Unlocking the cultural language of emojis: a study on Facebook emojis and isiXhosa meanings

A researcher in the School of Communication at the North-West University (NWU), Dr Quatro Mgogo, has embarked on a study to explore how Facebook emojis are being employed to shape the meanings of izaci namaqhalo esiXhosa (isiXhosa proverbs and idioms).

The study also delves into how isiXhosa-speaking Facebook users are harnessing emojis to breathe fresh life into isiXhosa expressions. This study, rooted in interpretivist research philosophy, seeks to decode the cultural values of the Xhosa community through their use of emojis in digital communication.

The goal of the study was to understand how emojis were being used to communicate and express meaning within this indigenous language.

Dr Mgogo says the study found that Xhosa social media users have ingeniously repurposed Facebook emojis to reinterpret and reimagine traditional isiXhosa proverbs and idioms.
“This creative adaptation reflects the dynamic nature of language and culture in the digital age. The research revealed that, in addition to reinterpreting existing idiomatic expressions, these emojis have been harnessed to craft entirely new meanings for isiXhosa expressions. This innovation underscores the adaptability of indigenous languages in the face of evolving communication technologies,” he says.

“Furthermore, the study highlighted the visual element of emojis, which has enabled isiXhosa speakers to construct and convey isiXhosa proverbs and idioms in entirely new ways. This visual reinterpretation adds an exciting layer to the ongoing discussion about the future of human language, particularly indigenous languages, in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” he adds.

As the world navigates the transformative impact of technology on language and culture, this study stands as a testament to the resilience and adaptability of indigenous languages. It underscores the importance of exploring how digital tools and platforms can be harnessed to preserve, adapt and promote linguistic diversity.

The implications of this research extend far beyond isiXhosa, as it prompts a broader conversation about the evolving nature of language in our rapidly changing world. It serves as a reminder that language is not static but is shaped and reshaped by the communities that use it, even in the digital realm.

In a world where communication is increasingly dominated by digital interfaces, this study offers valuable insights into how emojis, once seen as mere embellishments, are now playing a pivotal role in shaping the future of linguistic expression and cultural identity.

Dr Quatro Mgogo

Submitted on Tue, 11/14/2023 - 10:44