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Are Emojis Ruining Language?

There are three types of people when it comes to emojis: those who use them in everything they write, those who despise them, and linguists. And while you might expect that last group to detest the proliferation of emojis, most linguists tend to take a hands-off approach, according to one expert. That's because emojis are more like gestures than written language, and thus aren't subject to the same grammatical rules. In an article for the website The Conversation, Lauren Gawne argues that, preferences notwithstanding, "there is nothing 'grammatical'" about emojis. It might be true that a thumbs-up symbol clearly indicates approval, but technically speaking, an emoji can be used in any way the writer sees fit -- even if no one else understands it. Even in cases in which it might seem awkward to insert one emoji before another -- for example, a birthday cake before a smile would appear to be saying "birthday happy" rather than "happy birthday" -- it all really comes down to personal choice, not linguistic clarity. Gawne, who co-created the language-focused podcast Lingthusiasm with Gretchen McCulloch, says those who think emojis are a threat to good grammar should reconsider: "We can celebrate the fact that emoji are creating a richer form of online communication that returns the features of gesture to language."

Smile when you write that:

  • Japanese designer Shigetaka Kurita is often considered the "father of the emoji" after designing a collection of cell phone emoji to save space in a 1999 email service.

  • The most popular food emojis used on Twitter are, in order: the birthday cake, the slice of pizza, and the strawberry.

  • Emojis have become popular as tattoos; Miley Cyrus reportedly has a sad cat emoji tattooed inside her lower lip, and Philadelphia 76ers star Mike Scott has at least two emojis tattooed on his arms.

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