Citation Details: Discourse Analysis Online, 2003

Published/Moderated by: Simeon J. Yates, Susan C. Herring [;]

D3E version published: 2003

Discussants/Stakeholders: Simeon J. Yates, Susan C. Herring

Generation Txt? The sociolinguistics of young people's text-messaging

Crispin Thurlow

Department of Communication,
University of Washington, Box 353740,
Seattle, WA 98195, USA

with Alex Brown
[note 1]

Abstract: The so called 'net generation' is popularly assumed to be naturally media literate and to be necessarily reinventing conventional linguistic and communicative practices. With this in mind, this essay centres around discursive analyses of qualitative data arising from an investigation of 159 older teenagers' use of mobile telephone text-messaging - or SMS (i.e. short-messaging services). In particular, against a backdrop of media commentaries, we examine the linguistic forms and communicative functions in a corpus of 544 participants' actual text-messages. While young people are surely using their mobile phones as a novel, creative means of enhancing and supporting intimate relationships and existing social networks, popular discourses about the linguistic exclusivity and impenetrability of this particular technologically-mediated discourse appear greatly exaggerated. Serving the sociolinguistic 'maxims' of (a) brevity and speed, (b) paralinguistic restitution and (c) phonological approximation, young people's messages are both linguistically unremarkable and communicatively adept.

Keywords: text-messaging, SMS, adolescents, sociolinguistics, computer-mediated discourse, new communication technologies

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