back to article British boffin named first ever 'doctor of texting'

A student at a British university has been awarded the first ever PhD in text messaging. Linguist Caroline Tagg - now Dr Caroline Tagg - spent more than three years at Birmingham University researching the subject of text messages and the language used within them. She trawled through 11,000 text messages sent by 235 people …

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  1. Michael Miller
    FAIL

    Maybe she can help me then...

    I want to say "Who cares?", but in a devastating sledgehammer to the forehead sort of a way. I've ruled out:

    "So what?"

    "BFD"

    "No one f*cking cares"

    "What a complete waste of three years"

    Any suggestions?

  2. jon 44
    Go

    inserts

    nice one :D

  3. greenmantle
    Joke

    hmm

    Truly a cunning linguist then...

  4. TeeCee Gold badge

    Very useful, I'm sure.

    D u wnt frs wth tht?

  5. Code Monkey

    Texting?

    Next it'll be a PhD in going to the pub. Actually that'd do me nicely.

  6. james 68
    Flame

    wtf?

    i pay my taxes for this frivolous crap? schools and universities compalin that they dont have the cash to teach basic courses like english and maths properly and yet they can use MY HARD EARNED MONEY for this bollocks? sign me up for revolution ive had enough

  7. Dan 21
    FAIL

    OMG math skilz!

    "She trawled through 11,000 text messages ... together containing 190,000 words."

    "She concluded that the average text contains 17.5 words"

    Maybe she should have consulted with a math student.

  8. eJ2095

    I wonder if i can get a PHD

    In commenting on the articles on "The Register"...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Money well spent

    As in title!!!

  10. Adam Salisbury
    Coat

    WTF??

    PhD in text messaging, well there you go Uni students, parents of Uni students and those who can't afford Uni; extortionate tution fees are entirely justified to create these pinnacles of educational excellence. Without groundbreaking achievements like these some people may have their feelings hurt upon the realisation that they can't do a real degree.

    Mine's the one with the bachelors degree for colouring in and dribbling in the pocket

  11. Jimboom
    WTF?

    Good luck with that

    Good luck finding a job with that PHD. Though I'm sure it will enable you to help some teen who can't understand their friends text while your taking his order at McDoonolds.

    wd u lk fries W dat?

    IGMC

  12. Darren 4

    She must be book!

    I'm glad to see that in these tight times, my taxes are being put to good use. What the HELL sort of Doctorate it that;

    "Yes I'd like the job of head on Linguistics please... my qualifications, well I have this Doctorate in Texting... W-Why are you laughing??"

    This is how I forsee every job interview she will ever take. Almost as pathetic as the First degree is stand-up comedy last week. SHE WASN'T EVEN FUNNY!!!

  13. Jimmy Floyd
    Coat

    u no wot...?

    From a decent University that, which inclines me to believe this was actually a serious piece of linguistic research and not some joke doctorate from Scumbag College (who nearly beat Footlights College, Oxbridge on University Challenge dontchaknow).

    Bugger. Have I seen through the implications of a carefully worded headline?! Mine's the one with a Nokia 6150 and no T5.

  14. Hollerith 1

    Art of the bleeding obvious...

    So texts are usual short and are done with words so use of language is encouraged.

    Who'd've thunk it?

    used to be that doctorates involved serious new research that opened new thought and avenues to explore...

  15. The Indomitable Gall
    Pint

    @Michael Miller

    There are people who would say the same thing about a PhD in datamining, slightly brighter blue LED etc etc etc.

    Just because it doesn't interest *you* doesn't mean it's not useful....

  16. Charlie Clark Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Isn't Birmingham offering degree 2.0?

    Thanks to Caroline for this nugget of wisdom:

    "From her research she believes that texts are much more about maintaining and building relationships rather than passing on raw facts."

    Well, fucking fancy that. Who'd have thought it? Or: the redundancy of much communication is a well-researched and understood area (in any university outside Birmingham). People send texts /twats / IRC to pretend they have real human relationships.

    I hope she did a bit more that relatively trivial linguistic analysis for three years. An automatic Twat-O-Tron parser would have been useful, for a start.

  17. Simon_E

    @ Michael Miller

    'Meh.'?

  18. Shane 8
    WTF?

    good grammer + spelling??

    take off predictive text then see if you have good grammer and spelling!!!

