Cohn goes on to explain that “modality is tied to meaning.
The sounds I’m making are understandable to you because they have links to meanings that are understood by both of us”. “Grammar essentially packages meaning across a sequence of units so that I create coherent sentences, and avoid ones that aren’t,” he says.
READ MORE: How you can learn the five love languages But all this brouhaha begs the question; are emojis actually poised to become a lingua franca, or are they just a load of hot air?
“I don’t believe Emoji have a grammar that guides how they're ordered,” he says, “I wouldn’t call them a full language because they lack that grammatical property.” When asked whether emojis may one day cease to be a collection of arbitrary symbols and develop their own unique grammar, he’s not convinced: “If emoji were to develop a grammar, it would require for them to be internally more complex.When Japanese designer Shigetaka Kurita sketched out the first ever batch of 176 emojis in 1999, he could hardly have imagined the current landscape.Today we have in the region of 1,800 of the little icons to choose from at our fingertips.“Using emojis like winky faces or heart eyes can really disambiguate the difference between saying something in seriousness and saying something in jest,” he says, “if you use the same emoji in two different ways and it could have completely different meanings depending on the context.If the person you’re sending them to doesn’t know you use the winky face in a particular way, they could think you’re being rude instead of being jokey or flirty!Nevertheless, all those thumbs up and fist bumps aren’t as harmless as they may seem.In fact, there’s a massive potential for some pretty awkward hiccups inherent in emoji meanings.“I don’t believe that emoji are a visual language,” says Cohn frankly, “I think the people who are saying that have no idea what they are talking about in terms of language!” Cohn says there are “essentially three magic ingredients that make something a full language”.In the press there have been a slew of news pieces of late touting emojis as part of a nascent language that’s destined to reformat the way we converse.Some sources even go as far to suggest that emoji will soon vie with English in terms of universality.