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Emojis : new language or simple gadgets?

Emojis, Bitmojis, Smileys… Considering that nowadays we use dozens of different symbols in our texts, is this trend going to become a real language? Most linguists totally reject the idea that Emojis could be part of any language. However, some other linguists are less hostile to this interrogation, and as a result they have started to study the Emoji phenomenon. 

History and use of emojis


Emojis, as we know them today orginiated from a little type, founded by an American engineer in the 80’s. The combination of « : » and « ) », reminds us of a smiley face « :) », which  became the starting point to a worldwide trend.

Shigetaka Kurita, a Japanese scientist, came up with the name « emoji » in 1999; the « e » standing for « one picture » and « moji » for « one letter » in Japanese. It's definition is- a little symbol  representing an action, an object or an emotion. 172 different pictograms were created right away! More colourful than simple smileys, Emojis rapidly took their place on our mobile keyboards.

According to the latest studies, almost 5% of the messages we send contain at least one emoji. And this usage continues to grow, strengthened by new networks that encourage it even more: since last year, Instagram allows  us to find  pictures through the use of emojis . Similarly, Facebook now offers 6 emojis instead of the classic « likes »,

Classical emojis

What do emojis teach us about the people who use them?


According to Ben Medlock, an American specialist of symbolic languages, emojis "characterize a cultural mirror". According to his study, 2/3 of the existing emojis have a positive impact, 15% have a negative impact and the rest of them are neutral.

« Are we being naturally positive? » he asks himself. He answers « let’s think more about the way we use social networks: "our lives are not always joyful, but we only expose the best bits to the rest of the world"

His research partner, Gretchen McCulloch, adds « emojis are cute, so if one wants to express a misfortune with an emoji, he or she makes it cute too »

Are French people natural-born seducers?


The conclusions made by the two scientists are more interesting when it comes to the diverse use of Emojis, depending on the country you live in. For instance, Hawaiian people use the « sunset » emoji a lot more than people in Northern countries, who prefer the « Santa Claus » one…

The study also showed that French users use the Love Emojis 4 times more than other people! Surprising?

Linguistic gadget or future language?


Despite their clear success worldwide, Emojis can’t  just replace a real language, according to Gretchen McCulloch : "Emojis are a universal language the same way that pointing to things and grunting is a universal language. Useful in certain circumstances! 

But what makes languages really powerful are their ability to talk about things beyond the here and now, beyond that are easily visualizable. In other words, abstraction..."

In a few words, « this is above all a way to express emotions. It is not a language but a linguistic tool »


Even if Emojis are not a real language yet, English, German and Mandarin are! So don’t hesitate and apply to our Babysitting or Teaching part-time jobs in France! 

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