Page last updated at 14:03 GMT, Tuesday, 20 May 2008 15:03 UK

Expert says txt is gr8 4 language

Mobile phone
Prof David Crystal dismisses a "huge urban myth" about texting

A linguistics expert has rejected claims that texting by mobile phone is bad for language and literacy skills.

Professor David Crystal argues that such condensed messages enhance and enrich language skills.

He called it an "urban myth" that school work was riddled with text speech, and said in fact students knew when to use it in the right context.

The honorary professor of linguistics at Bangor University said texting was widespread across all age groups.

Prof Crystal said that texting had had a bad press, and it was merely another way to use language.

Whilst researching his book - Txtng: the Gr8 Db8 - Prof Crystal said the oldest example of texter he had found was an 86-year-old grandmother in the United States.

It was also a misconception that text messages were all made up of abbreviated words, he said.

Prof David Crystal
The panic about texting and its effects on language is totally misplaced... it adds a new dimension, enriches language, gives you a new option
Prof David Crystal
"If you collected a huge pile of messages and counted all the whole words and the abbreviations, the fact of the matter is that less than 10% would be shortened."

Even older people who claimed to be passed by, unable or unwilling to text would have done something similar when they were young.

"In the past comics such as the Dandy and Beano would have had quizzes where you had to guess a sentence from letters and pictures.

'New style evolves'

"The only difference now is that people are using it with mobile phones."

Prof Crystal added: "The panic about texting and its effects on language is totally misplaced.

"It adds a new dimension, enriches language, gives you a new option."

Any reading and writing was good for literacy, he argued.

"As part of the research I did I asked teachers if work in the classroom was riddled with abbreviations, and it wasn't.

"If you ask kids if they use the same style in their work they look at you as if you are mad.

"This is just a story going around, a huge urban myth," he said.

Despite it being well used however, texting has not been around long enough to have an established convention, or style.

"It's only really started properly in the last 10 years but it shows how quickly a new style evolves," he added.

Prof Crystyal will give the TR Miles 'Txtng and Ltrcy' public lecture at Bangor University's main arts lecture theatre on Thursday, 22 May, at 1730 BST.

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