Mobile texts ruining English language

MUSCAT — A leading English language consultant has lamented the erosion of the ‘richness’ of English by the increasing use of SMS texts and emails.

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Published: Wed 18 Apr 2012, 9:13 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 1:52 PM

Richard Harrison, author of several textbooks for students of English in the Gulf region and an expert in intercultural communication with over 20 years of experience in the Arab world, noted that text-messages, emails and the use of the Internet in general had dramatically changed the nature of written English.

“Because of the electronic revolution, written English is becoming more like spoken English. In the past people communicated in a much more formal way. My impression is that we may also be losing the richness of our English language and culture,” he said.

Harrison, Course Coordinator for Academic English and Head of the Pre-University Programme at the German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech), was giving a public speech here.

He said the electronic revolution, including the Internet and text messaging, had created an immediate, universal and democratic medium of communication. “In the UK alone around two million text messages are sent per hour. Though some people say that this is not really writing it is an interesting and remarkable phenomenon. We don’t know yet how emails will change our reading and writing,” Harrison said.

Speech, he observed, was more interpersonal and spontaneous, whereas writing was planned and highly structured, adding: “Emails cover a broad range of language styles. They can be formal but tend towards being very informal — like speech written down. An email can also sound very unfriendly, with a lack of greeting or a signing off. In addition, there are no strict guidelines for use as there are for letter writing.”

He said emails could also be used as a protective cover for things that people don’t want to say face to face. Harrison referred to a study conducted by the linguist Brock Haussamen. It found that people today are using shorter sentences compared to the past.

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