Jan 15, 2017

We all love the world of emoji… but is it affecting the english language?

Emojis have become more popular than ever, with online news channels publishing articles regarding the most used emojis of 2016. Despite the love for them, have you ever considered that the usage of emoji might be affecting the english language?

Before emoji took off, people worried about what ‘txt’ talk would do to the English grammar. Was the youngest generation going to grow up thinking the sentence “have you got school tomorrow?” should look like “hv u gt skl tmro?” Research, such as the 2012 Penn State study, shows that kids who frequently use ‘txt’ talk perform worse in grammar tests. Despite evidence, others would argue that texting has made us more literate, not less. The same arguments have been arising about emoji.

Emoji started off as more attractive versions of emoticons, such as smiley and sad faces, but has grown into much much more. They illustrate almost anything, from Santa Claus to hairdressing to their most recent image of delicious pancakes with syrup.

Now that we can display our feelings using over 1850 emojis, people are debating as to whether this new form of speech is good or bad on the english language.

The good:

1) They’re useful - emoji speech can help people express emotions that people might misunderstand in written form

2) Emoji cannot replace our language - Linguists have looked into the power of emoji and came to the conclusion that it is mainly a fun new supplement to language but cannot replace it entirely

3) Understood universally - the use of emoji images overcomes language barriers, allowing people to communicate with and understand each other all over the world.

The bad:

1) It’s taking over words - research shows the word ‘LOL’ is only used 1.9% of the time by Facebook users, compared to 33.7% of competing emojis. If you are using iOS 10, Apple will also suggest that you swap words for emojis. For example: “Thanks for the present” would be suggested to look like… pray for the gift.

2) Society has taken steps backwards - according to Smith, using the emoji speech has made us lazy. He believes focusing on pictures as a form of communication is too simple, causing us to take a giant leap backwards: in ambition, maturity and evolution.

What do we think?

While it is fair that people are concerned the digital worlds of text and emoji are going to cause younger generations to have literacy problems, it needs to be said that the english language is going nowhere and these are just additional forms of communicating and expressing emotions digitally.

From an emotion research perspective, identifying opinions expressed in a piece of text can provide emotional insight but possibly won’t provide ‘truth’. Similarly, looking at emojis alone won’t give you a full picture. We strongly believe combining emojis with sentiment analysis will give you a more rounded view of conscious opinion and a much deeper understanding of the emotions expressed in social noise, so much so that we plan to launch our twitter emoji sentiment tool in the next few months.