  19. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

    Gotta use the time somehow

    Well, if you consider that in the current economy, with its lack of jobs and glut of useless degrees, she'd probably have been unemployed for those three years, it was as good a use of her time as any and at least she kept her mind occupied.

    I'd throw rocks at her supervisor for picking/approving the research topic and at her university for wasting a PhD degree. They don't grow on trees, you know!

  20. Richard 120
    Pint

    PhD

    I should have a doctorate in smoking and drinking then, I studied it enough at university.

    What an absurd waste of time and effort.

    No wonder the Dr prefix doesn't get the same respect it used to.

  21. Ryan 1986
    FAIL

    what!

    atleast they can get a job at phones4u... sorry i mean phones for you

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    boffin

    or just nosey ?

    Will probably get a job at GCHQ reading our text messages !!!!

  23. Steve Jones 2

    TTLLY FCKNG PNTLSS

    WHT SD PTHTC WNKR SPNDS 3 YEARS OF THEIR LF STDYNG TXT MSSGS SNT BY YOUNG ILLTRT MRNS

  24. TX_SS
    WTF?

    Ummm...

    WTFO?

  25. AC 4
    FAIL

    well worth it

    well done labour, you have successfully wasted 3 years of someone's life on a qualification that will hopefully hinder her employment opportunities.

  26. Ian Stephenson
    Pint

    @Michael Miller

    Tl;dr?

  27. Leewok
    FAIL

    Does it really help

    If texting is helping the English language why in the final sentence of the story did someone feel the need to expand her comments for clarity?

  28. Richard 20
    FAIL

    Wht a ld of bllcks

    I hv a gnuin PhD & ths stry mks my bld boil. Giv ths prsn a GCSE & hve dun wth it.

  29. bluesxman
    Megaphone

    RE: Maybe she can help me then...

    Following the "txt vrnclr", how's about "STFU, GTFO, GAFL"?

  30. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Finally, someone in the UK has siezed a crown from the Americans. About time!

    Pity it was for the "Daft Doctorate" category, but you have to start somewhere I suppose.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Ingee

    It took her 3 years to find out the average length of a text message? ... Maybe Michael Miller (above) got it just right...

  32. Al Jones

    Destroying the English language

    "“Quite the contrary from"

    i see what she means.

  33. Stuart 13
    WTF?

    Not a Dr of Math obviously

    Three years to work out the average number of words in a sample of text?!?

    Next time try Total number of words / total number of messages... PHD please!

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    Career Opportunities

    Probably eminently qualified to ask "wld u like frys w tht?"

  35. skell
    Thumb Up

    Huh?

    Srly, this is all you have to do to get a PhD these days?

  36. Roger Stenning
    Coat

    WTF?!

    ROFLMFAO ;)

    Sez it al :e

    Ahem. I'll get me coat ;)

  37. Justin White
    Coat

    Another sign of the impending apocalypse?

    I've got my tinfoil hat ready just in case!

    Mines the one lined with lead and labeled "Don't Panic" in large, friendly letters...

  38. Simon Harris
    Headmaster

    Dr Caroline Tagg

    ... or 'Er Caroline Vagi' as the predictive text on my phone suggests I name her.

  39. Bilgepipe
    FAIL

    Wrong

    “Quite the contrary from destroying the English [language], [text messaging] is actually encouraging it,”

    No, it's destroying the English language, as more and more people lose the ability to spell and construct simple sentences, and more and more words become corrupted and used incorrectly.

  40. jsp
    Thumb Up

    Not a complete waste of time

    Next time some old fart starts ranting on about "young people nowadays" ... "modern technology" ... "desecrating the language of Shakespeare" or similar tosh in the Daily Mail or on Radio 4, at least we can tell them where to shove it in a scientific, evidence-based way.

  41. Tony Smith (Written by Reg staff)

    @Leewok

    I was wondering when someone would spot that. The unextended, ungrammatical quotation can be seen in the linked Telegraph piece.

  42. Chris Miller
    Joke

    Her supervisor

    According to the B'hamU web site: Professor Susan Hunston - Head of School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies.

    Canadian Studies? Surely that's what Giles Wemmbley-Hogg took (at both Bristol and Durham "due to the most horrendous cock-up on my UCCA form").

