Purists should relax, a panel of experts declared at a recent symposium on "Language on the Internet" in Washington. This rapidly spreading digital dialect of English is doing more good than harm, they contended.
"The Internet is fostering new kinds of creativity through language," said David Crystal, a historian of language at the University of Wales in the United Kingdom. "It's the beginning of a new stage in the evolution of the written language and a new motivation for child and adult literacy."
Most interesting is Crystal's contention that the internet has introduced an informal approach to language that has been largely missing since the middle ages--an approach that makes way for creativity:
Thanks to the Internet, the language's "resources for the expression of informality in writing have hugely increased, something which hasn't been seen in English since the Middle Ages, and which was largely lost when standard English came to be established in the 18th century," Crystal
"Rather than condemning it, we should be exulting in the fact that the Internet is allowing us to once more explore the power of the written language in a creative way," he added.
(I wonder, though, why other kinds of dialects couldn't be said to foster this kind of creativity? Internet language is more widespread, no doubt--not geographically isolated.)
I'm always simulataneously amused and disturbed by people--including some students--who worry over the dire effects of email and IM on students' writings. Now I have some nice research to use as an answer to such worries.