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Txtng: The Gr8 Db8 [Hardcover]

David Crystal
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 1 2008 0199544905 978-0199544905
This book takes a long hard look at the text-messaging phenomenon and its effects on literacy, language, and society. Young people who seem to spend much of their time texting sometimes appear unable or unwilling to write much else. Media outrage has ensued. "It is bleak, bald, sad shorthand," writes a commentator in the UK Guardian. "It masks dyslexia, poor spelling, and mental laziness." Exam answers using textese and reports that examiners find them acceptable have led to headlines in the tabloids and leaders in the qualities. Do young people text as much as people think? Do adults? Does texting spell the end of literacy? Is there a panic in the media? David Crystal looks at the evidence. He investigates how texting began and who uses it, why and what for. He shows how to interpret its mix of pictograms, logograms, abbreviations, symbols, and wordplay, and how it works in different languages. He explores the ways similar devices have been used in different eras and discovers that the texting system of conveying sounds and meaning goes back a long way, all the way in fact to the origins of writing - and he concludes that far from hindering literacy, texting may turn out to help it.

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Review

He combines an extraordinary knowledge of linguistics with a gift for popularizing. TLS. A highly consumable work of pop linguistics. Los Angeles Times Excellent. Crystal presents a compelling argument in favour of texting as a force for linguistic ability. Melissa Katsoulis, The Times

About the Author

David Crystal is honorary professor of linguistics at the University of Wales, Bangor. He has written or edited over 100 books and published numerous articles for scholarly, professional, and general readerships, in fields ranging from forensic linguistics and ELT to the liturgy and Shakespeare. His books include the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language (2nd edn 1997), the Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language (2nd edn 2003), Words, Words, Words (OUP 2006), and The Fight for English (OUP 2006).

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars c%l bk April 10 2011
By Dr. Bojan Tunguz TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
I am one of those people who never got into the whole texting craze, primarily because I hardly ever use my cell phone and I rarely chat with my friends online. Even when I do, I try to write in full sentences and be as clear in my prose as possible. However, I am not beyond ever condescending to the new texting abbreviations, and would occasionally pepper my chats with LOL, ROTFL, and of course ', nor would I begrudge my interlocutors when they do the same. So, I am not someone who gets too flustered with texting as such. It's texting that happens in inappropriate settings that really gets to me. I like to interact with people in various online forums, and when they write whole essays in txt-speak, and I find myself spending more time decoding what they wrote than on the content of their arguments, then I take an exception to this whole business of texting.

I am writing all this in order to give you my overall perspective on texting prior to reading this book. My attitude could be summed up as ambivalent to weary. So I decided to pick up this book and learn more about texting from a professional linguist, someone who has invested a great deal of time to study texting habits and put it in a perspective of language use and development in general. And for the most part, David Crystal does a wonderful job at that. The book is filled with nice and illuminating examples, the parallels to previous changes in our use of language were appropriate and thought provoking. The book does a great job in convincing me that there is really nothing either deviant or inappropriate about how texting came to be. And I was also convinced that people who txt are not ruining the English language nor are they hurting their own writing skills.
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By Daniel Jolley TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
To tell you the truth, the only part of this book I found truly useful is an appendix listing a significant number of English text abbreviations. Potential readers should take note of the fact that author David Crystal is a professor of linguistics, and so the focus of the book is on the changes - be they positive or negative or both - that the exponential growth in text messaging may or may not be making to language. Don't let that "the gr8 db8" subtitle fool you - there's very little in the way of debate in these pages (Crystal declares text messaging to be a good thing at the end of Chapter 1). It's a pretty boring read, to tell you the truth. I certainly don't see very many people, particularly young individuals, reading this with fascination or great interest.

I try to stay ahead of the crowd when it comes to technology, but I have resisted text messaging - and cell phones in general - for some time now. Having spent four years working at a helpdesk, I pretty much hate telephones; many is the time I've cursed the name of Alexander Graham Bell over the years. I do have a cell phone now, but it's only because my parents foisted one on me; unfortunately, they didn't add text messaging to their plan, so I've never really been able to play around with that technology. Working on a university campus, though, I'm certainly aware that the text messages are flying all around me all day long, and I want and need to learn more about the subject. I'm also aware, albeit tangentially, that the quality of student writing seems to be headed in the wrong direction in recent years, and I've been inclined to agree with those who blame that decline in part on the rise of text messaging.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  66 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "f u cn rd ths thn wats th prblm?" Sept. 29 2008
By Dame Droiture - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Personally, I think texting is great: it keeps my minutes low, and allows me to give a premeditated response to incoming messages -- with more convenience than email offers. This book actually prompted a lively discussion in my class the other day, when I asked my students if they thought that texting was adversely affecting their literary or writing skills. While the vast majority said No, at least one of them pointed out the difficulties in changing communication registers (i.e. from text-speak to academic essay-writing).

