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Have emojis changed the world? Show more Show less
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In just two decades, emoji has become ‘the fastest growing language in history’. But are there more complex implications to their popularity? With more than 92% of internet users now using emojis, and billions used every day, do the simple digital pictograms have wider implications for society, relationships and even the way we're hardwired?

No, the impact of emojis is exaggerated. Show more Show less

The growth in emoji use is part of the much more transformative digital revolution. Emojis are impactful insofar as they enhance (or diminish) existing forms of communication. However, they have no revolutionary impact in and of themselves.
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Emojis are reminiscent of archaic ancient hieroglyphics and their use

Since ancient times, humans have always used images to communicate. The use of such symbols to portray objects and even ideas has been around for tens of thousands of years. Emojis are just the latest iteration of this historic practice. But that does not mean that they are essential; they are a modern manifestation of a written practice which is outdated and does not express things as clearly as a true written language does.
communication emojis hieroglyphics history language

Context

Humans have used images in written communication for thousands of years, with the earliest forms of pictographs dating back to 3300-3200 BC.

The Argument

Using pictures to express ideas in written communications is not a revolutionary, new idea. In fact, it dates back to the earliest languages. Such use of symbols to portray an idea or greater entity was actually commonplace in many ancient civilizations. Perhaps most commonly known today for the use of hieroglyphics is the Egyptians, although hieroglyphics have been theorized to have been in use for tens of thousands of years, tracing back to the earliest Homo sapiens. For the Egyptians, hieroglyphics were small images, similar to emojis (in scale), that represented characters in their alphabet. Some hieroglyphics represent entire words, while others expressed phonemes. Egyptians also employed symbols known as logograms, which are perhaps more similar to modern emojis. These logograms represented the depicted object or in some cases, an abstraction of the idea trying to be expressed (i.e. the logogram for flamingo was used to express the color 'red'). These same concepts have been studied in several other civilizations such as the Aztec and Mayan empires. In this way, emojis are just the latest incarnation of this archaic and outdated linguistic component. Although the platform and technology that they are based on are in every way revolutionary, using symbols and imagery as a means of language is by no means new. Hieroglyphs are no longer used today for a reason: they are not as precise as written languages which use individual words to form complex sentences and express complete thoughts. Emojis have very limited power, much like the hieroglyphs of old.

Counter arguments

Hieroglyphics is a written language, where words and letters are represented by images. Although no longer in use today, there are also many languages which are also extinct; this does not invalidate them as languages. At one point in time, they were essential. Emojis are the first means of universal communication. While historically symbols as language may have been employed, emojis are the first "universal language". Most emojis are able to be understood by anyone, regardless of culture, language, or background. Hieroglyphs, however, are known only to their respective cultures, requiring historians and translators to attempt to glean meaning. In this way, emojis have many parallels to hieroglyphs, but are ultimately revolutionary due to their accessibility. As more and more people use emojis in place of words or even entire thoughts, it is becoming an essential part of our daily written language.

Proponents

Premises

[P1] Hieroglyphs and pictures are no longer essential to written communication. [P2] Emojis have a very limited range of what they can represent, and can't be used to hold an entire conversation.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] Pictures have always been essential to written communication, and have been used to express entire thoughts and ideas. [Rejecting P2] Emojis are the current manifestation of pictograms in language, and are essential to written language.

References

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    This page was last edited on Saturday, 15 Aug 2020 at 16:26 UTC

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