Can emojis be evidence in court? Forensic linguists are figuring it out

April 13th, 2020 by Emojis have become ubiquitous in text communication – messages are peppered with smiley faces, hearts and other graphic icons. They were first drawn by graphic designer Shigetaka Kurita, and generated by a Japanese communications firm called NTT DoCoMo in the late 1990s. Now they’re everywhere. But would you be quite so quick to insert an emoji into a message if you thought it might be interpreted as a threat or might offend the receiver? What if that smiley face could land you in court? Or bind you legally to a contract you never formally signed? There’s a growing body of case law from around the world – including the United Kingdom, New Zealand and France – where courts have been called on to interpret emojis as evidence. This, in turn, has seen a rise in academic literature on the subject. That includes research in the field of forensic linguistics, which we both study. The phrase “forensic linguistics” was first recorded in 1968 by professor of linguistics Jan Svartvik, who was analysing the language in a set of legal statements. Forensic linguist John Olsson, defines the discipline as … the interface between languages, crime, law, where law includes law enforcement, judicial matters, legislation, disputes or proceedings in law, and even disputes which only potentially involve some infraction of the law or some necessity to seek legal remedy. Globally, forensic linguists are called on to offer expert testimony on emojis as evidence. Contentious emoji use hasn’t made too many headlines in South Africa yet, but given instances elsewhere in the world, it’s likely that forensic linguists may soon be called into play in the country’s courts quite soon. That’s why forensic linguists in South Africa should keep abreast of new developments around emojis as evidence. Read more: The Print

Forensic linguists explore how emojis can be used as evidence in court

March 23rd, 2020 by Emojis have become ubiquitous in text communication – messages are peppered with smiley faces, hearts and other graphic icons. They were first drawn by graphic designer Shigetaka Kurita, and generated by a Japanese communications firm called NTT DoCoMo in the late 1990s. Now they’re everywhere. But would you be quite so quick to insert an emoji into a message if you thought it might be interpreted as a threat or might offend the receiver? What if that smiley face could land you in court? Or bind you legally to a contract you never formally signed? There’s a growing body of case law from around the world – including the United Kingdom, New Zealand and France – where courts have been called on to interpret emojis as evidence. This, in turn, has seen a rise in academic literature on the subject. That includes research in the field of forensic linguistics, which we both study. The phrase “forensic linguistics” was first recorded in 1968 by professor of linguistics Jan Svartvik, who was analysing the language in a set of legal statements. Forensic linguist John Olsson, defines the discipline as … the interface between languages, crime, law, where law includes law enforcement, judicial matters, legislation, disputes or proceedings in law, and even disputes which only potentially involve some infraction of the law or some necessity to seek legal remedy. Globally, forensic linguists are called on to offer expert testimony on emojis as evidence. Contentious emoji use hasn’t made too many headlines in South Africa yet, but given instances elsewhere in the world, it’s likely that forensic linguists may soon be called into play in the country’s courts quite soon. That’s why forensic linguists in South Africa should keep abreast of new developments around emojis as evidence. We held a two-day colloquium at Rhodes University in South Africa where forensic linguists and legal practitioners interested in language and the law discussed international developments. We also explored the ways that emojis might be interpreted in the context of South Africa’s cultures and languages. Similar colloquiums will be held with the legal fraternity to ensure judges and magistrates are able to interpret emojis and the importance of calling forensic linguists as expert witnesses. Read more: The Conversation

Why emojis and #hashtags should be part of language learning

February 19th, 2020 by Learning a language after one’s early childhood home language is often referred to as second language learning (despite the fact people may in fact be learning their third or fourth languages). In Canada, an officially bilingual country, both English and French are widely taught in superdiverse urban centres. Increasingly, a popular avenue for adult language learners is mobile language learning via free or cheap downloaded apps. A number of apps for mobile language learning claim top-market share: Duolingo claims to teach 200 million language learners worldwide; Busuu, 90 million learners; Babbel and Memrise are also major players. I analyzed these four apps for their approach to and treatment of language and language learning. I found that they relied problematically on past models of what language is and what language does. How the apps teach grammar None of these four top-selling apps are capitalizing on how language is changing in online communication where features such as emojis or hashtags — conventions used in texting and tweeting — are fundamentally altering how people communicate. Rather, these apps tended to teach by testing, drilling vocabulary and simple phrases. Thus, “I read a book” is presented for memorization and contrasted with “she reads a book,” with little if any grammatical explanation. Grammar is the backbone of a language; it’s the structure that words fit into so they make sense for users of the language. Online grammars have diverged from standard “sentence” grammars, which typified printed texts, in myriad ways. Read more: The Conversation

Finland expresses its unique Nordic culture in emojis — and two get Unicode-approved!

