The Internet and smartphone-based communication have done a lot of intriguing things to language, from the omnipresent and divisive text-speak to a plethora of options to learn new languages online. Will the linked age, however, assist us in moving beyond language as we know it? Some believe that emoji will change the way we communicate. Let us investigate.
What Are Emoji, Exactly?
Emoji are the next step in the development of text-based emoticons, which have been present since the 1980s. Emoji are far more sophisticated visual icons than emoticons, which are confined to utilizing normal keyboard symbols, as seen in the picture below, which comprises just a very tiny sample of emoji from iOS:
Emoji originated in Japan, but they swiftly expanded across the rest of the globe. iOS has an emoji keyboard, and most major operating systems support a broad range of emoji. Twitter, several chat programs and applications, as well as a rising number of email clients and other online communication media, make them simple to use.
Almost 1,000 distinct emoji are featured in the most recent Unicode update. You can even use emoji to search the web.
A picture is said to be worth a thousand words, and although a little image of a cat may not be worth a thousand, the sentiment surely applies. Some of the symbols are easily seen as representing commonplace, helpful activities, such as a basic talk about writing (note the pen and notebook in the image above).But there’s much more to emoji than that.
The Linguistics of Emoji
Linguists are interested in the use of language, and emoji are a fascinating topic for them. From Egyptian hieroglyphics and early American cave paintings to restricted pictographic systems like the standard representations used for marking risks, there have been various pictorial languages throughout history.
All of these communication platforms employ visuals to represent concepts and allow some flexibility. Emoji, of course, do not constitute a whole language system in their present state. While you may be able to carry a short discussion only using emoji, using major grammatical categories like tense (past, present, future) or aspect would be problematic (repetitive, ongoing, completed, etc.).I’d also be pleased to see an emoji-based debate on literature or science.
Having said that, linguists have discovered some intriguing trends in emoji use. Linguist Ben Zimmer famously compared the present status of emoji usage to the “wild west,” and in many respects, he was correct. However, emojido adhere to the guidelines. Tyler Schnoebelen researched emoticons for his dissertation and has subsequently outlined a set of grammatical principles that most emoji adhere to, which you can read about in this Time article.
So now that emoji have meaning and laws, what’s to stop them from becoming a type of global language?
Crossing Language Boundaries Is Hard
When you consider how people of various languages interact, it’s easy to believe that the main distinction is that words imply different things. But the situation is more complex than that. Some words are difficult to translate. Like the Spanish friolero, who is very sensitive to cold. There’s no way to adequately convey it to English in a few words.
The same thing may happen with pictographic symbols: a typical example is an emoji that represents a man bending, either to express an apology or great respect. This may be obvious to a Japanese emoji user, but an American may perceive something different (some people think it looks like the guy is doing a pushup).A Brazilian could view things differently this time. Cultural standards influence how we perceive pictographs, and emoji are no exception.
There are a few well-known cases in history of notable personalities making recognized hand gestures in unexpected settings and expressing unintentional meanings. While in Australia, George H.W. Bush flashed what we call the peace sign (two fingers raised) with his palm inside. It’s not a huge thing in the US, but it’s equal to giving the Australians the finger. In the standard collection of emoji, there are several symbols that involve hands, many of which might be misunderstood.
Animals and many facial expressions are generally recognized, therefore it’s simple to understand how some of the symbols may be widely recognized. However, it will be difficult to compose a complicated message in a manner that is generally intelligible in many circumstances, particularly if you attempt to tie a whole sentence together.
Is There Potential Here?
There is currently scant linguistic evidence that emoji have the capacity to cross language barriers. However, if there is broad desire and support for it to become a cross-linguistic tool, why shouldn’t it? If a set of norms and translations become universally recognized, emoji might become a valuable tool to communicate across language barriers.
It is important to note that worldwide acceptance of the same emoji standards is required for this. Some Android devices, for example, do not recognize some iPhone emojis, which is why there exist workarounds for transmitting iPhone emojis to Android smartphones.
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