Emojis bad for language?

Linguist: emojis could teach kids about the written word

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Are emojis destroying language?

By Daniel J. McLaughlin

You cannot escape emojis. They may make you feel :) or :(, but they are a part of our everyday communications.

Emoji is the fastest growing language in history, but does it come at a cost?

Some believe the English language is suffering as a result of our online conversations, but they could also be a way to develop the language for our children.

The Claim

Over a third of British adults believe that emoji are to blame for the deterioration of the English language, the Daily Telegraph reports.

A study by YouTube, which asked 2,000 adults aged between 16 and 65 about the English language, found that the majority of respondents (94 per cent) believe there had been a decline in the correct use of English.

Almost three quarters of adults rely on emojis to communicate with each other, along with spell check and predictive text.

Speaking to the Telegraph, Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, blamed emojis for "breeding laziness".

He said: "We are moving in a direction of cartoon and picture language, which inevitably will affect literacy. Children will always follow the path of least resistance.

"Emoji convey a message, but this breeds laziness. If people think ‘all I need to do is send a picture’, this dilutes language and expression."

The Counterclaim

Gretchen McCulloch, a linguist for Wired, argues that emojis can be used for good. The digital language can help develop a child's language.

When a child uses emoji, it may seem random. However, they learn spoken and signed language in the same way: by babbling nonsense syllables, or selecting random emojis, they are learning the rhythm of conversation.

McCulloch explains that emojis can expose children to "the rhythm of electronic conversations" and they may be a "useful precursor to reading" and a way of acclimatising kids to the digital world.

She explains: "For a kid to get a text message written directly for them, and read directly to them, which they can reply to in some fashion, it teaches them something powerful about the written word—that it can be used to connect with people you care about."

The Facts

The original emojis were designed by Shigetaka Kurita in 1999 for Japanese mobile phones. They initially numbered 176 designs before rising to the over 1,800 emojis used by over 90 per cent of the population today.

Emojis are used six billion times a day, and it has been described as "the fastest growing language in history". It is evolving faster than ancient forms of communication, such as hieroglyphics.

According to Wired, one-third of people online use emoji every day, and they are becoming so popular that they're killing off netspeak. "The more we use 😂," they write, "the less we use LOL and OMG."

On Instagram, for instance, nearly half of the posts contain emoji. This is a trend that started in 2011 when iOS added an emoji keyboard - Android followed suit two years later. The photo-sharing app has added personalised emoji shortcuts for comments, placing your most used emoji above your keyboard.

Emojis are considered a font or a language, therefore anyone can use them for any purpose without worrying about copyright - as long as they don't directly copy pre-existing ones.

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