Is Emoji a New Language in Creation?

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Emoji first appeared in 2011. Today, have a count of 1,851 official symbols recognized (and distributed universally) by the Unicode Consortium. Unicode Consortium is a technical body that reviews and approves the pictographic language.

Also to be mentioned are the countless emoji apps that have been developed as separate keyboards. From Bitmoji to KIMOJI, StephMoji to Justin Bieber’s Justmoji, and StephMoji. All of these provide pretty much infinite ways to express oneself without words. We even have a restaurant in London which has written an emoji-only menu, and an emoji movie being produced by Sony is in the works.

To top it off, the Oxford Dictionary anointed an emoji- the “Face with Tears of Joy”, as its 2015 Word of the Year. According to their calculation this single icon made up 20 percent of U.S. and U.K. emoji use.

“Emoji have come to embody a core aspect of living in a digital world that is visually driven, emotionally expressive, and obsessively immediate,” the Oxford Dictionary said in a statement.

Emoji are also popular on Twitter. A study by Digiday, estimates that over six billion emojis are sent on mobile messaging apps every day. Digiday, is a media company that specializes in digital media. It also states that nearly half of the comments and captions on Instagram contain emoji.

It wouldn’t come as a surprise now to state that Emoji even have International Day dedicated to them. July 17 is celebrated as the World Emoji Day. All of these have fuelled expectations with many even speculating that Emoji are a new language in creation.

Emoji were initially used by Japanese mobile operators. These companies each defined their own variants of emoji. The first emoji is credited to have been created in 1998 or 1999 in Shigetaka Kurita of Japan. Kurita took inspiration from weather forecasts that used symbols to show weather, the Chinese characters and street signs, and from the manga which uses stock symbols to express emotions. Kurita created the first 180 emoji based on the expressions that he observed people making and other things in the city. Various cultures and companies kept on adding to it.

In 2010, emoji were for the first time incorporated in Unicode standard and with the apple introducing the emoji in the iOS in 2011 they soon spread like wildfire and kept on gaining popularity. The word emoji comes from Japanese e (“picture”) + moji (“character”). It is technically supposed to mean a Pictograph. In fact, its resemblance to the English words emoticon and emotion is purely coincidental. Although Emoticon and Emoji are confused by many to be one and the same they are technically different. Emoticons have been around since 1981.

Emoji make the language very simple to express. They have grown in popularity as people seem to have found their usage enriching their communication and experience, especially when it is an era where mobile communication accounts a very high percentage of usual communication. The availability of these visual cues prevent misunderstandings and aid in providing crucial context to the text. But as the lexicon of Emoji continues to increase, it makes one wonder whether it has the ability to rise up as a completely new language. May studies have been conducted to understand the influence of the rise of Emojis on our communication.

The usage of Emoji has been found to make you seem a lot friendly and approachable on social media, with many brands already using it for their marketing campaigns. Studies also show that people react to emoji as it were a human face. The same brain centres have been found to be activated as when one sees a human face. Thus, making Emoji a very strong way of visual communication. They have also seamlessly settled in business environments and have found regular usage. It can be used to add positivity or negativity to the communication irrespective of the words being used. Many also find Emoji to correlate to real life happiness.

Emoji are spectacular because they have been found to communicate effortlessly across language barriers. Experts opine that traditional alphabet language has a hard time keeping up and adapting to our needs in terms of adding imagery and visual element to our mobile communications. The idea of a pictogram communication form coupled with traditional alphabet languages allows for a far deeper subtlety and richness. Its only natural that we’re only going to see the interplay between traditional languages and a language like emoji increasing more and more.

The popularity of Emoji can be explained by the fact that humans are by nature multimodal communicators. When we use written language alone, much of that information is lost. Emoji have provided us a way to further enrich our communication with non-verbal cues. Thus, we now have with us a ready-made vocabulary of visual elements.

But although this is great news but Emojis by themselves are incapable of providing meaning when used in complex sequences. At least in their current state Emoji as a language is very restricted in its ability to be an alternative to text communication. Even though Emoji has vastly enriched and added a lot of meaning in our communications, thus proving its usefulness but as of now it is an extremely limited system that would not develop into a complex system because of many intrinsic constraints.

In conclusion it can be clearly said that Emoji atleast in its current form cannot be considered as a replacement for language, but add value as a complementary means of communication. he ultimate fate of the emoji is still undecided and the jury is still out. And while many dismiss the potential for emoji to become a fully functional future language, it has to be accepted without a doubt that they have become an intrinsic part of the human communicative fabric.

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