Emoticons – the often whimsical hieroglyphics that most so affectionately know as “emojis” – have become ubiquitous in modern digital communication not only by individuals but also by corporations as part of their advertising and marketing campaigns on social media. Emojis have also begun appearing as evidence in court cases.

A short, but fascinating, discussion between several experts in the fields of computer science, hieroglyphics, and social media of the impact emojis have had on our language can be found here. The crux of the discussion is that emojis can have a profound impact on the way we communicate. Essentially, the inclusion of a single emoji can alter the meaning of the accompanying text. Alexandre Loktonov, AHRC Fellow at the Kluge Center and an expert on hieroglyphics, likens emojis to what are known as “deteriminatives” in Egyptian hieroglyphics, or “signs, which, without having a phonetic value of their own, can ‘color’ the meaning of the preceding word or phrase.” In recent years, the nature of emojis has been addressed in several lawsuits, proving that courts may be recognizing the importance these characters have begun to have with respect to our language and communication.