The Language of the SMS
Language, it is said, is like a flowing river, it is ever changing and the changes are always unpredictable. Like all other living languages, the language of the Angles, Saxons and Jutes of the bygone days has been changing over the years but the degree of change taking place in recent years has surpassed all previous records. Technology has taken English to a new level of brevity and the new variety of English used by the SMS addicts of today is almost unintelligible to the English knowing people of the older generation. The purists may frown at the language of SMS but it is extensively used throughout the globe. Is the variety of English used in SMS a passing phenomenon? From the point of view of stylistics this latest variety of English is a vibrant register of English having its own texture and stylistic pattern. Many people are apprehensive of the SMS register, they think that technology is corrupting the language and the SMS culture is promoting rampant illiteracy across the globe. But dispassionate linguists believe that technology has fostered creativity among the young people using SMS for transmitting messages. SMS has ushered in a new stage in the evolution of the written language. Why do people use the register of SMS? The size of the small screen of the mobile phone and its limited character space prompted the evolution of the language of SMS.
The language of SMS is highly structured and theme-focused. The character limit of the message forces the addressor and the addressee to stick to the topic. The composition of the message is the end product of rigorous pruning as the SMS message is designed to save space and effort. While the normal message I don’t think so
has 16 characters the SMS message IDTS
has only 4 characters. Instead of using 8 characters in saying I love you
an SMS message uses only 3 characters: ilu.
That brevity is the soul of wit is clearly manifested in the language of SMS.
Contractions and clippings are the essential stylistic features of the language of SMS. Nobody frowns at the expression I don’t think so
when do not
is contracted as don’t
. Why should then anyone frown if the expression RU ok
? is used instead of Are you ok
? The constraint of space makes clippings essential for SMS messages. When an officer writes pl. put up
on the body of an official letter received by him and passes it to his secretary for n/a
(necessary action) the purists call it the ‘official language’, but when a young man sends a message saying pl 4give me
the purists cry foul for violating the chastity of the language! The use of Letter-number homophones is quite common in the language of SMS. Instead of writing the word to
the sender of an SMS message writes the numerical 2. The language of SMS is nearer to the spoken rather than the written variety of English and a feeling of psychological nearness prompts the sender of SMS to use a colloquial and informal style. The behavioural dimension of SMS makes the language private rather than public. As the messages are meant for the addressee alone the nature of the SMS messages are often in the form of greetings, invitations, congratulations, jokes, love letters or emergency call for help. Another distinguishing feature of the language of SMS is its dependence on the context. Many SMS texts appear to be unintelligible if they are transplanted from the context in which they are created.