Technology & Science

Instant messaging 'chatspeak' no danger to spelling: study

Texting and instant messaging using short-forms and "chatspeak" have no effect on teens' ability to spell properly and could even provide "a little brain workout," researchers at the University of Alberta say.

Texting and instant messaging using short-forms and "chatspeak" have no effect on teens' ability to spell properly and could even provide "a little brain workout," researchers at the University of Alberta say.

The small study of about 40 teenagers found that use of the "virtual dialect" of texting and instant messaging did not have any correlation with poor spelling performance.

Study author Connie Varnhagen said teens who were good spellers in the classroom were also good spellers when texting.

"And kids who are poor spellers in English class are poor spellers in instant messaging," said Varnhagen in a statement.

The study, designed by third-year psychology students, involved about 40 students from the ages of 12 to 17. The participants saved their instant messages for a week, and were given a standardized spelling test.

Student researcher Nicole Pugh said she was amazed at the number and complexity of chatspeak words she found in the chat logs.

"Going through the participant conversations, it was interesting to note how many new words that children are using online," said Pugh. "We would have to decipher the meaning of the language with online dictionaries or by asking younger siblings."

The researchers suggest that chatspeak is a complex dialect of English, borne out of a new method of communication.

"Using a new type of language does require concentration and translating it to standard English does require concentration and attention. It's a little brain workout," Varnhagen said.

While the University of Alberta study was small, it does add to the body of evidence that abbreviations and slang seen in instant messaging are not a menace to the Queen's English.

A study in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology in 2009 said that regular users of chatspeak tend to have better vocabulary than others in their peer group.

A study out of the University of Toronto in 2006 said that use of IM slang did not significantly affect students' writing ability.

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