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    PhD

    @:

    james 68

    Dan 21

    Hollerith 1

    Darren 4

    Richard 120

    Ryan 1986

    Steve Jones 2

    Shane 8

    AC 4

    Richard 20

    Stuart 13

    Are you sure you're not the same person? looks like it from the similar sentiments shared across multiple messages and the random numbers after generic names..

    Anyway, did you consider that PhDs are not government funded? You can stop crying about your taxes now.

    Seriously, take your whining to dailymail.co.uk

    If this is what the universities want to spent their research grants on, or indeed if the post-grad student wants to fund it themselves, then let them.

    @ Dan 21 specifically:

    Did you consider that there are other types of average, other than the mean? It could well be the median or mode. Or in fact, for simplicity, she may have just rounded, or been working to significant figures.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Give over you lot....

    Ooooh look! it's media knee-jerk time again. And you're joining in like they want you to.

    It's applied linguistics, get over it. Of course the journos want a rant, they're all upset that linguistics people know how to use longer words than they do.

    Dr Tagg could hardly have done her PhD on linguistic metadata schemas or we'd all be giggling about nominative determinism.

    Here's a list of linguistics papers from a conference, so we can see her work in some sort of context, missing from the journalistic version.

    http://ucrel.lancs.ac.uk/publications/CL2007/

    Article 242 An Investigation of General Extenders in a Corpus of EU Parliamentary Debates, (measuring "vagueness" to you and me)

    Article #304 looks promising for another hack rant. "Mapping undergraduate culture using the personal Blog" also #306, The Difficulties in Collecting a Corpus of Genuine and Simulated Suicide Notes

    Now stop being peasants and don't be nasty to people like these, or they'll all go off and get nicely paid jobs with GCHQ improving datamining techniques as per the other news story today.

  45. Eddy Ito
    Pint

    Wha???

    Ok, I have questions. I RTFA over at the telegraph

    "... allows its meaning to remain in tact but..." intact? probably a typo and not on her. But still,

    "People deliberately use words like this when they don't need to." Ok, stop the bus, back it up... words like what??

    If this is what qualifies as Piled High & Deep on that side of the pond deez daze, you have my sympatees. Take what comfort you can from knowing it isn't any betta on dis side. Perhaps it's a good thing we're all too lazy to get jiggy, more of the same clearly isn't working.

    A pint, B cuz meeza nd 1.

  46. Daniel Wilkie
    Coat

    @Shane8

    "take off predictive text then see if you have good grammer and spelling!!!"

    It's grammar...

  47. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge
    Flame

    The worrying thing is...

    That she's probabaly so far up her own arse she's probabaly proud of it.

    The positive aspect of this is that I can't imagine her getting any respect from anyone with a proper higher education so she'll end up working in a callcentre, just like all the other idiots who went for style over substance when choosing their "cool" degrees. Either that or she'll end up working for Apple as they love a bit of style over substance.

  48. MnM
    Gates Horns

    @Tony

    I cannot let the injustice continue. While acknowledging Leewok's fine work, what of Jon 44's closely worded, and more to the point, earlier effort?

    Putting that right has been exactly 17.5 times more valuable than Dr Tagg's thesis.

  49. Charles Manning

    Universities love these courses

    "Media studies" etc. Easy to find lecturers (just ask any burger-flipper at McD). Easy to find students (lazy bastards who want a cruisy time while at university). Easy to assign homework(watch a couple of hours of TV and write a report on how many times there are food ads). Extra credits if you submit your report in text-speak or CtlC CtlV it directly from a blog, or send it in via twitter. No expensive equipment.

    Degrees that actually help the economy, engineering and the like, are pretty much the opposite. Hard to find lecturers (they are all gainfully employed). Hard to find students (few have the qualifications & skills needed). Hard to assign and mark homework (need to read all those maths workings etc). Expensive equipment.

    Now that many universities get their funding based on performance (measured by number of students they have, and the number of grads they crank out), no wonder they push the easy option

  50. Allan George Dyer

    Thesis length?

    Normally, the quality of a thesis is measured by weight, but I assume hers was just 140 characters...