The book itself wasn't what I thought it would be, though. Crystal's observations are provocative, but it really does advocate a texting-is-perfectly-fine argument. (The back cover blurb says "You decide.")

However, there is one thing that Crystal makes absolutely clear: texting is not much different from other forms of technology that have been introduced, and which came under critical fire. The telegraph and telephone are two prominent examples. I can think of another one: medieval manuscript abbreviations, where words were habitually shortened in order to save space on expensive parchment. Rather than dampening our literary spirits, these things seem to have promoted reading and writing.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scientific, but not overly linguistic Dec 31 2009
By Cyril L. Caspar - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
David Crystal has once again put together one heck of a page-turner. His new book Txtng: The Gr8 Db8 touches upon nearly everything that has to do with texting. Some believe texting to be a threat to the English language. Here, Crystal pours oil on troubled waters as he argues that texting could even be advantageous for youths. He reasons that teenagers first have to understand language before they can start playing with it. He dwells on the peculiarities and the distinctiveness of texting, some reasons why people do it, and some thoughts on social groups. Moreover, he focuses on the content of text messages, and he also gives a brief overview on how texting works in other languages than English. While doing so, Crystal remains scientific as he draws his conclusions based on sheer facts, but he does go into too much linguistic detail.
In sum, Txtng: The Gr8 Db8 is an absolute must read for anyone who is interested in how the new media affects language.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but a bit too "scholarly" for my liking... Oct. 1 2008
By Thomas Duff - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
As part of the Amazon Vine review program, I requested and received a copy of David Crystal's book Txtng: The Gr8 Db8. Being the proud owner of an iPhone with two older children, I've done my share of texting with them and others in my circle of friends. While the book does do a good job in examining the pros and cons of texting on our language skills, it was far too academic for my liking. Conversely, if you were teaching a class (or were interested) in linguistics, there'd be a lot in this book that would fascinate you. Guess it all depends on your reason and/or expectations for reading it.

Contents:
The hype about texting; How weird is texting?; What makes texting distinctive?; What do they do it?; Who texts?; What do they text about?; How do other languages do it?; Why all the fuss?; Glossary; Appendix A - English text abbreviations; Appendix B - Text abbreviations in eleven languages; Index

Crystal is a professor of linguistics in the United Kingdom, and he's spent considerable time and effort studying the subject of text messaging. His main argument is with those who decry "text speak" as the death knell of proper writing skills. He reaches the exact opposite conclusion in his opinion. The ability to shorten, abbreviate, and combine sounds to create written communication has been around as long as language itself, and the core skills involved in creating text messages are the same as a person would use for any other written form of communication. The hysteria of those who don't understand it is countered by solid statistics and research provided by Crystal. In fact, there are entire competitions devoted to creating poetry that is restricted to the 140 character limit often imposed on SMS text messages. While some win the contest with full words (just not very many of them), others push the boundaries of texting and create emotional works using sentences like "txtin iz messin, mi headn'me englis". While not a "language" that would be officially recognized as such, it's difficult to believe that someone couldn't figure out exactly what was meant in those lines. And really, that's the goal of communication.

I found some of the material interesting, as well as his non-gloom-and-doom attitude quite refreshing. But it bogged down at times when it came to detailed statistics about who does what most often. A serious student of linguistics might be interested in knowing how women and men differ in their texting, or how the different age groups might approach it. But from my techo-geek perspective, I found myself in rapid skim mode more often than not. I feel that your enjoyment of the book will be based on proper expectations. If you want a scholarly approach to the subject backed up by research, it's great. If you're more interested in a "hacker's" view of texting, then you may be left wanting...
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tree examined thoroughly. Wood glossed over. Feb. 6 2009
By Olly Buxton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
How this for a bit of reflexivity: I'm composing the initial draft of this review on a mobile phone. Admittedly, a full qwerty keyboard-toting BlackBerry and not an old school mobile, so not with the numeric keypad limitations of the usual SMS utilising device but, still, typing-one thumbed while I cling on to a tube strap on an underground carriage with my other hand does put the debate into context.

This is an interesting enough, quick read, but it lets itself down in a couple of presentational respects and also in scope.

