Sunday, June 07, 2009

Survey: What do You Think about Twitter?

Survey: What do You Think about Twitter?

In an Mother Jones interview with linguist Geoffrey Nunberg, a professor of linguistics at the University of California-Berkeley is asked if Twitter will "dumb-down" our sentences. He answered:
It's just silly to imagine that this form of communication could have any effect on language. The English sentence has done very well for itself over the last thousand years or so, and it's not about to autodestruct because kids have suddenly started to text message each other rather than passing notes under their desk. In fact, what we're taught in school—the gospel according to Strunk and White—is to be concise. What imposes more constraints of conciseness than Twitter? So in that sense, Twitter could be the greatest thing that's happened to English since print.

What do you think?

BRD

21 comments:

cadh 8 said...

I have always thought that grammer was overrated. I mean, I see the point in dissecting fetal pigs, but not sentances. The question is, can you be understood. I just got an message on facebook that consisted of one long phrase with nothing capitalized, no punctuation and 8 words that were shortened in some way. 2 other words were misspelled. Read outloud, no one would have known the difference, and I totally understood what was said. I am not saying we should write this way in a school paper or buisness letter, but for casual converstation, as long as we are understood, who cares?

cadh 8 said...

LAnguage is another area where the importance of formality is being lost.

TheUkieVillain said...

I disagree with the linguistics professor's comment about "The English sentence" over the last thousand years. In fact, while the sentence has survived relatively unchanged, the language with which it is comprised has changed significantly. Consider the difference in language between Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, the Magna Carta, and, say, House of Leaves, and you can begin to understand the scope of those changes.

I do not believe the evolution of language to be a bad thing (or a good thing), but it is almost inevitable. While the rapid onset and accommodation of technology has caused language to become much more malleable than in the period prior to 1977 with the advent of the Apple II home PC, I have no problem with this. That is, of course, unless the changes in language do away with convention altogether.

This would be A Bad Thing (tm), since it would hinder our ability to understand each other accurately, or correctly record important thoughts to be passed from generation to generation, or to be spread from one group of people to another. Failing that, we will essentially regress to a culture of oral history, with writing reserved only for present-tense dialogue, and excluding serious thought from being recorded for others to learn from.

It's one thing to break rules of convention to better make a point. It's another thing to be ignorant of those rules entirely. And, further, it's a whole 'nother ballgame when the concept of conventional syntax, spelling, and meaning are tossed out the window because of the simple rationale of, 'what does it matter?'

brd said...

I kind of like the Twitter concept, but it is too unruly for me to really envision value.

On Facebook, the Twittering style-What are you doing now- makes some sense because it is linked to a group.

With Twitter, you can do that too, but I can't think of any group specifically that you would join and with which you would find value in Twittering to and from that could not be served better with a chat, instant message, or email. I keep thinking I'm missing something, but I can't see value here in 140 characters or less.

brd said...

OK. I've tried it and now I think I like it. I've already been quoted in the Metropulse Twitter regarding Street Art. That helped me like Twitter.

I have started to follow Daniel Schorr's Twitter.

I will report further later. I still can't describe the value, but maybe I'll be able to after while.

brd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
brd said...

I wanted to comment on the comments here, which I haven't had time to do yet.

Grammar: I agree, it is overrated if embraced as an end and not a means to an end. It is for obsessive compulsive types who become editors and insert or delete commas from everything they read (Who me?) and can't bear looking at misspellings, etc. Communication is certainly changing and language is a living, morphing thing. Yet, grammar does serve a level of precision in written communication that may not be necessary in blogs and social networks, but is necessary in other arenas. Of course that makes me think about legal documents, which always makes me irritated, because I think legal jargon is a detriment to clarity and has taken the courts far afield from the mission of maintaining order and upholding justice.

UkieVillain, I wonder about how we determine when it is time for convention to change. When do we try to manipulate that change by consistently flaunting convention?

Certainly, Twitter is breaking certain conventions, at least the convention of unlimited length. It says, 140 characters is enough. If you can't say it in 140, shorten it. Delete vowels, abbreviate, edit.

So that is one good thing that Twitter can accomplish. It demands that we be brief.

cadh 8 said...

