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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Teenager Orthography: Systematic Innovation and Deviation in the Language of Teenagers' SMS Text Messaging and Internet Chat

Tim Shortis.

The paper will argue and demonstrate that the language used by the samples of UK students in both text messaging and internet chat is relatively explicit in reference and rule governed in its deviations from standard forms. The manner of these deviations reflects the situational constraints of the text entry context but also shows patterns of youth covert prestige as found in UK accent research in recent years. It also reflects older patterns of abbreviated writing including those found in graffiti, classroom notes and other contexts of unsegmented writing. There is also evidence of leakage of some of these forms into the spoken repertoires of users.

In UK schools both text messaging and internet chat are virtually proscribed activities yet these language practices are a rich resource for investigation by students and researchers alike.


Tim Shortis  (United Kingdom)
Research Fellow
InterActive Education Project Graduate School of Education
University of Bristol

Tim Shortis is a researcher on the ESRC TLRP InterActive Education Project at the Graduate School of Education at Bristol University ( He is also the Chief Examiner of AQA B Advanced Level English Language. He has written an introductory textbook on new text varieties and language study: The Language of ICT (Routledge 2001) and maintains an associated website.

  • Text messaging
  • Internet chat
  • ICT text varieties
  • Literacy and literacies, spelling
  • Orthography
  • Reading and writing since the computer
  • Social literacies
  • Language and identity
  • Youth sociolect

(30 min Conference Paper, English)