Excessive Concern or Well-founded Fear: Students' Writing on WhatsApp and in Essays
Keywords:digital Discourse, WhatsApp, Adolescents, school essays, nonstandard language, digital literacy, grammatical variation, textisms
The language of text messages has a unique style that is a hybrid of both oral and written language, characterized by frequent deviations from standard language. With the increasing use of mobile phones, particularly among adolescents, there is serious concern about the effect of the non-standard register used in text messaging on pupils’ literacy skills, and particularly on their writing skills. The current study investigates the frequency of deviations from normative Hebrew grammar rules, comparing between pupils’ writing in two different genres: informal written language used in WhatsApp messages vs. formal written language used in essays written as part of the school curriculum. The deviations studied include initial placement of the definite article in construct-state phrases, use of an initial consonant y preceding the vowel in verbs in the first-person-singular future form, and others. Findings indicate that grammatical deviations that are frequent in WhatsApp messages rarely occur in pupils’ formal writing. The study thus serves as an “all-clear signal” for those concerned about the negative influences of WhatsApp messaging on the writing skills of Israeli youngsters.