OK, got a second email from the teenager in my youth group. That one was very hard to understand. Maybe we need to hold to some level of structure for language afterall. Universal rules give us a way to interpret and make sense of language. I like what you said about changing language, but also that different purposes have different levels of flexibility. It is OK if an email makes very little sense, but not a news story on TV. IT is all about Balance.

cadh 8 said...

Did you know that you can follow the daily changing flavors of TCBY yogurt on Twitter? Now that is a good use of language.

brd said...

Twitter seems valuable only if you really want to follow something or someone closely. If I really want to know about, for instance, every sneeze of a particular movie star?

brd said...

In a verbal discussion on this post someone suggested that Twitter is either a little self indulgent or an expression of desire for someone to want other people to care about the minute details of their lives.

I think only my mother is interested enough to want to know that about me.

brd said...

Important update, straight from Time magazine. TWEET!
Iran\'s Protests: Why Twitter Is the Medium of the Movement

brd said...

And on the Education Front:
The hidden problem with Twitter

brd said...

Important possibility: Literature on Twitter. A performance of a chapter of James Joyce's Ulysses. Celebration of Bloomsday.

Cate said...

Well, there's a lot to think about here. At first I didn't like the idea of Twitter, but now I'm not so sure (I haven't Twittered). I changed my mind during the voting "irregularities" in Iran. I think Twitter may be very valuable in situations where people cannot say much, must say it on the run, etc. I think Twittering could be helpful in this regard.

The degeneration of language skill, communication is another matter and I do wonder about that. I think we may becoming more accustomed as a society to communicate in short quips, the soundbite as it is often called. This may have a place (see above paragraph), but I wonder if we are losing the ability to pay attention to complete and fully detailed conveyances.

For instance, when I was preparing workshops, etc. for college students recently, I was told that I needed to keep the students' attention by adding games, using internet media, comics--you know, something to keep them entertained--so as not to lose their attention. Really? College students? So how do they get through Moby Dick, David Copperfield, etc.???

Ideas must be communicated quickly and be FUN!!!! I see this as a problem. Sometimes we really need to listen hard and take time to process and think about what's been said. Sometimes, ideas need to be fleshed out.

I have already noticed in any number of email, facebook, etc., postings to people that if I ask more than one question, only the last question asked gets answered (sometimes not even that). Are we really to busy to answer each others questions?

Betsy, regarding your questions about when we decide to change convention. I don't think we generally to decide. It happens. Perhaps we should decide, but language (d)evolves through use, (sometimes incorrect usage), through convenience.

Come to think of it, Moby Dick, Twittered. That's the ticket!!!!

cadh 8 said...

Oh, I so agree with the comment that people only respond to the last question you ask. Well, sometimes they only respond to the first question too. I am left to wonder if they even read the rest of the email. This is a HUGE problem. I have contemplated sending multiple emails when I have multiple questions for one person. Really sad.

brd said...

Moby Dick in Twitterature. I think I like it.

Call me Ishmael.

All men live enveloped in whale-lines. All are born with halters round their necks; but it is only when caught in the swift, sudden turn of death, that mortals realize the silent, subtle, ever present perils of life. :-(

A noble craft, but somehow a most melancholy! All noble things are touched with that.

Ignorance is the parent of fear . . .

By this, he seemed to mean, not only that the most reliable and useful courage was that which arises from the fair estimation of the encountered peril, but that an utterly fearless man is a far more dangerous comrade than a coward.

Yea, foolish mortals, Noah's flood is not yet subsided; two thirds of the fair world it yet covers.

Fool! I am the Fates' lieutenant; I act under orders.

It smells like the left wing of the day of judgment.

The End

Cate said...

I have to laugh at my post (among other things). Some real language problems there!!! Perhaps I should just Twit.

I LOVE the Moby Dick Twitter. I got more out of that than the book. Really, did the weather matter?

Cate said...

Oh, and Twitterature!!! Language evolving!!! Love it!!! (Those are twixclamations).

brd said...

Weather always matters and can usually be described in 140 characters or less. What was wrong with Melville? He really should have had Twitter.

brd said...

Carl Sandburg once described slang as "a language that rolls up its sleeves, spits on its hands, and goes to work." He may have liked Twitter.
L8R