SMS experience and textisms in young adolescents

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The aim of this paper was to study the characteristics of SMSes in a population for which there is currently only limited data: young adolescents (girls and boys) between 11 and 12 years of age. The analysis focused on a corpus of 4,524 SMSes sent by 19 informants in everyday real-life situations over a one-year period. At the beginning of the study, the participants were complete novices. This study sets forth a new analysis grid which distinguishes between two categories of textisms which were defined based on the following cognitive processes: (a) textisms which are consistent with the traditional written code of grapheme–phoneme correspondence and (b) textisms which break with this traditional code. On the whole, the density of textisms was .52 and .26, respectively, for each kind of textism. The results showed an increase in the density of textisms with SMS experience (from month 1 to month 12), but also a variation depending upon the type of textism and the gender of the texter. For boys, the density of both types of textisms increased with SMS experience, while for girls, the density of textisms only increased for textisms which broke with the code. The results were interpreted in terms of the construction of an SMS register with specific linguistic markers resulting from a different use of traditional writing rules or the use of inventions as compared to traditional writing.


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