Will.Whim

A weblog by Will Fitzgerald

Text is a radio verb

Like tweet, text follows the pattern of verbs called “verbs of instruments of communication” in Beth Levin’s book, English Verb Classes and Alterations: A Preliminary Investigation. In Levin’s inventory, these verbs include

cable e-mail fax modem netmail phone radio relay satellite sign semaphore signal telecast telegraph telephone telex wire wireless

As I did for tweet, I downloaded tweets from Twitter; I just looked for occurrences of ‘texted. Not surprisingly, it was harder to find examples of texted than tweet[ed], but I did find a fair number of examples in a short time. In sum, like, tweet, text is a “radio” verb.

To show this, I will present each of Levin’s “properties” of radio verbs, along with her example verb cable side-by-side with text; and then several examples of tweet used in this way. There are two negative properties which requires further discussion.

  1. Heather cabled the news./Heather texted the news.
    • Phonetics has taken over my life. I almost texted the word “cute” spelled “kjut”…smh. #nerdtweet
    • @vfcimyourgirlHL I texted it
  2. Heather cabled Sara./Heather texted Sara.
    • Ohh Goddd, I just texted Jamal Robinson haha smhh he’s gonna be like who tha fuckk
    • Lmfao I had accidently texted my tattoo guy :)
  3. Dative Alteration
    1. Heather cabled the news to Sara/Heather texted the news to Sara.
      • @strawberikisz93 Haha. I just texted that to you. Lol. I seriously cant wait. Lol.
      • My moms annoying. She texted this to me: “wat time r u leaving”. Would it kill her to type the fucking word?
    2. Heather cabled Sara the news./Heather texted Sara the news.
      • @Kirsty_Jedward I just texted you the answer to this question LOL
      • RT @rainnwilson: Brett Favre texted me explicit pictures of his enormous ego. (This was heavily retweeted)
  4. *Heather cabled to Sara. (See below)
  5. *Heather cabled the news at Sara. (See below)
  6. Heather cabled Sara about the situation./ Heather texted Sara about the situation.
    • Ok, that strange phone number that texted me about the #OKC #earthquake was a friend of mine (new cell number). I assume he’s okay.
    • @Trap_Legend I texted you about a photographer hit me back she’s really good n located here
  7. Sentential Complement with Optional Goal Object
    1. Heather cabled (Sara) that the party would be tonight. / Heather texted (Sara) that the party would be tonight.
    2. Heather cabled (Sara) when to send the package. / Heather texted (Sara) when to send the package.
    3. Heather cabled (Sara) to come. / Heather texted (Sara) to come.
      • Landlord texted mom that she owes $2000 or we are evicted. Ignoring the obvious that its illegal
      • Lauren just texted me to say that she’s at the park watching a corgi go down the slide over & over and didn’t include a photo #notacceptable
  8. Sentential Complement with Optional Goal _To_ Phrase
    1. Heather cabled (to Sara) that the party would be tonight. / Heather texted (to Sara) that the party would be tonight.
    2. Heather cabled (to Sara) when to send the package / Heather texted (to Sara) when to send the package
    3. Heather cabled (to Sara) to come. / Heather texted (to Sara) to come.
      • Texted coach I’m gunna b late got stopped he replies ‘Did you eye batt?” Lol
  9. Heather cabled for Sara to come./ Heather texted for Sara to come.
    • you couldve texted me back to say ok…smh.
    • @immaELAYEpeace you never texted me shirley to come over!
  10. Direct Speech
    1. Heather cabled (Sarah), “Come immediately.” / Heather texted (Sarah), “Come immediately.”
      • My mom thinks “LOL” means “Lots Of Love”. She texted me, “Your grandma had just died. LOL”
    2. Heather cabled (to Sarah), “Come immediately.” / Heather texted (to Sarah), “Come immediately.”
      • My moms annoying. She texted this to me: “wat time r u leaving”. Would it kill her to type the fucking word?
  11. Parenthetical Use of the Verb
    Given the informal register of most Twitter messages, I did not find any examples of parenthetical uses.

    1. The winner, Heather cabled (Sarah) , would be announced tonight.
      / The winner, Heather texted (Sarah) , would be announced tonight.

    2. The winner, Heather cabled (to Sarah) , would be announced tonight. / The winner, Heather texted (to Sarah) , would be announced tonight.
  12. Zero-related Nominal: a cable / a text (from a direct search)
    • @DrewSmooth did u get my text from last weekend
    • In the US, the average 13- to 17-year-old sends and receives 3,339 texts a month—more than 100 per day http://j.mp/bG1eEp
    • Okay. I woke up with no texts….. What happened? Usually i have about 16 not 0.

Regarding the negative cases (574. Heather cabled/texted to Sarah, 575. Heather cabled/texted at Sarah), I found examples of the former. Here are some examples of “texted to”:

  • @RajaThalyn ugh i texted…couldn’t resist it
  • RT @teensinschool: I wish there was a class where you just sat and talked and texted for a period.

I found no examples of “texted at.” For these, see my discussion of tweet.

Additional similarities

There are other similarities between text, tweet and the other verbs of instrument of communication brought out by the Twitter data.

  1. Use with _back_: Heather texted/cabled Sarah back.
  2. Use with adverbial phrases of frequency. Heather texted/cabled Sarah too much.
  3. Use with adverbial phrases of duration. Heather hasn’t texted/cabled Sarah for two days.
  4. Use with adverbial phrases of enumeration: Heather texted/cabled Sarah fifty times
  5. use with points in time: Heather texted/cabled Sarah at midnight

Additional notes

The vast majority of tweets I looked at have a pronominal direct object as message recipient: [someone] texted you/him/her/me/u/yu; A rough estimate is 80% of the tweets in my sample are of this format, and the great majority (95% or so) of these are forms of “me” and “you.” For example,

  • @ohuaintknow i texted uu too hoe
  • WWHHOOOOAAA!!!! dis chick jus texted me nd said “Yu wanna take me to halloween horror nights?” uhhh no bitch lmao
  • @KolorfulKisses2 I had texted you to tell ya
  • @puckzilla19 Well Santana’s mom texted me she is a sleep. Can I help with Rachel?
  • @ILoveTashae i texted you faggot
  • damn , like 4 ppl just texted me & asked what am I doing . . O_o
  • I THINK Taj texted me because I recognized her area code.
  • My mom just texted me: Hiiiii LOLOLOLOLOLOL!!!

Summary

So, I would like to suggest that, like tweet, text is a radio verb; that is, one of Levin’s “Verbs of Instrument of Communication.” More analysis is required, here, as for tweet. But if you have any comments, please write me below.

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