Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Gita Martohardjono

Committee Members

Stephen Brier

Cecelia Cutler

Subject Categories

Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Digital Humanities | Discourse and Text Linguistics | First and Second Language Acquisition | Other Linguistics | Typological Linguistics and Linguistic Diversity


Computer Mediated Communication, Text Messaging, Bilingualism, Multilingual Education, Corpus Linguistics, Multimodal Assessment


This dissertation identifies three types of language skills that urban Spanish/English bilingual youth possess (academic, social, and texting language), and reports on their relationship while documenting and analyzing the features of text messaging among this population. The participants in this study are Spanish-dominant bilingual young adults enrolled in a high school completion program in New York City. They are in the process of developing both Spanish and English academic literacy skills, and it is well known that they tend to perform below the grade they are enrolled in. For this reason, they are often referred to as being “language-less” (DeCapua & Marshall, 2011; Freeman, Freeman, & Mercuri, 2002) in an academic setting. Yet, little was previously known about their linguistic skills in other language forms such as social and Txt. This research seeks to understand and document their abilities across language forms and modalities, painting a composite picture of non-traditional bilinguals students’ linguistic skills.

The aims of this dissertation are achieved through three different approaches. The first is a quantitative study into participants’ literacy skills through the use of assessments measuring academic literacy and social language awareness across written, aural, and digital modalities. The second is an in-depth analysis of the features participants use when texting (communicating via SMS and iMessage). Txt is a relatively new language form, and the analysis presented in this dissertation identifies the features and patterns that illustrate its systematic and constrained nature. The third approach is a case study focused on the texting behavior between two prolific texters. The theories developed based on the texting patterns of all participants (except those two texters) are applied to this one conversation for validation. This conversation constitutes more than half of the text messages that students contributed to the project, highlighting just how important this language form is in the daily life of young adults.

A final component of this dissertation is the public availability of the text messages as an anonymized corpus along with the code and methods used to analyze the data. The text message corpus is available at

Spanish English BYTs.sql (12354 kB)
Spanish English Billingual Youth Texts Corpus (database)

Spanish_English_BYTs.csv (3343 kB)
Spanish English Billingual Youth Texts Corpus (csv file)

Demographics.csv (1 kB)
Spanish English Billingual Youth Texts Corpus Demographics

Emoji_Codes.csv (8 kB)
Spanish English Billingual Youth Texts Corpus Codes to recover the Emojis