An Investigation of the Linguistic Properties of Emoji Open Access

Reidy, Emma C. (2017)

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Since their rise to popularity over the last couple of years, there have been many claims that emoji are beginning to constitute their own language (Emogi 2016). This study aims to see whether this is the case, or whether they are simply pictorial representations of English, or another previously established language. At a time when emoji are incredibly popular, being used by 92% of the online population according to one study, this is highly culturally relevant (Emogi 2016).

Since emoji are a new cultural phenomenon, there has been minimal research previously conducted about them. Almost all of the existing research has focused on which populations most frequently use emoji, direct translation of emoji, or the importance of emoji in market research, all of which seem to take for granted the fact that emoji are a language or ignore the issue altogether (Emogi 2016). It is, in fact, the very lack of research into the linguistic properties of emoji that makes this study so necessary.

The study, conducted at Emory University, uses a two-part survey to determine the emoji usage habits of undergraduate students, both on the individual and sentence levels. The surveys analyze single emoji as well as emoji phrases found on the internet and present them for translation, both from emoji to English and vice versa. Analysis will look at the consistency of usage across users and also within the use of individuals. Word ordering and sentence organization are also analyzed. The ideas that consensus and grammar/meaning rules are central to language are used as key concepts in this study.

Though the research of emoji may seem lighthearted, the implications of establishing a language based entirely on images are enormous. In a world where global travel and intercultural communication are commonplace, creating a form of communication that can cross previously established linguistic borders is nothing to scoff at. This experiment hopes to be one of many into this exciting new field.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Introduction & Literature Review 1

Methods 10

Results: Analysis and Discussion 15

Conclusion 38

References 42

Appendix 44

Plates, Tables, and Figures

Table 1: Most Common Responses 17

Table 2: Differences and Consolidations 20

Table 3: Breakdown of MC Responses 24

Table 4: Proportion of Consistency in Ordering 33

Table 5: Potential differences in parsing 37

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