Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

New Zealand Text-Speak Word Norms and Masked Priming Effects

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

New Zealand Text-Speak Word Norms and Masked Priming Effects

Article excerpt

Short Message Service (SMS), more commonly known as "text messaging", was originally only intended for cell phone companies to communicate with customers (Agar, 2003; Wray, 2002). In the past decade, however, text messaging has become an increasingly preferred mode of communication, most notably among young adolescents (Madell & Muncer, 2004; Tagliamonte & Denis, 2008). Although New Zealand is a small country with around 4.3 million people, it has approximately 4.6 million mobile phone subscribers, which can be attributed to some people owning more than one phone (CIA, 2009). On average over a million text messages are sent daily within New Zealand (Bramley et al., 2005).

Communication mediums, such as text messaging and Twitter, limit the space available to communicate a message. For example, mobile phone service providers generally limit a text message to 160 characters (i.e., letters and spaces) per message (Berger & Coch, 2010), while Twitter limits messages to 140 characters (Dorsey, 2012). Limited space has prompted users of these communication mediums to use shortening techniques such as text-speak (e.g., great to see you, gr8 2 cya). However, it should be noted that limited space is not the single catalyst prompting the use of text-speak. Text-speak has also been noted in other communication mediums where relative space is not as limited, such as blogs, forums and community social networks (e.g., Facebook and MySpace), and emailing (Crystal, 2008; Drouin & Davis, 2009). Additionally, as pointed out by a reviewer, participants may adopt using text-speak in order to better mimic face-to-face communication. Thus, participants may likely adopt text-speak to allow faster and greater "spontaneity" in conversation.

Text-speak includes various techniques employed to shorten a word or phrase. Some popular text-speak techniques include acronyms (Laugh Out Loud, LOL), shortcuts (late, L8), phonetic respelling (night, nite), nonconventional spelling (at you, atcha) and removal of vowel or consonants (subsetting) (text, txt) (Choudhury, et al., 2007; Ganushchak, Krott, & Meyer, 2010; Head, Helton, Neumann, Russell, & Shears, 2011; Plester, et al., 2011; Thurlow, 2003).

Most of the research on text-speak to date has focused on the detrimental effects text-speak has on literacy. Critics of text-speak have argued that it is counterproductive to language production for students (Thurlow, 2006; Sutherland, 2002; Ihnatko, 1997), while others have argued that text-speak has no negative effects (Crystal, 2008; Drouin & Davis, 2009; Kul, 2007). Regardless of either viewpoint, both sides have based their arguments on non-experimental evidence (e.g., correlations) which makes it difficult to truly understand the effects text-speak may have on comprehension. The use of text-speak by New Zealand students has also generated disdain among educators. For example, concerns arose when examination markers penalized students for using text-speak in formal examinations by awarding them lower scores. Controversially, the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) moved to allow students to use text-speak in formal exams due to its widespread use and appearance in examinations. The NZQA's argument was that regardless of whether text-speak was used, if the student shows the required knowledge of a subject, then they should be given credit. As expected this was met with anger from educators; for example, one school principal stated, "permitting text abbreviations in the National Certificate of Educational Achievement exams made a joke of the teaching of proper grammar" (Smith, 2006). As noted above, research addressing the use of text-speak and its effects on literacy and grammar is ongoing (Thurlow, 2006; Sutherland, 2002; Ihnatko, 1997); however, the focus of this study is how text-speak is created and more importantly what are the cognitive mechanisms involved in processing this type of information. …

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