Writing Like We Speak

John McWhorter analyzes the linguistics of texting:

Elsewhere, he summarizes key parts of his speech:

Texting is developing its own kind of grammar. Take LOL. It doesn’t actually mean “laughing out loud” in a literal sense anymore. LOL has evolved into something much subtler and sophisticated and is used even when nothing is remotely amusing. Jocelyn texts “where have you been?” and Annabelle texts back “lol at the library studying for two hours.” LOL signals basic empathy between texters, easing tension and creating a sense of equality. Instead of having a literal meaning, it does something – conveying an attitude – just like the –ed ending conveys past tense rather than “meaning” anything. LOL, of all things, is grammar.

Of course no one thinks about that consciously. But then most of communication operates below the radar. Over time, the meaning of a word or an expression drifts – meat used to mean any kind of food, silly used to mean, believe it or not, blessed.