Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Text messages are not ruining the language

11.06.2013
When Swiss people write Text messages, they use only a few English expressions. Moreover, a study commissioned by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) has shown that these anglicisms are more indicative of a higher education than of declining language standards.
English is becoming more important everywhere, including Switzerland. Indeed, so much so that purists here are concerned that the number of anglicisms in our national languages is getting out of hand. It is widely believed that English expressions are "the in thing", particularly with young people and especially when they are using new and informal types of communication such as text messages. That this is not the case has been demonstrated by a large-scale study (see box) of some 26,000 Text messages conducted by researchers under the direction of Elisabeth Stark of the Romance Languages Seminar of the University of Zurich.

English expressions seldom used
Around 4600 Text messages, mainly sent by young people from German-speaking and French-speaking Switzerland, were examined for anglicisms. The results showed that English expressions are seldom used whether in German or in French text messages. English words and word components accounted for only 3.16% of the content of the German Text messages and 2.34% of the French. Most of these expressions (in German, 2.57%, in French, 1.76%) were loan words like "computer", "handy" (in the sense of mobile phone) or "jogging", all of which have long been accepted in standard dictionaries like the Duden or the Grand Robert. Only 0.59% (German) and 0.58% (French) were "pure" English words. Of these, the majority consisted of formulaic expression for opening or closing messages (e.g. "Hi", "Love you", "Kisses", etc).

"It is not true that young people write their Text messages only in English," says Elisabeth Stark. By way of comparison, other studies equally show that anglicisms make up only about two per cent of the vocabulary used. "Anglicisms are certainly there but they are not a threat to the native languages," concludes the researcher. Indeed, the study establishes that German-speaking Swiss writers of text messages with a higher level of education tend to use these borrowings. "Anglicisms are more a mark of education than an indication of a decline of the German language," says Stark. In French, the use of English elements was too small to demonstrate any such connection.

Above average numbers of multilingual Text messages
Rather than switching to English in writing text messages, Swiss people are more likely to shift to a different national language or to alternate between dialect and standard. Around 24% of all the Text messages examined were multilingual and contained foreign elements such as in the sentence "Sehen uns nächsten Mittwoch, je t’aime". Switches between languages were almost twice as frequent in the German Text messages (28%) as in the French (15%). In the Romansh data set, there was at least one language switch in 53% of all Text messages and in the Italian 23%. "Compared with similar corpuses from abroad, these figures are very high," says Stark. So, Swiss multilingualism makes itself apparent in text messages.

Correct spelling
People writing text messages stick strictly to the spelling rules that they learned at school. Many researchers contend that the writers of Text messages type just as they speak in order to reduce the number of letters used. "For example, they might write du komst instead of du kommst. That would be shorter and would be pronounced in the same way," says Stark. However, the research shows that such spellings are only very rarely used in the German text messages, over half of which were written in an Allemanic dialect. In other words, Swiss writers of Text messages do not set aside the rules they were taught at school.

Quantitatively, the same applies to French-language text messages. Here too, correct spelling generally prevails over the temptation to shorten words. "French is full of word endings which are found only in writing and never pronounced," says Stark. For example, in the sentence La voiture que j’ai achetée (the car that I bought), the correct spelling of the past participle achetée is with the feminine ending (-e). However, the pronunciation would be the same way whether the word is spelled with or without the ending. Nevertheless, the correct spelling was used in around 90% of the text messages, says Stark. Her explanation is that the writing process is more or less automatic. "When people are writing, they don't think of saving characters by leaving out grammatical information."

Text messages for research
The international research project sms4science investigates communication by SMS and attempts to describe the linguistic characteristics of short text messages. In 2009, the Swiss sub-project invited all mobile phone users in Switzerland to send a copy of their Text messages to a freephone number and to fill out an anonymous questionnaire on the Internet. This resulted in the collection of about 26,000 Text messages: 18,000 of them in German (around 7000 not in dialect), 4600 in French, 1500 in Italian and 1100 in Romansh. The researchers come from the Universities of Zurich, Neuchâtel and Berne as well as the University of Leipzig.

www.sms4science.ch

E. Stark (2012): Negation marking in French text messages, in: Linguisticae Investigationes 35-2, 341-366.
E. Morel, C. Bucher, S. Pekarek Doehler, B. Siebenhaar (2012): SMS communication as plurilingual communication, in: Linguisticae Investigationes 35-2, 260-288.

Both manuscripts are available via: com@snf.ch

Contact
Prof. Elisabeth Stark
Romanisches Seminar
Universität Zürich
Zürichbergstrasse 8
CH – 8032 Zürich
Tel: ++41 (0)44 634 36 24
E-mail: estark@rom.uzh.ch

Abteilung Kommunikation | idw
Further information:
http://www.snsf.ch
http://www.sms4science.ch

Further reports about: Anglicisms German language Investigationes Mobile phone SMS text messages

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Fixating on faces
26.01.2017 | California Institute of Technology

nachricht Internet use in class tied to lower test scores
16.12.2016 | Michigan State University

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>