Popularity of Short Message Service (Sms) Usage & Its Effect on Written Language Deterioration

Communication technology is changing our way of life. Language is no exception. Some language researchers argue that written language is deteriorating due to the increase usage of electronic communication. The present study investigated 50 mobile phone users selected randomly using Short Messaging Service (SMS) as one of their daily communication tools with the purpose to find out whether SMS language will cause written language deterioration in Malaysia. SMS language is defined as using abbreviations, newly created words, code-switching, code-mixing and emoticons in the messages.
The findings indicated that the majority of the respondents agree that SMS language causes written language deterioration. This could be because messages are full of spoken-like spelling, unconventional use of punctuation and abbreviations, and ungrammatical sentence in order to conform to the conditions of electronic communication to reduce space, time and effort. Although the language change due to the advancements in electronic communication technology is inevitable, we have to bear in mind that the negative impact on the written language has to do with the technology users not the technology itself. Introduction
What is communication? Communication is a process of transferring information whereby information is enclosed in a package and is channeled and imparted by a sender to a receiver using a channel (Wikipedia). In recent years, mobile phone has been viewed as an important communication tool and has become an integral part of the Malaysian society. Nowadays, it is very common to see Malaysians chatting or texting on their mobile phones in the streets, in the shopping malls, while waiting for public transportations to the point that the mobile phone has become an essential item to some people especially the younger generation.

The mobile phone first appeared in Malaysia in 1998 and was mainly used by professionals. It was bulky, expensive, and built with basic features such as voice call. Today, mobile phones are equipped with other hi-tech features that allow faster communication and entertainment such as Short Message Service (SMS), MP3 (MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3) player, games, internet and videos. These additional features attracted people from all walks of life including the younger generation, and consequently led to the increase in the number of mobile phone users in Malaysia.
According to the survey conducted by the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), there were 24,253,000 mobile phone subscribers in Malaysia at end March 2008. It was also reported that as many as 50. 7% mobile phone users send out an average of five (5) SMSes a day. Compared to 2004 which recorded a percentage of 31. 7%, the number of mobile phone users sending out an average of five (5) SMSes per day has increased by 19% (Hand Phone Users Survey, 2008).
The factors which have contributed to the popularity of SMS usage could be due to its widespread usage, mobility, low cost and convenience. For example, sending a message via text to a family or friend across the country or even living abroad, would be cheaper than the cost of roaming and long distance phone charges. SMS is extensively used not only for communication purposes, but also as a major marketing tool due to its low cost. Besides that, it is also very convenient for mobile phone users.
A message can be easily and quickly transmitted just by pressing a few buttons instead of the conventional method of waiting for the telephone call to be put through or waiting to leave a voice message after a lengthy and annoying answering machine message. Due to character limitations and restrictions in a SMS message, it is a common practice for SMS users to maximize the contents of the messages sent by using abbreviations, newly created words, code-switching, code-mixing and emoticons in their SMS messages.
How has this increasingly popular practice affect our written language then? As most Malaysians are multi-lingual, will the widespread use of SMS cause language deterioration? This research aims to investigate and analyze the relationship between SMS usage and whether it causes language deterioration in Malaysia by using abbreviations, newly created words, code-switching, code-mixing and emoticons in the messages.


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