Ch@tsPk...also known as...TxteZ...also known as....SMS

external image lol.gif

What is it?….or, WTF!?

Ch@tsPK generally appears in texts, IMs, blogs, and emails, though some young adult authors have written novels in chatspeak. It is communication that combines the use of latest widely accessible technology with existing conventions such as:

Some examples of chatspeak:
*Acronyms – lmao!
*Emoticons – J
*Rebus – representations of words or syllables by pictures of objects or by symbols whose names resemble the intended words or syllables i
also : a riddle made up of such pictures or symbols (Merriam-Webster)
*Single letters or digits can replace words
  • be -> b
  • see or sea -> c
  • are -> r
  • you -> u
  • why-> y
  • at -> @
  • won or one-> 1
  • to or too -> 2
  • for -> 4
  • ate -> 8
*A single letter or digit can also replace a syllable
  • to or too becomes 2, so:
    • tomorrow -> 2mro or 2moro
    • today -> 2day or 2da
  • for or fore becomes 4, so:
    • before -> b4
    • forget -> 4get
  • ate becomes 8, so:
    • late -> l8
    • wait -> w8
    • hate -> h8
    • date -> d8
    • later -> l8r or l8a
*Combinations of the above can shorten a single or multiple words
  • your and you're become ur, yr and ure
  • wonderful becomes 1drfl
  • someone becomes sum1
  • no one becomes no1
  • any one become any1 or ne1
  • see you becomes cu
  • for you becomes 4u
  • easy becomes ez
  • oh my god becomes omg

But…Y???: Why do people use chatspeak?
*Fast and easy -- each generation has a greater load of information that they are expected to process and respond to. Many people are relieved when we get a text, no matter how poorly worded, rather than a voicemail?
*Authority figures don’t get it!image.png
*Some argue it allows users to multi-task better b/c not worried about spelling/grammar

Y duzt matR?
*Can cause people to find new meaning in random letters (woman changed plates b/c of WTF)
*May cause a splintering of communication? In an Australian study, resesarchers had students translate standard English into chatspeak and students came up with 2 ways to write “for” but 29 ways to write “tomorrow”. Still, they are not sure if that demonstrates complex thinking or confusion
*Can create misunderstanding. Autocomplete, a branch of SMS can cause issues

…or MaB it duznt matR?
Instead of text messages in chatspeak and students communicated via Latin every day would people be happy with that? What does the use of chatspeak say about society? Is there a similar begrudging acceptance yet lack of action regarding chatspeak as there is with the many problems with American education system…and the way adult Americans communicate with each other?

Iz Ch@tspk rLy so bAd?


*Shortcuts aren't actually linguistically novel; shortcuts and abbreviations pre-dated computers and cellphones (rebuses “2” = “to,” initialisms “gf” = “girlfriend” “lol”)
  • “IOU” dates back to 1618
  • Eric Partridge published Dictionary of Abbreviations in 1942 (“agn” - “again” “mth” - “month” “gd” - “good”)
  • Non-standard spellings like “cos” and “wot” are in OED from 1820s
  • English language is already full of words that are actually abbreviations – exam, fridge, radar, laser, mic, ad, flu, blog, tv, phone

*Chatspeak can be seen as enregistering; this means it is a standard English differentiation as a dialect, where internet is the medium instead of geographic location or culture
  • Variations like lolspeak and leet (l33t, 3l33t) often used not to save space/time/the effort of spelling, but as ingroup meme
  • Can have a culture of its own
  • Often to be ironic and “in on the joke”


*Studies find strong positive links between the use of text language and the skills underlying success in standard English in pre-teenage children.
  • The more abbreviations in their messages, the higher kids scored on tests of reading and vocabulary.
  • Children that are better at spelling and writing use chatspeak the most.
  • The younger kids are when they get their first phone, the higher their scores in spelling and writing.
  • Research shows that chatspeak and texting promotes more exposure to the written word, which promotes literacy attainment.

*Economy of expression is a good thing that students should be familiar with for academic writing!
  • Chatspeak came about out of need to condense messages in little space – 160 characters in SMS, 140 in Twitter

*There's a time and a place – students should know that informal language (of any kind, not just chatspeak) has no place in formal writing or in formal communications
  • Certain aspects of chatspeak sometimes crossover to spoken language; a teenager might actually say “OMG!” to their friends but not their boss (so they already know that the context requires a codeswitch)
  • Teachers can use chatspeak as an example when talking about informal language that is not used in academic discourse


