Why so much emoji nonsense?

Philippe Verdy via Unicode unicode at unicode.org
Wed Feb 14 14:49:57 CST 2018

2018-02-14 20:50 GMT+01:00 Ken Whistler via Unicode <unicode at unicode.org>:

> On 2/14/2018 12:53 AM, Erik Pedersen via Unicode wrote:
>> Unlike text composed of the world’s traditional alphabetic, syllabic,
>> abugida or CJK characters, emoji convey no utilitarian and unambiguous
>> information content.
> I think this represents a misunderstanding of the function of emoji in
> written communication, as well as a rather narrow concept of how writing
> systems work and why they have evolved.


The concept of vowels as distinctive letters came later, even the letter A
was initially a representation of a glottal stop consonnant, sometimes
mute, only written to indicate a word that did not start by a consonnant in
their first syllable, letter. This has survived today in abjads and
abugidas where vowels became optional diacritics, but that evolved as plain
diacritics in Indic abugidas.

The situation is even more complex because clusters of consonnants were
also represented in early vowel-less alphabets to represent full syllables
(this has formed the base of todays syllabaries when only some glyph
variants of the base consonnant was introduced to distinguish their
vocalization; Indic abugidas with their complex clusters where vowel
diacritic create contextual variant forms of the base consonnant is also a
remnant of this old age): the separation of phonetic consonnants came only
later. Today's alphabets have a long history of evolution and adaptation to
new needs for more precise communication and easier distinctions in
languages that have also evolved; some new letters or diacritics were
progressively abandonned, and but as the historic alphabets have persisted,
then came the concept of digrams to represent a single sound by multiple
letters, instead of inventing a new letter or diacritic, because the
language in which these digrams were used almost never needed the
phonetic letter
pairs or their phonology (or such letter pair was too rarely needed that
such use of digrams did not make the text undecipherable given the context
of use). Over time the alphabets became less and less representative of the
phonology (which evolved more rapidly than orthographies for texts that
languages wanted to preserve, or because various local phonetic variants of
the languages could stil lremain unified by keeping mute letters or letters
representing sounds realized differently across regions).

The invention of bicameral scripts later allowed easier distinction or
reading when contextual forms could be used to emphasize the structure
without necessarily using punctuation signs (the lowercase letters came
from handwriting, because the initial engraved letters were to difficult to
trace with a plum or pencil: letters were joined). Punctuation signs came
later which could have deprecated the use of bicameral orthography, but
languages have constinued to borrow terms from other languages, and the
bicameral distinction became important to preserve. The invention of
printing also produced artefacts in the orthography by the adoption of many
abbreviation signs (because the paper or parchemins were expensive), and
forced some simplifications of the handwritten style with a plum or pencil.

Our recent age of computers (or even before the mechanical typewritters)
have also dramatically simplified the alphabets because the character set
was severely reduced by limitations of the initial technologies (this could
have potentially killed all the abjads, abugidas, syllabaries or
ideo-phonographic scripts during the 20th century, if there was not a
popular resistance to preserve the culture of the initial texts written by
humans, and notably the precious religious books): it is still difficult
today to preserve many of the non-alphabetic scripts, and there's also
difficulties to preserve the meaning diacritics in abjads and abugidas and
even in alphabets, as well as bicameral distinctions. Finally the
preservation of letters inherited from etymology to allow readers to infer
semantics from words is difficult: this is the wellknown problem of
orthographic reforms that tend to remove mute letters, remove some phonetic
distinctions in letters and infer more and more the semantic from the
context: we are in fact slowly returning to the old age of:


And the use (or abuse) of emojis is returning us to the prehistory when
people draw animals on walls of caverns: this was a very slow
communication, not giving a rich semantic, full of ambiguities about what
is really meant, and in fact a severe loss of knowledge where people will
not communicate easily and rapidly. The Emojis are a threat to the
inherited culture, knowledge and science in general: we won't understand
what was meant, and will loose our language to a point where it will be
very unproductive and will generate more conflicts against people... Since
the begining of the 20th century (and notably since WW2) we have developed
lot of communication means, but we also see recently a severe degradation
of litteracy and a growing social fracture for accessing the knowledge: the
huge recent development of audio/video instead of text is a sever threat to
preservation of culture: these audio/video contents are much more difficult
to preserve than text.

We can expect a degradation of general knowledge by the population, and a
growing gap with those that have access to the inherited culture if we
don't preserve (with Unicode) our text heritage which has proven to be very
productive and allowed the development of science, and allowed to
coordinate variable societies and allowed to communicat with people with
variable cultures or across generations...
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