Emojis as a novel way to communicate using WhatsApp


This study sought to discover the possible effects of emoji use on WhatsApp communication. Students make use of WhatsApp groups when studying and the correct use of emoji use is thus important in teaching and learning. The rise in emoji use is noticeable in online conversations; emojis are often used in combination with text to communicate emotions and context and has become a universal language in South African informal conversations, especially on social media. Messages are characterised using emojis for that extra impetus or effect, yet they can lead to confusion between the sender and the recipient of the text message. In this mixed-methods study a questionnaire was used to test responses (n = 50) to a selection of emojis and twelve (12) participants participated in semi-structured interviews on their perceptions of emoji use. It was found that most of emoji users understood the true meaning of these pictures and agreed with the denotative meaning. However, certain emojis were misinterpreted and emoji education seems necessary to inform Internet users of the emojipedia meanings.

Author Biographies

Collbin Nyakana
Collbin Nyakana is a teacher at a primary school in Hefei, China. He holds a Master’s in Languages, from TUT. His main areas of expertise are comprehension and vocabulary development. Email address: colbingreene@gmail.com
Cornelia Smith, TUT
Cornelia Smith is an associate professor and research fellow in the Department of Linguistics at TUT, South Africa. She has a PhD in English. Her research interests include teaching English and education. Email address: Smithcga@tut.ac.za.
Lorna Mphahlele
Lorna Mphahlele is an emeritus lecturer at TUT. She holds a doctoral degree in Linguistics. Her email address is: MphahleleML@tut.ac.za