Archive | July, 2014

The grammar of emoji

29 Jul


Until recently, you probably only had about 722 emoji to enliven your text messages. You no doubt felt like that wasn’t adequate to express all complex ideas and emotional needs (in graphical icon form). Fear not, because 250 more emoji have been added to “Unicode 7.0”, which means your smart phone should have these vital images (like Man-in-business-suit-levitating) ready for you to use very soon.

This update to has led to a flurry of curiosity about emoji. Idibon was quoted in Katy Steinmetz’s article on the emoji boom in this month’s Time magazine:

You can also check out this work I did as part of a Time exclusive on “The Grammar of Emoji” (full access to this one is free):


Unicode is the standard for written language that makes it possible for all our phones and computers to interpret characters in the same way. It applies to emoji, and also the Latin, Korean, and Tibetan scripts. Unicode covers punctuation and space characters, too – find some examples in my post on punctuation marks from other languages that are well worth adopting: 7 Awesome Non-English Punctuation Marks You Need to Use.

To get a look in the fight for emoji and its place in how we visually represent language, see Rob’s recent post with a view from the inside of Unicode’s construction: Isaac Newton vs. Millions of Japanese Teens.

And if you’re in a languaging mood, definitely go read @Anagramatron. Colin Rothfels, who is behind that, had been collecting millions of English tweets and provided the data and a lot of the inspiration for this emoji work. Thanks, Colin! And thanks, Ben Zimmer for connecting us!

We also thank Time for their coverage of Idibon’s work; Unicode for their continuing efforts to allow people to connect; and the world’s texters for continually innovating new grammars from every piece of language available!

– Tyler Schnoebelen (@TSchnoebelen)