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Emojis & Dialects: What Do Your Emojis Say About You

Emoji Hero Image

With the 💥 of the use of emojis on phones and the internet, Cai explores how they can change the way we speak to each other.

Everybody seems to be asking if emoji is the new language ready for the 21st Century.

Can you call emoji a language? You see people telling stories out of emojis, apps that can translate everything you say into emoji and it seems as though it’s the media’s favourite thing to talk about. Everybody seems to be asking if emoji is the new language ready for the 21st Century. But with only 825 basic emojis, it’s hardly a language and has got a long way to go before it’s acknowledged as one.

Unless you’re one of the die-hard Nokia 3210 fans, you’ve probably experienced the phenomena that is the emoji. They’ve taken the world by 🌩. Depending on your source, both 2014 and 2015 were hailed as the year of the emoji, and I’m not here to argue whether it was one or the other or if it was justified. For starters, the ‘year of the emoji’ is title that makes me cringe so hard I don’t think I could ever seriously refer to it as that. But people are clearly obsessed over emojis. Online, you can find a wide range of emoji accessories and even more emoji jewellery. And when you catch House Of Fraser getting all #emojinal on their twitter account, you don’t need me to tell you that it’s become a huge part of popular culture today. It’s influenced the way we communicate online so much with even an emoji chosen as the word of the year for 2015.

We create our own slang from emojis and over time, they develop different meanings to what they were intended for.

But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t got some of the features of a language, and we’ve already got emoji slang. The aubergine emoji was first introduced because in japan, it’s considered lucky to dream of an aubergine in the first dream of the new year. But we all know what it’s really used for. Equally, we all have emojis that we use for our own reasons. A friend and I used to use the 💨 emoji like the 👌 emoji – to say that something was a ‘breeze’. We create our own slang from emojis and over time, they develop different meanings to what they were intended for.

Emojis have been around for a long time, and have already changed so much. During the days I spent on MSN Messenger, along with your traditional : ) or : ( and in some extreme cases >:(, I committed a variety of shortcuts to memory that would insert a small picture when sent. At the time, these were known as emoticons and you could say they were very basic forms of emoji, but were only compatible within the apps and programs that supply them. Since then, they’ve become a lot more sophisticated and have over 1,500 different emojis. Most importantly though, rather than a shortcut for an image, emojis now have their own universal code which means they can be recognised between different platforms. This allows different operating systems to create emojis that use the same code, but can look completely different.

I’ll use emojis in a way that conveys how I’m feeling, but when they’re viewed on other devices, they can appear to show something else.

As a Samsung user, whenever I use emojis I’m constantly questioning how I’ll sound across other platforms. I’ll use emojis in a way that conveys how I’m feeling, but when they’re viewed on other devices, they can appear to show something else. There are thousands of different emojis that vary slightly depending on where you use them. The emojis that you use to adjust how you speak vary depending on what platform you use, which can lead to confusion and misunderstanding. If I was acting sassy on my iPhone and I send a 💁 emoji to my friend who has a google phone, they get this:

Google Emoji

Something tells me the sassiness doesn’t quite translate.

A simple statement such as ‘I’m going shopping with my mum today’ sounds completely different if you use the 😄, 😫 or 🤑 emoji.

Whilst these changes aren’t always as blatant as this, there are subtleties to each emoji that vary on every platform, which alters how we talk. Emojis are used similar to how we use body language and intonation – as a way to add deeper meaning to what we’re saying. A simple statement such as ‘I’m going shopping with my mum today’ sounds completely different if you use the 😄, 😫 or 🤑 emoji. Emojis can allow us to express ourselves in a whole range of different ways – it was hard to express sarcasm online until the 😒 emoji came along. But when these different platforms start using different emojis – it can change how we sound to other people. Perhaps emojis are more than just body language and intonation – perhaps they’re a dialect too.

A dialect is a variant on a languages grammar, pronunciation, or vocabulary depending upon a variety of different factors. These factors could be where you grew up, your friends and family, your class or social status and maybe even the technology you use. The basic form of an emoji is Unicode, which is a standard system for indexing characters. When you use that code in different places, the emoji changes slightly. Depending on what device you use, the way you use emojis can be different.

iMessage2

It seems as though there are already different dialects online. When an iMessage user texts a non-iMessage user, they can immediately tell from the green chat bubble. It shows that you’re texting someone from a different device and it’s obvious that they’re different to you.

All of a sudden, we can add so much deeper meaning to everything we say.

What makes this interesting though is that we’re starting to navigate new territory online. We’re using written language online in a way that shows more than just the words we’re writing, and we’re actually thinking about things such as dialect and intonation. All of a sudden, we can add so much deeper meaning to everything we say. There is so much more to dissect about someones emoji use – whether they use diverse emojis, how a lack of emoji can say so much and what makes up the frequently used section. I wouldn’t say that emojis are a new language completely, but instead they are a new way of thinking about language and how we communicate online.

How much do you think about the emojis you use? Do you even use emojis? How do they effect the way you communicate? Let us know below or on Twitter

Why not make a comic or zine about emojis? Find out how on the Rife Guide