November 16th, 2016 by Finland recently published its own set of cultural emojis, 49 in all. They were originally part of a Christmas calendar published by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs on ThisisFinland, a Finnish website. The emojis are all very special to Finns and celebrate their Nordic way of life. For example, if you've ever visited Finland, you'd know that Nokia phones and reindeer are everywhere, and that Finns love their sauna. Sure enough, there's now a text-message ready emoticon for each one of those experiences. Here's a partial list: headbanger, Finnish love, karjalanpiirakka (a traditional pastry), peacemaker, bear, perkele (a swear word), forest, Christmas party, unbreakable, torilla tavataan ("See you at the market square"), lost hopes, stuck, Iceman Kimi, the handshake, reindeer, girl power, happiness, the original Santa, the flag, sauna, cup of coffee and woolly socks. “I mean, Finland is the first country even to suggest emojis that have some sort of a cultural connection,” says Petra Theman director of public diplomacy for Finland's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She's trying to get her country's emojis onto smartphones everywhere. Read more: PRI

A Bible Made With Emojis Is Now An Actual Thing

May 27th, 2016 by Internet, meet the Bible Emoji. This latest edition of one of the world’s most translated books replaces commonly used words from the King James Version of the Bible with Unicode-approved emojis. It also goes one step further by translating this ancient scripture into today’s web lingo. That means subbing in words like “and” for “&,” “why” for “y,” and “people” for “ppl.” Read more: Huffington Post‎

Why Japan Got Over Emojis

December 10th, 2015 by By plenty of measures, 2015 has been a banner year for emojis. A Welsh professor declared them the fastest growing language in the U.K. The New York Times used one in a headline, and a grid of them graced the cover of the New Yorker. Lawyers have cited emojis as evidence in dramatic courtroom trials. President Obama gave emojis a shout-out on the White House lawn, while Russian government officials threatened to ban same-sex emoji couples. To cap it all off, in November the Oxford Dictionaries declared the tears-of-joy emoji the “word” of the year. It now feels hard to imagine online communication without emojis, even if their explosion in popularity among English speakers only dates to October 2011, when Apple’s iOS 5 update bestowed the little icons upon millions of iPhones. (Gmail launched emoji support several years earlier, as did a number of third-party emoji apps, but neither of these developments paved the way for their mainstream adoption in the way that putting them on the iPhone’s virtual keyboard did.) With so much hype and excitement building in such a short timeframe, it’s fair to ask: Are we experiencing an emoji bubble? And what might life after emojis look like? We can find some possible answers to those questions in the birthplace of the emoji: Japan. Read more: Slate‎

Are Emojis Becoming the New Universal ‘Language’?

September 21st, 2015 by Since 2011, when they first became widely available, emojis—the colourful the winks, smileys, lovehearts, and so on embedded as glyphs in our digital keyboards—have taken the world by storm. An emoji , or 'picture character', from the Japanese, is a visual representation of a feeling, idea, entity, status or event. The first emojis were developed in the late 1990s in Japan for use in the world's first mobile phone internet system. There were originally 176, but this figure mushroomed during the 2000s, particularly in the Japanese mobile computing sector. In 2009, the California-based Unicode Consortium, which specifies the international standard for the representation of text across modern digital computing and communication platforms, sanctioned 722 emojis. These Unicode-approved emojis became available to software developers by 2010. A few more were added in 2012, and in June 2014, Unicode added over 270 more. In 2016, a further 38 will be added, including emojis for bacon and even clinking champagne glasses. Read more: Newsweek