From Cave Paintings to Shakespeare and Back Again: What Are Emoji and Should I Be Afraid?




McIntyre, Emily S.

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Little pictographic characters have begun to infest written communication on the Internet. Advertisers and politicians are trying to leverage them, linguists are intrigued by them, journalists disdain them, and Oxford Dictionaries named one the Word of the Year for 2015. Emoji are small graphics that depict a variety of expressions, people, symbols, and objects. They are supported by the Unicode Consortium, which allows them to be used on virtually any website around the world. This thesis explores how emoji were created and how they have been used and studied. It includes a study on Twitter use of the emoji that was named Word of the Year to help determine what role this emoji is actually serving when users decide to include it in their self-expression. From there it argues that emoji are part of a family of expressive and stylistic tools that are becoming increasingly important to our Internet lexicon, and even if the populace would rather not call them words, they ought to be awarded dignity in that respect.



emoji, Twitter, linguistics, rhetoric, CMC, social media, Honors College


McIntyre, E. S. (2016). From cave paintings to Shakespeare and back again: What are emoji and should I be afraid? (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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