The Rise of the Emoji


Language is always changing. Words are added and removed, phrases come and go, and as technology improves, language changes to fit with it. Language are going extinct quick, and only a few dominant languages continue to grow. However, it seems that new languages, or what appear to be new languages, are appearing as well.

You know several. There’s Klingon, and all those languages Tolkien invented for Middle Earth. There’s probably more, but those are foremost in my mind.

And then there’s the emoji.

Yes, those faces (and more) that seem to be taking over communication via texting, SMS, and whatever other messaging systems there are. It’s quite interesting to see how the pseudo language developed, and it is even more interesting to see how people try to construct sentences with it.

According to the BBC, however, emojis still need a proper grammar in order to come one step closer to language-hood. Not that I think it likely that it will ever become a language. It has several barriers holding it back.

For one, it can’t be spoken. Although it would be quite funny to watch someone reading it out. Of course, someone with more genius that I have ever seen could come around to making it a spoken language, but then it would just be like a ultra-modern version of pictographs, as in, tongues that used pictures as their script. Like Mandarin. And Korean. And Japanese. Which would be funny, since it originated in Japan.

So now that we’ve ruled out the speaking emoji, let’s move on to their interpretation. Those things are pretty darn open to interpretation, as someone has yet to create the International Standard for the Definitions of Emojis, or any other umbrella organisation of that sort. At least at the time of this writing. They are quite open to dozens of definitions by dozens of different people, and this interpretation and misinterpretation can cause misunderstandings. However, this is less of a problem as people usually use emojis with those who understand them and will probably get the meaning (or inside joke). However, this sort of prevents emojis from going into mainstream writing and communication, as not everyone will understand references. Also, they’re not exactly serious.

Continuing from the last thought, anyone can create an emoji, which is part of the problem. It’s not exactly like English, where people can guess the meanings of portmanteau words like motel (motor hotel) and smog (smoke and fog), and while pictures seem to convey some messages better, again, until there is a standard for interpreting them, they will be sometimes confusing and kept away from mainstream communication.

However, the main reason emojis will probably not take on language-hood is that it has already found its place in the world. It is like online body language. People indicate how their text is to be taken (funny, serious, sarcastic) by the emojis attached to the end. Sure, there are some people who do indeed type completely in emoji, but for the most part, it is a function that aids in online communication, not supplants it. On another note, being able to completely communicate in emojis might be able to help cross-language talk, but then again, emojis sometimes seem like a whole different language.

But whether emojis are here is to stay is another question.

I think that it will remain for the time being. With their use becoming more common, it probably will have some staying power in the years to come, but I highly doubt that the purpose of the emoji will change beyond the niche it has already found. That being said, who knew back in the day how popular emojis would be? I could be wrong. Maybe they will become another language.

I would sign off in emoji, but I don’t know how to do that on my keyboard.

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