Language is Losing its Potency!

A lot More than just words. 1

The Oxford Dictionaries word of the year for 2015 is 1. It is an emoji. The reaction to this news has varied from 2 (it is the death of language!) to 3 (it is a lame publicity stunt). Emojis are not words. That’s something Oxford itself agrees on, defining the word as “a single distinct element of speech or writing. We do not speak in emojis or write in emojis, at least not the old pen-in-hand way.

However, in real-world conversation, we do not depend solely on words; body language is said to make up 55% of communication. So perhaps the emoji is the digital equivalent, enhancing the tone of our message beyond words. If so, is it possible to distill the huge gamut of complex human emotion into a series of comic faces?

Moreover, why the “face with tears of joy” emoji? Oxford said it “best reflected the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015.” Is this the same 2015 defined by climate change talks, terrorist attacks, and a migrant crisis? These seem at total odds.

However, together with Swiftkey, a mobile tech company, Oxford found 1 was the most frequently used emoji of 2015. Could it be our tears of a collective clown? Or perhaps it is no reflection of our moods at all. Instead, emoji-speak is a self-contained discourse and we tailor our conversations and emotions to fit its limits. In addition, this is the crucial shift that Oxford has acknowledged with their choice.

The views expressed in Op-Ed pieces are those of the author and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Libyan Express.
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