Is emoji really the fastest growing language in the UK?

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Last week, Australian online news site news.com.au posted this blog claiming that emoticons are the hieroglyphics of the fastest growing language in the UK: emoji. This is substantiated by a new video on emojional literacy made by the communications company Talk Talk and supported by Professor Vyv Evans from Bangor University. Is emoji really a language or just a series of occasionally helpful pictograms? Is this claim genuine or, as cynics might say, a manifestation of turbocapitalism in academia?

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that all is fair game in terms of language dynamism, language system reform and, shizzle, neologisms too.

With openness to inevitable changes in mind, the idea of emoji being a language in itself seems to be a complicated one.

Firstly, emoticons are not clearly defined. The video made by Talk Talk attempts to address this but who is really able to make decisions about this proposed new language? By recruiting a linguistics professor to the project, they have at made an attempt at validity but it is interesting to see the views of David Crystal, an honorary Professor at Bangor. Crystal, well know for his views on language dynamism wrote positively on the subject text speak in 2008. However, his views on emoticons are less effusive and he highlights the diversity and lack of clarity that the use of emoticons can bring about.

Secondly, the complexity of the tools for writing the language is a potential barrier to the chosen form of communication. If you don’t have electricity, how can you communicate clearly? Those who are adept at drawing might be able to convey meaning with a pen and notebook by writing the freehand version of ‘Oh noes, ⚡🌳🌋’ (although if you are stranded under a tree atop a mountain, you may have a better chance of getting some electricity into your phone than getting a page from a jotter to the emergency services in time). For the rest of us, it would be like trying to write sanskrit without a pointy stick.

Thirdly, while there have been some excellent projects using emojis, such as emoji dick the croud sourced translation of Moby Dick, as well as the State of the Union in emojis, which was a very useful tool in bringing emoji to the masses, most people would agree that the level of interpretation needed to understand Emoji Dick makes it very difficult to decipher the story accurately.

Let’s hope that emojis can coexist with more traditional forms of language until the 🐄↪🏠.

One thought on “Is emoji really the fastest growing language in the UK?

  1. Pingback: Emoji will not hurt you, your language or your culture | The Second Language Acquisition Competences and Knowledge: English Resource Site

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