Emoji: Language killer, parasite or symbiosis?

Earth. Population 7.2 Billion and a whopping 6500 languages being spoken every day.

Africa. The second most populous continent in the world with 1.1-billion people and almost 2 000 languages are spoken daily. Amongst the languages spoken on our beautiful continent, UNESCO has listed 79 African languages as critically endangered, 66 severely endangered, 51 as definitely endangered and 44 are vulnerable. The nature of the issue crosses all four corners of Africa.

To the west, only four people who can speak Njerep remain and in the east, only 6 people in Ethiopia can speak Ongota. South Africa may be home to four of the most widely spoken languages in Africa, namely English, Afrikaans, Xhosa and Zulu, and boast the largest amount of official languages in the world, but we still have some of the saddest statistics when it comes to critically endangered languages. Nǀuu or Nǀhuki is a Khoisan language and when last checked in 2013, only 3 people in the world could speak it and they live in different areas of South Africa. Griqua or more correctly known as Xirikwa or ǃOra is another example, where less than 30 speakers exist in the world. One could easily blame Africa’s colonisation for the state of the diversity of mother tongues. After all Portuguese, French, English and Arabic are the four most commonly spoken languages

Emoji sapping the life out of language

Perhaps there is something, though. In the Internet Age, speaking one of these languages means African countries can be more inclusive to information, education and trade online, creating a commonality that has allowed each of the 54 states to be inclusive of the global village. Beyond this, even these commonly held languages are beginning to feel the strain. Like ‘video killing the radio star’ and colonisation killing the oral tribe culture, mobile could quickly be fingered for killing the oral and written culture. Without sounding dramatic, Emoji, as a parasitic ‘language’, could be the culprit for the abuse and ultimate death of written language.

Read more: Memeburn

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