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Emojis: How We Assign Meaning to These Ever-Popular Symbols

By ­niversity of Michigan News

May 25, 2017

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Researchers at the University of Michigan (U-M) School of Information analyzed the use of emojis by 1 million users via more than 1.2 billion messages.

The team studied the symbol-word relationship to quantify emoji semantics and determine why some emojis are more popular than others.

"Emojis with meanings close to popular words are more likely to be used," says U-M researcher Wei Ai. "Emojis with clear and less ambiguous meanings are more likely to be used, and they provide good substitutes to their word counterparts."

Ai says the researchers ascertained semantic meaning by examining a symbol's neighbors, using an algorithm to analyze the big data of emoji-containing messages and map the symbols and words in a space in which those with similar semantic meanings are close. The results suggest most people use emojis to express emotions, and Ai believes emojis "also make it easier to communicate across language and cultural barriers."

From University of Michigan News
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