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Text4Science: Canadian Researchers Want Your Text Messages

VANCOUVER - Some call it a universal form of English. Others argue it's most definitely ruining the language and producing a generation of illiterates.

But researchers at three Canadian universities studying text messaging think we may have become more creative because of this new form of communication.

The academics from Simon Fraser University, Universite de Montreal and University of Ottawa have been looking at how texting is affecting the way Canadians write.

Christian Guilbault, an associate professor in SFU's French department, said the project, called Text4Science, is part of a larger, ongoing international study called sms4Science, that began in Belgium a few years ago.

"There's a lot of misconceptions going around regarding the way people use language when they text," said Guilbault.

"A lot of people think that language is degrading over time, and it's just getting worse, and young people just don't know how to spell anymore.

"Well, we don't think it's true."

Guilbault said researchers want to analyze the texts to show people's creativity with the use of language.

"We think it's important to go take a look at it, in text message, so we can actually prove how creative people are, and we can prove that they are using English in a very specific way, in a constrained environment, which is texting.”

The project began in December, and researchers have already collected more than 8,000 text messages.

Preliminary research findings show that contributors have used 10 different ways to text laughter, including three variants of "LOL."

OK has been texted 12 different ways, including "okay," and "k," and "see you" was four times as common as "c u."

Guilbault said Text4Science is focusing on English, the only part of the larger international study to do so.

"We're hoping to make claims about the way people text over in Great Britain, maybe, and even the U.S. to see how differently they text," he said.

Guilbault said the researchers will collect data until the end of June and begin their analysis at the end of the summer.

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