Bryce Covert on Emoji

Emoji have undoubtedly changed the way we text, Gchat, and tweet—but are they changing language itself? While emoji are more popular than ever, the idea behind them is actually quite old. “There’s an old utopian ideal that we could create a kind of a universal pictorial language,” says [linguist Ben] Zimmer.

I was, I admit, one of the first to decry the use of emoji as a replacement for "real" language. But as its popularity has grown, and the phenomenon has been put under the microscope, most linguists now understand emoji to be a supplement to language, not a replacement for it.

As it turns out, the desire to use emoji—or, more specifically, pictorial representations of language—has roots both deeply ingrained and ancient.

So what does our use of emoji say about us? What truths can we glean from the many ways in which emoji are used? Quite a bit, according to those studying the subject. The results are preliminary (according to the piece, I don't spell anything out and abbreviate often, but the truth is precisely the opposite), but they're fascinating nonetheless.

Emoji are simply the latest experiment in the evolution of language.

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