From Hieroglyphics to Emojis: Evolution of Logographic Languages

Egyptian Hieroglyphics on a stone facade

The social and physical isolation involved with quarantine presented a challenge for many individuals. However, unlike previous pandemics, individuals living through isolation in 2020 embraced a power at their fingertips that people in previous centuries did not have: the power of technology, and to be more specific, the power of virtual communication. In today’s blog from Akorbi’s translation team, we look at how we arrived at emojis as a communication tool that is actually thousands of years old.

Related Post: Multilingual Content Moderation: Challenges of Monitoring Misinformation for Language Services

Emoji Statistics

According to Worldwide Texting Statistics, 560 billion texts are sent every month globally. This is a 7,700% increase over the last decade. Particularly, this increase has been seen with the induction of emojis into the Unicode Standard within the Unicode Consortium in 2009. Unicode is an internationally recognized nonprofit organization that focuses on the regulation of language contextualization across all digital platforms. 

The induction of emojis into Unicode allowed them to become legitimized as a digital written language. This is what ultimately led to the inclusion of the Emoji index for Apple and Android users that all texters currently have access to. 

Now, emojis are so popular they have their own informational page: Emojipedia. Currently, the most popular emoji is: 😂 followed by: ❤️. The language of emojis has inserted itself into the social fabric that all modern communicators live within. Incredibly, this fabric did not change with the introduction of social distancing. Video calls and emoji-based virtual communication have simply become a part of daily life.

Egyptian Hieroglyphics: The First Emojis 

Anthropologically, this makes sense. Communication using emojis is called pictographic communication, part of a larger form of a written language called a logographic language. 

A single emoji is linguistically referred to as a pictogram, or a symbol that conveys its meaning through resemblance to a physical object. Pictograms originated from hieroglyphics, and are rooted in the ancient Egyptian written language. 

A hieroglyph is considered an artistic representation of a commonly understood idea or phrase in the culture of the society it represents. Few modern scholars can translate Ancient Egyptian, and no one can speak it because the spoken language died centuries ago. By many standards, it is considered a Dead Language. Yet, there is an entire modern culture dedicated to its descendant: the language of emojis. 

Who Uses Emojis?

The importance of embracing emojis as a written language rests in the understanding of who is using the emoji language. The Research and Expertise Centre for Survey Methodology in Barcelona quotes that those using emojis the most range from teens to late twenties. 

Why Do Emojis Matter? 

Emojis are an important part of virtual communication, as well as modern social culture. Embracing them as a written language opens the door to understanding individuals at an in-depth level. As language continues to evolve, so will the languages used. Emojis will grow, and change, the same way the dictionary does each year. 

Related Post: How Do Languages Evolve Over Time?

Talk to Akorbi About Content Moderation & Social Media

As younger generations embrace emojis as a written language, it’s important to understand that if we miss out on the opportunity to learn the use of emojis, we are also missing out on the opportunity to connect interpersonally with an entire group of people in a target audience. 

Contact Akorbi online or call 1-877-4-AKORBI for more information on how your company can better understand best practices for content moderation, even if you see a string of emojis on a social media post.

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