A New Language Variety: The Relationship between WhatsApp Language and Age group


John Humphrys, a broadcaster, argued that “texters are destroying our language: pillaging our punctuation; savaging our sentences; raping our vocabulary. And they must be stopped.”

As I read this on The Guardian News, I started thinking about all the conversations that I had with my friends on WhatsApp which were full with language errors! The main issue here is that social language is becoming the “standard” language. As we chat with our friends, we type ” u” instead of ” you”, “helooooo” instead of  ” hello”, “that” instead of ” who”, “it’s” instead of “its”, “to” instead of ” two”, etc..

In texts, we also find a lot of abbreviations like “msg”, “gd”, “uni”, “k”, “agn”.

Of course, these are some of the few examples, but they’re the most common ones.

When I was thinking about these language variations on social media, especially WhatsApp, I thought about how each age group has a form of communication. As I collected some data, I reached a conclusion that age is a determining factor in the pervasive use of non-standard language.

Carmen Pérez- Sabater, a linguist, mentioned in her article “Discovering Language variation in WhatsApp text interactions” that WhatsApp text interactions constitute a new language variety which is based on age-group.

Press on the link below to read the full article.


In order to test her claim and my hypothesis, I searched my WhatsApp database for chats between three main age groups. I was lucky because I could record chats from different age groups because of my tutoring job.

The first chat was with a 14-year old, the second with a 23-year old, and the third with a 30-year old.

Below are the chats in order of age.

First chat:

4/2/16, 12:23:09 PM: Dana: Helloz

4/2/16, 12:23:14 PM: Rayyane: Hey!

4/2/16, 12:23:22 PM: Dana!: Sup?🙌🏼

4/2/16, 12:23:30 PM: Rayyane: Good!! You?

4/2/16, 12:23:44 PM: Dana! :Chilling! Wanna come overm

4/2/16, 12:23:46 PM: Dana!: ?

4/2/16, 12:23:55 PM: Rayyane: Yeah sure

4/2/16, 12:24:13 PM: Dana!: I wuz thinkin we cn watch a 🎥

4/2/16, 12:24:26 PM: Rayyane: Ok thats cool!

4/2/16, 12:25:10 PM: Dana!: I had enuff of leaving the house

4/2/16, 12:25:14 PM: Dana!: So u come over

4/2/16, 12:25:36 PM: Dana!: We can huv gr8 tym

As we read this chat, we notice the enormous language errors! There are some use of emotions, along with non-standard spellings  and eye dialect such as “wuz”, “huv”, “gr8”, “tym”, “enuff”,” Helloz”, and “sup”. We can also notice the abbreviations like “cn” instead of “can” and “gr8” instead of “great”. Speaking from experience,most people Dana’s age chat in this way

 Second Chat:

4/16/16, 2:27:19 PM: Jad: Hey!

4/16/16, 2:28:00 PM: Rayyane: Hey

4/16/16, 2:28:13 PM: Jad: How you doing?

4/16/16, 2:28:20 PM: Rayyane: Im alright, you?

4/16/16, 2:28:37 PM: Jad: Doing fine

4/16/16, 2:28:50 PM: Jad: You studied for the midterm? Aw 🤔

4/16/16, 2:29:06 PM: Rayyane: Ya3ni.. Shway shway

4/16/16, 2:30:17 PM: Jad: I went to my friends house so I couldn’t study

Here, the language use is mixed with words from other languages such as ” Aw” in Arabic  which means ” or”, and ” Ya3ni..shway shway” which means ” A bit… slowly”.

When “shway shway” is translated to English, it doesn’t make any sense. What is meant in Arabic is that the process of studying for the midterm is going smoothly.

We notice here the difference between the chat with the 14 year old and this one. There are neither abbreviations nor emoticons, but there is an unintended error in the word “friends” as it is missing an apostrophe.

Third Chat:

4/5/16, 12:31:14 PM: Rayyane: Hey Jamil, I was wondering, what happened with my job application?

4/5/16, 12:32:28 PM: Jamil: Hello! We are currently reviewing it. We will email you as soon as possible to let you know the result. As far as now, I can say that you have reached the final stage. Congratulations!

4/5/16, 12:32:46 PM: Rayyane: Great! Thank you, sir!

4/5/16, 12:33:06 PM: Jamil: You are welcome, Rayyane.

It is evident in this chat with the 30-year old that there are no abbreviations, no use of words from other languages, and no orthographic mistakes.

The data collected shows the different language use in the 3-age groups studied.  Children tend to favor more emoticons, abbreviations, and non-standard spellings. However, adults tend to avoid spelling mistakes and abbreviations, incorporating words from other languages in their chats.

This observation concludes that there is a new language variety based on the WhatsApp use of language according to different age groups.


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