Thoughts on working with the Emoji Subcommittee (was Re: Thoughts on Emoji Selection Process)

Mark E. Shoulson via Unicode unicode at
Mon Aug 20 18:49:45 CDT 2018

On 08/20/2018 10:20 AM, Asmus Freytag via Unicode wrote:
> On 8/20/2018 7:09 AM, James Kass via Unicode wrote:
>> Leo Broukhis responded to William Overington:
>>>> I decided that trying to design emoji for 'I' and for 'You' seemed
>>>> interesting so I decided to have a go at designing some.
>>> Why don't we just encode Blissymbolics, where pronouns are already
>>> expressible as abstract symbols, and emojify them?
>> Emoji enthusiasts seeking to devise a universal pictographic set might
>> be well-advised to build from existing work such as Blissymbolics.
>> I think William Overington's designs are clever, though.  Anyone who
>> has ever studied a foreign language (or even their own language) would
>> easily and quickly recognize the intended meanings of the symbols once
>> they understand the derivation.
> What about languages that don't have or don't use personal pronouns. 
> Their speakers might find their use odd or awkward.
> The same for many other grammatical concepts: they work reasonably 
> well if used by someone from a related language, or for linguists 
> trained in general concepts, but languages differ so much in what they 
> express explicitly that if any native speaker transcribes the features 
> that are exposed (and not implied) in their native language it may not 
> be what a reader used to a different language is expecting to see.

Most of the emoji are heavily dependent on a presumed culture anyway.  
The smiley-faces maybe could be argued to be cross-cultural (facial 
expressions are the same for all people—well, mostly), though even then 
the styling is cultural.  But a lot of the rest are 
culture-dependent—and that's fine and how it should be, IMO.

That said, I think William Overington's designs are generally opaque and 
incomprehensible.  James Kass says, "Anyone who has ever studied a 
foreign language (or even their own language) would easily and quickly 
recognize the intended meanings of the symbols *once they understand the 
derivation*." (emphasis added).  Well, yeah, once you tell me what 
something means, I know what it means!  The point of emoji is that they 
already make some sort of "obvious" sense—admittedly, to those who are 
in the covered culture.  (You can't say the same would be true of 
pronoun emoji for linguists, because no linguist would ever look at 
those symbols and think, "Oh right!  Pronouns!"  Yes, they'll make sense 
*once explained* and once you're told they're pronouns, but that's not 
the same thing.)

Moreover, they are once again an attempt to shoehorn Overington's pet 
project, "language-independent sentences/words," which are still 
generally deemed out of scope for Unicode.

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <>

More information about the Unicode mailing list