Firstly, the title and sale. Already on reviews on this site there is a debate between those who find the book a bit dry and dusty and those who point out it is written by a linguistics professor, so you shouldn't really expect anything else. I suppose composing its title in textspeak was an obvious (if somewhat unimaginative) marketing ploy, but the cheap laugh it gets trades badly against its implied presentation as a book of limited ambition and sophistication - one of those impulse buys at the counter that will wind up on the cistern in the loo, rather than a book you'd buy for its own sake.

As it happens, this is a thoughtful and insightful book written (for the layman - I didn't find it dry in the slightest) by an academic and published by Oxford University Press. But the way OUP has elected to market may cause it to fall betwixt cup and lip.

But - assuming we are meant to treat it as a substantive entry - that leads onto some substantive reservations.

Firstly, I'm not so sure what's so distinctly interesting or permanent about SMS texting over instant messaging, email, discussion forums, blogs, twitter and the manifest other forms of electronic communication that have emerged over the last twenty years that it deserves separate treatment.

To be sure, SMS text has produced some unique artefacts, but it has borrowed more ("LOL"s, preposition abbreviations and emoticons are more prevalent in IM and forum posting) and those few artefacts that are unique (as Crystal recounts) are a function of transient technological limitations inherent in the particular format which are likely to be superseded. As data entry technique and information technology evolve (and they already have: things like predictive text, qwerty keyboards on PDAs, and forthcoming inevitabilities like voice recognition) the SMS idiom will almost certainly wane. I suspect, like the facsimile, it is destined for a short but incandescent trajectory through the communicative cosmos.

Secondly, limiting himself as he does, David Crystal is obliged, in a short book, to look at relatively uninteresting aspects of a minor medium (like texting in a foreign language - it takes him a few pages to illustrate this works much like English does - which is no more than the slightest sober reflection would suggest) at the expense of bigger topics of far more interest and relevance to the whole medium of electronic communication. The linguistic implications of non-destructive abbreviation are significant - but again, more so in the world of general electronic communication (where Larry Lessig's book Code: Version 2.0 or Doug Hofstader's I Am a Strange Loop are far more fascinating) and not SMS in particular. The fact that, almost overnight, we have converted our language by means of ASCII into a numerical code which can thus be manipulated, processed and treated is a revolutionary insight, but by limiting himself to texting where those implications amount to very little, Crystal can't really joint the debate.

Finally, Crystal's motive seems to have been to take wind out of the sails of the sorts of grumpy old men (Guardian op-ed columnists and commentators like John Humphrys) who claim (much as they and their kind have done about email, typewriters, television, immigrants, slang, hip hop, cockneys, and even the great vowel shift) that this new blight is destroying all that is precious our language. That's obviously horse-puckey: that it is evolution and not destruction isn't really news, and this isn't debate I'd bother engaging in even as a media commentator, let alone as an academic. No one takes these old curmudgeons seriously anyway.

There is enough in this book to make it worth reading through, but that won't take you long, and it probably would have been better pitched as a feature article in a Sunday paper. Where it could have taken on the Grumpies on their own turf.

Olly Buxton
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars c%l bk Oct. 18 2008
By Dr. Bojan Tunguz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I am one of those people who never got into the whole texting craze, primarily because I hardly ever use my cell phone and I rarely chat with my friends online. Even when I do, I try to write in full sentences and be as clear in my prose as possible. However, I am not beyond ever condescending to the new texting abbreviations, and would occasionally pepper my chats with LOL, ROTFL, and of course ', nor would I begrudge my interlocutors when they do the same. So, I am not someone who gets too flustered with texting as such. It's texting that happens in inappropriate settings that really gets to me. I like to interact with people in various online forums, and when they write whole essays in txt-speak, and I find myself spending more time decoding what they wrote than on the content of their arguments, then I take an exception to this whole business of texting.

I am writing all this in order to give you my overall perspective on texting prior to reading this book. My attitude could be summed up as ambivalent to weary. So I decided to pick up this book and learn more about texting from a professional linguist, someone who has invested a great deal of time to study texting habits and put it in a perspective of language use and development in general. And for the most part, David Crystal does a wonderful job at that. The book is filled with nice and illuminating examples, the parallels to previous changes in our use of language were appropriate and thought provoking. The book does a great job in convincing me that there is really nothing either deviant or inappropriate about how texting came to be. And I was also convinced that people who txt are not ruining the English language nor are they hurting their own writing skills. However, the book does not deal at all with the use of texting in online discussion forums, my own personal pet peeve. But other than that, it is a very well written book. It also provides an illuminating and handy glossary of main terms, as well a list of text abbreviations from eleven different languages. These are fun to look at and an interesting glimpse into how other languages deal with texting.

If you ever have to come across texting in your daily life (and who doesn't these days), and whatever your attitude to texting may be, you could benefit from reading this interesting little book.
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