

Text-messaging corrupts all languages. But the French are touchy because theirs is so much an emblem of national identity. It is hard enough to protect French from the invasion of English; now self-destruction threatens.

How over-the-top is that? Well, Crystal responded in a letter to the magazine, published on 14 June:

I can imagine the French believing this, but the studies on SMS that have been done over the past five years show quite the opposite.

In the letter, Crystal addresses the question of whether texting erodes the ability of individual texters to read and write (as in the Zippy cartoon), but the Economist (plus Sarkozy and many other prophets of doom) asserts that languages as wholes are threatened. By corruption. More level-headed observers of the changing scene question whether texting's influences on individual languages will be substantial, not to mention negative.



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