*Creates a Shortcutting mentality
  • Auto-complete
  • Spell-check
  • What message are we sending?
* Reduces Creativity
  • This might seem counterintuitive and many argue that “chatspeak” allows for creative expression amongst students. But let’s think about it: microblogging allows for the use of a small number of characters; there is a relatively small bank of widely known and text-accepted acronyms and emoticons. So in actuality, “chatspeak” limits the ways in which people can express themselves.
* Leads to Further disadvantaging students with learning disabilities:
  • In 2011 an article entitled Txt lang: Texting, textism use and literacy abilities in adolescents with and without specific language impairment was published in the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning.
    • 47 adolescents aged 17 who were “typically developing”; 47 same age with “specific language impairments”.
      • Participants were assigned to one of the two categories based on standardized assessments of cognitive, language and literacy abilities
  • Subjects participated in an interview about frequency of text messaging, and were asked to send a text message in reply to one sent by the experimenter.
    • Data showed a significant positive relationship between density of texts, number of types of textism used and the measures of literacy in adolescence.
    • “The present findings suggest that adolescents with SLI are less likely to send text messages in response to invitations and, when they do use this technology, may produce shorter messages than do their TD peers”
    • By incorporating the use of texting into the classroom, a teacher runs the risk of further marginalizes a population of students who are already marginalized.
* There is a common misconception that using “chatspeak” is faster, saves time and improves reading fluency.
  • Kemp and Bushnell did a study that looked at text messaging behaviors in 86 Australian children between the ages of 10 and 12.
  • “Children took significantly longer and made more errors when reading messages written in textese” (or chatspeak) “than in conventional English, and they were no faster at writing messages in textese than in conventional English, regardless of texting method or experience.” They further found that “exposure to textese does not improve reading fluency.”
  • And finally, in previous studies these same researchers found that adults actually made more errors when reading messages written in “chatspeak” than in conventional English, leading them to conclude that although using chatspeak might makes writing more efficient for the sender, the receiver takes more time to read it.
  • As teachers, we are going to be the ones trying to read and decode these messages and according to this research, we will most likely mis-read what a student is trying to say. And if using chatspeak causes our students to spend more time and still make more errors, where’s the rationale?

Some chatspeak reminds me of phonics, which is taught to children in elementary school. It is basically recognition of how patterns of letters sound together.

And other languages also use chatspeak the Philippines, Spain, and Germany.

What R we going 2 do @ it?

Some aspects of chatspeak are here to stay…like the use of OK instead of okay, some uses of letters have wider appeal than others
There is nothing we can do about it that already is not being done by good teachers everywhere!

Care about what your students have to say, even when they don’t say it well.
Help students communicate with wisely-chosen (and complete) words.
Ask more of students.
Teach students proper syntax and grammar.
Stay off their Facebook…treat their chatspeak life as separate from their class performance.
Point out the difference between proper grammar and chatspeak grammar.
Expect proper grammar, spelling, and syntax, no matter what they do outside the classroom.
Acclimate students to an adult world where chatspeak is not acceptable.
Know enough about teen subculture to understand it…but not so much that teens hate you.


Speak LolSpeak (teh offishul language of interweb kittehs)
NoSlang (Chatspeak translator)
l33t sp34k g3Ner4+0r ( 4 $CRiP+ KidDiEz) (Do it Yourself...or DIY! Chatspeak Generator)


Bushnell, C., Kemp, N., & Martin, F. M. (2011). Text-messaging practices and links to general spelling skill: A study of Australian children. Australian Journal of Educational & Developmental Psychology. Vol 11, 2001, pp. 27-38.

Cooke, C. "Fighting chat-speak in class." McClatchy-Tribune Business News [Washington]. 23 Oct 2006.

Durkin, K., Conti-Ramsden, Gl, & Walker, A.J. (2011). Txt Lang: Texting, textism use and literacy abilities in adolescents with and without
specific language impairment. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 27 (1), 49-57.

Kemp, N., & Busnell, C. (2011). Children's text messaging: abbreviations, input methods and links with literacy. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 27 (1), 18-27.

Cooke, C. "Fighting chat-speak in class." McClatchy-Tribune Business News [Washington]. 23 Oct 2006.

Squires, L. (2010). Enregistering internet language. Language in Society, 39(4), 457-492.

Tomita, K. (2009). "Text messaging and implication for its use in education." Proceedings from TCC '09: The New Internet: Collaborative Learning, Social Networking, Technology Tools, and Best Practices. Honolulu: HI.

Handouts and other Activities:


*preesh* (or thank you!)

Group Meeting Info:
Wed, Oct 14: Whole group met for 1/2 hour- assigned sections for people to research; created diigo page for dropping documents/links.
Wed, Oct 28: Whole group met for 2 hours- started working on Prezi; discussed and combined ideas; planned presentation.
Fri, Oct 30: Whole group met for 20 mins before class to iron out last minute details.