Text Messaging and Grammatical Development

This longitudinal study is investigating whether the grammatical violations used in text messaging have a detrimental impact on grammatical development and other related literacy and language skills over the course of a year.

Researchers from Coventry University collected text messages from three groups of children and young people (83 primary school children, 78 secondary school pupils and 49 undergraduates), who were then asked to complete a series of standardized assessments to measure their IQ, spelling ability, and understanding of written and spoken grammar. This process was repeated a year later to show any change in the relationship between texting and grammatical development over time.

Initial findings
  • Although most participants in all three groups violated grammatical convention in their text messages, researchers found no evidence that this affected their understanding of written or spoken grammar at either point in time.
  • For the primary school children, there was an association between punctuation errors in texts and spelling ability. Children who made fewer punctuation errors when texting tended to be better at spelling and quicker to process writing than those who made more errors in their texts.  
  • For the undergraduate group, there was some evidence of a link between punctuation errors in texts and the spelling ability and grammatical understanding of participants. However, this link was weak and researchers concluded it was more likely related to the IQ score of students.

The latest findings follow an earlier study led by Professor Wood that showed children’s use of text abbreviations can have a positive effect on literacy outcomes and may even enhance children’s understanding of conventional spelling.