Relevance of Emoticons in Computer-Mediated Communication Contexts: An Overview

  •  Tanimu Ahmed Jibril    
  •  Mardziah Hayati Abdullah    


With the constant growth in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the last 50 years or so, electronic communication has become part of the present day system of living. Equally, smileys or emoticons were innovated in 1982, and today the genre has attained a substantial patronage in various aspects of computer-mediated communication (CMC). Ever since written forms of electronic communication lack the face-to-face (F2F) situation attributes, emoticons are seen as socio-emotional suppliers to the CMC. This article reviews scholarly research in that field in order to compile variety of investigations on the application of emoticons in some facets of CMC, i.e. Facebook, Instant Messaging (IM), and Short Messaging Service (SMS). Key findings of the review show that emoticons do not just serve as paralanguage elements rather they are compared to word morphemes with distinctive significative functions. In other words, they are morpheme-like units and could be derivational, inflectional, or abbreviations but not unbound. The findings also indicate that emoticons could be conventionalized as well as being paralinguistic elements, therefore, they should be approached as contributory to conversation itself not mere compensatory to language.

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