FORMS AND FUNCTIONS OF EMOJIS IN WHATSAPP INTERACTION AMONG OMANIS
Al Rashdi, Fathiya
This study examines the forms and functions of emojis as used by Omani men and women friends and relatives in messages exchanged on the Instant Messaging application called WhatsApp. Emojis, or “picture characters,” are a recent development, extending what before were just emoticons that use ASCII characters to represent facial expressions. The data consisted of naturally occurring WhatsApp conversations taken from one male-only and one-female only WhatsApp groups. The analysis shows that 121 emoji forms were used in both groups. Some of these emojis appeared only or predominantly in one group but not in the other, reflecting gender differences. In addition, similar to previous studies on emoticons, women were found to use more emojis than men.Through the analysis of many excerpts including various emojis, the study demonstrates that emojis do not mainly serve as indicators of users’ emotions; rather they serve many other communicative functions. They can serve as indication of approval or disapproval of others’ messages, responses to expressions of thanks and compliments, conversational openings and closings, indications of celebration and excitement, and indications of the fulfillment of a requested task, contextualization cues, substitutes for lexical items, and indexical signs. The study also examines the forms and functions of repetition of emojis, which was a ubiquitous phenomenon in the data. These forms were found to serve various functions such as indicating intensity of emotions, displaying enthusiasm and excitement, indicating insistence, showing solidarity, and adding emphasis or highlighting a certain part of an utterance. The analysis also shows how through repetition over a long period of time, a particular emoji takes on meanings that it might not have in any other contexts outside the WhatsApp group in which it was used.This study contributes to the scholarly literature on computer-mediated discourse in general, on Arabic computer-mediated discourse in particular, and on the forms and functions of emojis, a recently introduced, increasingly common, and little-studied feature of computer-mediated discourse.
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