Text messaging and grammatical development

Researchers: Professor Clare Wood | Dr Nenagh Kemp

Project overview


This longitudinal study investigated whether grammatical violations used in text messaging have a detrimental impact on grammatical development and other related literacy and language skills over the course of a year.

Researchers from Coventry University collected text messages from three groups of children and young people (83 primary school children, 78 secondary school pupils and 49 undergraduates). The participants completed a series of standardized assessments to measure their IQ, spelling ability, and understanding of written and spoken grammar. They took the same tests again a year later, so the researcher could examine any change in the relationship between texting and grammatical development over time.

Findings

The study found that children and young people’s tendency to make grammatical mistakes while texting does not have a negative influence on their performance on grammar and spelling tests over the course of a year.

There was no evidence that grammatical violations made whilst texting was related to children’s understanding of written and spoken grammar at either time. The results even showed that primary school children’s use of ungrammatical word forms (e.g. they is rather than they are) at the beginning of the project were actually positively linked to spelling ability 12 months later.

Similarly, secondary school children’s use of ungrammatical word forms and omission of punctuation and capitalisation were all positively associated with growth in the children’s spelling ability over the course of a year.

For the undergraduate group, there was some evidence of negative relationships between grammatical violations made when texting and levels of grammatical understanding. The tendency to omit punctuation and capitalisation in text messages was linked to lower performance on the standardised test of grammatical understanding and a specially constructed measure of sensitivity to grammar in written words taken 12 months later. However, the researchers concluded that these links were weak and could be explained by individual differences in the participants’ general ability levels.

These findings follow an earlier study led by Professor Wood that showed children’s use of text abbreviations can have a positive effect on literacy outcomes and may even enhance children’s understanding of conventional spelling.

Latest on this project


Team


  • Professor Clare Wood
    Coventry University
  • Dr Nenagh Kemp
    University of Tasmania

  • Director, Education
    Nuffield Foundation

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