There was a slight change in the way in which the youth communicated when Mxit was introduced to social networking. This became an inexpensive way to communicate. Now messaging no longer communicated only need-to-know information, but allowed technology savvy people to interact via text message on a much more personal level and carry a conversation. Still, abbreviations and acronyms previously invented were used even though you weren’t restricted to 140 characters. This may be attributed to the ITU-T keyboard found on phones used at the time, as they required more extensive typing for each individual letter.

Through the development and evolution of technology there has been an evident change in language. We have developed our own lingua franca. This is a term given to a language that is adopted as a common language between speakers whose native languages are different, SMS language being the bridge between technology and the written word.

English lecturer at Tuks Marguerite de Waal gave the following example of lingua franca: “In South Africa we have 11 official languages, but very few people speak all of them fluently. While English is not most people’s first language, it does act as the lingua franca. Imagine if you gathered a group of four South Africans; one speaks Zulu, another speaks Afrikaans, another speaks Sepedi and another Xhosa. If each of these people did not understand the language the others spoke, then they would most likely attempt to communicate in English, which is widely taught as a second (or third, or forth) language in our country.”

Still, technology continued to evolve and we saw Blackberry introduce the Qwerty keyboard trend when they developed BBM. Smartphones then also started offering Whatsapp as a way to communicate. One would think that this would then eliminate the use of other non-official abbreviations and acronyms, but instead it saw even more prevalent use of such language when words such as LOL and OMG were added to the Oxford English Dictionary.

Words that are somewhat unnecessarily abbreviated are strongly associated with electronic communication but have entered mainstream language because of how easy and convenient they are to use. This only emphasises the point that we have developed an electronic lingua franca. Any language conscious person would agree that SMS language has its time and place, but these changes in language should not be seen as deterioration in intellect, but rather an expansion and evolution of language as well as an example of what is still to come.


Image: Brendan Fraser

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