Emoji and computer-mediated intercultural communication: A corpus-based study on the use of Emojis in German as a Foreign Language

31 May 2024
Room E1

Emoji and computer-mediated intercultural communication: A corpus-based study on the use of Emojis in German as a Foreign Language

This study explores the usage of emojis in Computer-Mediated-Communication (CMC) among Colombian and Argentinian learners of German. Recent research illustrates that emojis fulfill several pragmatic functions including expressing reactions to prior statements and modulating the tone of assertions (Herring & Dainas, 2017, Ge & Harris, 2018). A study by Sampietro (2019) highlights additional functions of emojis. Beyond the illocutionary domain where they help articulate speech acts, emojis aid in discourse, facilitating successful interaction and managing conversation openings and closings. They also signify informality in the stylistic domain and guide the social intent of conversations. These findings, although insightful, stem from speakers interacting in the same L1 within a shared cultural background. The dynamics of emoji use in a second language (L2) and intercultural settings remain, therefore, underexplored. To address this gap, this study analysed a corpus of WhatsApp messages written during a virtual exchange between 27 Colombian and Argentinian learners of German. Participants, grouped randomly, engaged in weekly tasks in German. The findings show that the use of emojis was largely consistent with speakers of the same L1, suggesting a strong transferability of their main functions, whether they be pragmatic, discursive, or stylistic. Furthermore, emojis were used for another function not observed among speakers using their L1: the performance of identities. For instance, participants expressed such identities using emojis of their respective country flags during introductions to other members. The results of this study suggest that, while the use of L2 did not hinder the realization of the main pragmatic functions of emojis in CMC, the intercultural context prompted an additional one. This underscores the importance of conducting research in intercultural settings to gain a deeper understanding of the functions emojis can perform, revealing nuances that may be overlooked in monocultural studies.

Ge, J., & Herring, S. C. (2018). Communicative functions of emoji sequences on Sina Weibo. *First Monday, 23*(11).

Herring, S. C., & Dainas, A. (2017). “Nice Picture Comment!” Graphicons in Facebook commentthreads. In *Proceedings of the Fiftieth Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences* (pp. 2185-2194). IEEE.

Sampietro, A. (2019). Emoji and rapport management in Spanish WhatsApp chats. *Journal of Pragmatics, 143*, 109-120.