Do you speak with a “Social Accent”?

Example of Txt Speak

Example of Txt Speak

The Masters of Communications Program at the Annenberg School for Journalism and Communications at the University of Southern California focuses on teaching its students how organizations and people communicate. Language is the basis of communications and language is consistently evolving. The first type of language was most likely a type of sign language established by cavemen.  As each generation of people evolve, the language that they speak progresses, and the pronouncements and the meanings of the words used in their language change based upon the current society and circumstances (Liberman 2011, para 4.).  But how has modern day language been influenced through the use of social media?

In the early days of the internet was the introduction of the email message and, a major fear was that the email message would replace and or destroy the act of written correspondence or letter writing (Sherman, 2010, para. 3).  But, this was not the case, just as email was looked upon to change the way society conveys written messages. Today social media has had an impact on the way the written word is used and understood (Sherman, 2010, para. 5). 

The use of the written word has evolved with the use of social media in many different ways. One way is text speak.   Text speak uses different spellings and abbreviations for words.  This language change has been highlighted by the media in recent years and the use of these abbreviations or text speak to communicate may be somewhat overblown.  Text Speak is the use of vowel-free abbreviations and acronyms usually in short message with a character limit such as a “tweet “or a “SMS” message (Kleinman, 2010, para.30).  Many people believe that text speak is new language but, on average when people send text message only 10% of the words in an average text message are not spelled out completely (Kleinman, 2010, para.31).

Another language phenomenon that occurred because of social media is the way technology has changed the definitions of existing words to mean something else. An example of this is the term wireless in the 1950’s the word meant a short-wave radio. (Kleinman, 2010, para.40). Today, the word means a type of communication and computing devices. (Kleinman, 2010, para.41).

According to David Crystal , honorary professor of linguistics at the University of Bangor, historically language takes many generations to change but, the internet as speed up this process so, now people notice this change much more quickly (Kleinman, 2010, para.45).    People are using word play on the internet to manipulate language. (Kleinman, 2010, para.51).  The manipulation of language or word play on the internet is becoming a skill similarly to that of tagging or skateboarding (Kleinman, 2010, para.45).    It will be interesting to see how the use of language will change on the internet in the next 20 years.

–Vicki Young

CMGT 541-C


 Kleinman, Z. (2010, August 16). How the internet is changing language Retrieved from

Liberman, M. (2011) Linguistics 001: introduction to linguistics. University of Pennsylvania.

Retrieved from:

Sherman, A. (2010, April 28).  How social media is affecting the way we speak and write Retrieved from:

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15 Responses to Do you speak with a “Social Accent”?

  1. dayney says:

    Hi Vicky,

    Nice post. I actually find this subject fascinating. In fact, I wrote an entire paper on it for my master’s in education and I’m sure you found, in your research, that “text speak” (as rapidly as it’s progressing) is finding its way into students’ English papers. It’s amazing how the information superhighway can rapidly change our communication vehicles! Bty, I love David Crystal, he’s a genius linguist and author.

    • vyoung says:

      Hi Dayna,

      I agree David Crystal is a fascinating person. While I was researching the for the blog post I found myself searching for more articles written about and by Professor Crystal. It is rather unfortunate that txt speak is becoming the norm with generation y. I definitely can attest to using txt speak when I communicate with my daughter but, this may because she is 17. Thank you for responding to my blog post.


  2. Nikolos Gurney says:


    I am with you on seeing where all of this social media we engage with will take language. I am a big fan of late 20th century philosophy of language, and I would love to see a Derrida reading of my text messages – I am sure the deconstruction would be entertaining. One thing that I have observed is a real change in the way I communicate both verbally and through written (or typed) communication. I have always been one to speak in disconnected, but somewhat coherent, thought patterns. This becomes amplified in text messaging which leads tons of space for Derrida’s “differance.”

    • vyoung says:

      Hi Nik,

      Now that is a frightening thought. Sociologists or philosophers a hundred years in the future could be basing our society on our text messages or even our Facebook posts. Talk about a shallow group of people. Although I am sure the subject would make a great research practicum.
      Thank you for responding to my blog post.


  3. Andrew Santelli says:

    VY, Thx 4 ur post. Made me 1der if SMS lang is rly here 2 stay & wat is next! We dont say ‘thou’ or ‘ye’ nemore, u kno? Eng profs may not c it as gr8, but o well. Comm pro’s job 2 keep ^ w timez! Hmm. ttfn! C u @ USC. -AS

  4. jacquelinecavalier says:

    Hi Vicki!

    I really enjoyed your post! There have been many times when I have been surprised by educated adults abbreviating words in text messages and in their spoken words. OMG is the most recognizable example of this trend for most people. Sometimes I receive text messages from colleagues that I don’t understand because of the “text speak”. I have actually googled some abbreviations to find out what they mean.

    It will be interesting to see how language is transformed in the next 10 to 20 years!

    Great post!

    • vyoung says:

      Hi Jacqueline,

      I am so glad you liked my post. It was a fun topic to research and I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years brings linguistically.
      Thanks again,


  5. crwillia says:

    Hi Vicki,

    “On average when people send text message only 10% of the words in an average text message are not spelled out completely (Kleinman, 2010, para.31).

    This stat is truly fascinating. I would be curious to know if text messages earlier on had a higher percentage of abbreviated words. I would not be surprised to learn that as text messaging has become more popular with older groups that more and more full words were / are being used. In other words, this stat suggests to me that 90% of text messages contain full words because more and more Baby Boomers and GenXers have been increasingly incorporating this form of communication on a regular basis.

    Thanks for the terrific post!

    Cathy Williams
    CMGT 541

    • vyoung says:

      Hi Cathy,

      I completely agree with your analysis as more Baby Boomers and GenXers have been incorporating this form of communication on a regular basis these users don’t use txt speak to communicate.
      Thank you for your insight.


  6. Sarah Harris says:

    I love this!
    I sit and laugh every time Merriam-Websters talks about new words being added to the dictionary and my kids laugh when they find bad words in there.
    I am constantly challenged by the new text speak and really freaked out the first time my mom wrote “LOL!” to me – actually any time she texts me.
    The thing is, however, while this is short and sweet, people need to be able to step outside of this world and use their S.A.T. words when applying for jobs and such. Using these abbreviations and 🙂 in an email introducing one’s self never goes over well with the employer – yet it happens!
    This is a great post!

    Sarah 😛

    • vyoung says:


      How right you are! In fact the other day I was at a retreat for my job and I heard that the medical students were using “txt speak” when they composed their patient write up in the patient’s medical charts. This is unacceptable and quite possibly life-threatening.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts.


  7. lemlemac says:


    Great post Vicki. I have to say even though I am guilty of using text language, it is frankly annoying. When ever my daughter texts me I need a translator. It might as well be another language..this text language is the new pig-latin. It is so bad that teens are using it as a dialect.
    Example of my daughter texting me:
    Mom, OMG! I just got enuf $$ to buy a jb tix…ttyl


    • vyoung says:


      LOL! I can relate! The only way my daughter speaks to me is via txt message.
      TY 4 yr post! ttyl :),


  8. aflores says:

    Great post! I really enjoyed reading it. I am in the education sector and we are always concerned about kids’ writing skills – txt speak is not helping:) I guess as a society we must evolve in the way we communicate, so let’s go with the flow.