English, Emoticons and Emojis ;-)


A friend of mine is concerned about my use of emoticons in texts. She thinks it may be a sign of an imminent mid-life crisis. LOL. I HEART emoticons. Look at that huge yellow face with massive hands on the left…what’s not to love?  😕

Speech is our primary form of communication. According to UNESCO there are approximately 1 billion illiterate adults in the world, the vast majority of whom will have been speaking since early childhood. When speaking face-to-face we employ more than words to communicate our message, we use body language, facial expression, gesture, intonation. These paralinguistic features are so important to speech that we can subvert our entire message with a wink, a shrug or a particular tone of voice.

In written communication paralinguistic features are reduced to layout, punctuation, and handwriting or typeface. Traditionally writing is subject to fewer time constraints; we tend to have more time to plan and draft to make our message clear. However, new technologies (sms texts, email, chat) tend to reduce the time we have to compose our message, and are much closer to the real-time communication of speech. How then are we to ensure clear, fluent, written communication from a distance in text or chat? By adopting features of speech i.e. facial expressions roughly translated onto little yellow circles! Genius.

See? It’s not a sign of a mid-life crisis! It’s an intelligent response to a very real problem 🙂 (though I’m still not too sure about LOL).

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