Episode 155: A Linguistic Examination of Emoji

Emoji was crowned as this year’s top-trending word by the Global Language Monitor, and it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary (funny, because it’s a word that describes the concept of not actually using words). There is now a blog, Emojinalysis, that purports to psychoanalyze users’ most frequently used emoji.
— Jessica Bennett of the New York Times, July 25, 2014.
Emoji translation is itself an emerging field – but one dominated to date by software, which is often insensitive to the many cultural differences in usage and interpretation. We are therefore seeking an exceptional individual to provide the human touch needed where translation software is inadequate.
— From a London advertisement for Today Translations

Language and imagery have intermingled for millennia of human communication and expression. In many cases, pictographs seem to capture nuance that words alone might miss. But how do Emoji function as a form of language? How have they evolved to reflect their users and what types of communication does their flexibility permit. This week we welcome Morgan Jaffe to explore the linguistic impact Emoji have had on our culture. They present numerous, tangible examples with regard to the law, political issues and creative thinking. How do they reflect a human tendency to identify with and cultivate a visual alphabet? What can our use (or lack thereof) of Emoji teach us about our emotional vocabulary and cultural lexicon?

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