The One-Thousandth Post on Mark’s Text Terminal: An Outline of a Unit on the Linguistics of Texting

This is the one-thousandth post on Mark’s Text Terminal, a milestone I didn’t think I would reach until the end of this year. I’ve been trying to figure out how to “celebrate” this, but have decided that I won’t. It took almost three years to publish this many posts. I imagine I’ll keep this blog going for awhile; at the moment, it’s one of the key sources of professional satisfaction for me, which matters.

Anyway, I offer today something I started working on about three years ago, but never really made any progress on developing. In the autumn of 2015 I was summoned to jury duty in my borough. I’ll spare you the details other than to say it was a particularly tragic case involving the murder of a child. While waiting in the jury room for what  seemed like interminable periods of time, I worked on a variety of things. Along the way, I read David Crystal’s book on what was then a favored mode of communication among my students. That book was Txting: the Gr8 Db8 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).

One of my obsessions as a teacher is helping students become proficient writers. I saw in Txtng: the Gr8 Db8 the possibility of helping students develop their own understanding of the various registers in which people use language, how proper English usage works, to introduce them to the field of linguistics, and to demonstrate while texting language is perfectly appropriate for communication between social acquaintances and intimates, it is inappropriate for other kinds of communication and correspondence. At issue, in Mr. Crystal’s view, is whether or not “textese” is a language . Starting from the basic laws of linguistics, he says yes, it is. I’m not so much interested in that question per se as much as the answers it yields and their implications for proper and clear usage. The essential question for this unit (which, alas, is not on the overarching unit plan, is this: What are the characteristics of a language, and does “textese” feature them? If so, how?

So I began compiling this aggregated text sheet from the book for use in developing worksheets and learning supports. I also started outlining a unit plan to use with this material. And, finally, I started this lesson plan template. And that, esteemed reader, is as far as I got with it. In the meantime, the students in the school in which I serve took a step down–in my opinion–in terms of compositional sophistication and began communicating via Instagram and Snapchat, which rely, I gather, on images rather than text.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. I rather doubt I will take this work any further, so after I post it here, I will remove it from my computer. However, if you develop this further, I would be grateful indeed if you would let me know where you took it. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

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