  51. Leon Prinsloo
    WTF?

    erm...

    why did she exclude the kids from 12-18, they appear to be the worst for shortening words, when my 16 year old niece sms's me, I don't bother reading it, because my head will spin trying to understand it. That is why they are saying that sms' are destroying the english language, or any language for that matter.

  52. jake Silver badge

    @Michael Miller

    I think the inestimable Ms Bee put it best:

    FOAD

  53. jake Silver badge

    Yeah, I know.

    Sarah says ODFO ... so shoot me.

    We have nine 35 day old puppies that we're trying to train when & where it's appropriate to pee & poop ... It's kind of a 24 hour job. Nice work, if you can get it ;-)

  54. Lionel Baden
    FAIL

    spelling + grammer

    Was on the train one day and this bloke was showing this woman how to send a text on her new phone

    Woman: how i delete that

    Man Dont worry bout spelling it does it for you

    Woman: Is it ....

    Jeez if i ever hear my kids talk / spell like that im gonna have to get the cane out !!!

    worked for years now now corperal punishment and everything goes down the loo

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    jealousy

    Plenty of jealous folks here I see who are probably less than capable of getting a BA in linguistic, let alone a Phd.

    Get over yourself.

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    surely...

    the doctorate is in linguistics and the research was about texting... quite how someone can be the first doctor of texting is beyond me, surely there would need to be an officially accepted language of which many people actually speak/write before anyone could be even considered being an expert in it? since texting isnt actually an accepted language and its more a method whereby people cut down words in their own language into recognisable (in some cases) words short enough to be texted....

    btw ... AC FTW!

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Charles Manning. You're an idiot.

    That's arguably the most ignorant post in this entire thread, which is no mean feat.

    If you're so into stereotyping I'm surprised you didn't cotton onto why the students and teachers of engineering / mathematics et al are in such short supply - could it possibly be because they're all socially inept and nobody would dream of working with them? No, because tarring everyone with the same brush is a bl**dy stupid idea, especially if you've got no idea what you're talking about.

    Many of those teaching Media Studies at my old university are established and critically acclaimed novelists, continue to work in the media (local newspapers, national newspapers, magazines and so on) and, judging by your post, considerably more intelligent than you.

    I know plenty of engineering students who “sponged off the state” – up to and beyond PHD level, at the best universities in the country. Yes, the degrees may be seen as more useful – but the people I know that did them had a natural aptitude and pretty much never went. One specifically continued to a post doctorate level, specifically to avoid work. So get off your high horse, the type of person you appear to venomously dislike appears in all walks of life, and certainly in all walks of academia.

    You can no doubt guess that yes, I studied media at university. While there I never once watched a “couple of hours of TV”, never once reported on advertising, and evidently came out of it a much more rounded person than the likes of you.

    Interestingly, I also walked straight into a journalism job, earning above the average salary and yes, paying more than the average tax. So no – you didn’t “pay” for me to go to university.

    As I said: small-minded, ill-informed idiot.

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    "Media studies" etc. Easy to find lecturers (just ask any burger-flipper at McD). Easy to find students (lazy bastards who want a cruisy time while at university). Easy to assign homework(watch a couple of hours of TV and write a report on how many times there are food ads). Extra credits if you submit your report in text-speak or CtlC CtlV it directly from a blog, or send it in via twitter. No expensive equipment.

    Degrees that actually help the economy, engineering and the like, are pretty much the opposite. Hard to find lecturers (they are all gainfully employed). Hard to find students (few have the qualifications & skills needed). Hard to assign and mark homework (need to read all those maths workings etc). Expensive equipment.

    Now that many universities get their funding based on performance (measured by number of students they have, and the number of grads they crank out), no wonder they push the easy option

  58. Lottie
    Flame

    Knee Jerking

    It's a PhD (or plumming, heating and drains) in Linguistics with its research being done on texting.

    TBH, I figure it's not that bad an idea. Texting is becoming/ has become one of the most common forms of communication and has developed its own sets of rules regarding grammar, spelling and general compostition. I reckon there's quite a bit of intersting data one could extract from analyzing text messages.

    Oh, sorry, I mean "what about my taxes, it's a disgrace, when I was at uni we only did REAL subjects like examining letters, the english language is evolving a bit and I'm going in to future shock. Why can't we go back to shakespeare and HIS made up words?"

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