What do linguists think of emojis?

Small talk with symbols


Emojis are very popular in everyday digital communication. The small icons are used with high frequency, especially in informal, private contexts. This suggests that they support the design of interaction and linguistic action in a very central and differentiated way. The article presents a descriptive framework that makes it possible to analyze the practices of dealing with emojis from a pragmatic perspective and asks what emojis do for building meaning and understanding in internet-based communication (and why). How this description framework can be used to understand specific emoji uses in an interaction context is demonstrated by analyzing a WhatsApp history.


Emojis have emerged as one of the most salient features of computer-mediated communication (CMC) in recent years. Under a pragmatic perspective the frequent use of emoji icons especially in private, informal instances of CMC (e.g. in whatsapp conversations) suggests that they make an important contribution to the organization of understanding and social relations. In our article we present a framework for the pragmatic analysis of emoji occurences in CMC data and demonstrate the use of this framework on the example of the emoji practices found in a private whatsapp interaction.


»More than 90% of those who communicate on the net use emojis and emoticons. But what do they want and can tell us with that? «(Anderl 2017). You can find such and comparable hooks everywhere - in (online) newspapers and magazines, from MIRROR to Image of woman. Emojis are therefore on everyone's lips - or better: under everyone's fingers and eyes. The great popularity that emojis enjoy in certain forms of everyday digital communication suggests that they are not just a non-binding accessory to digitally mediated social contact, but rather units that take on important functions for their users. From a pragmatic perspective, nothing that people do in communication is dispensable. How we design communicative statements and what means we use for them can be justified from the purposes of the action and from our assessment of what is necessary and necessary under the given situational conditions in order to achieve these purposes in the best possible, socially acceptable and appropriate manner.

The public interest in and the diverse use of emojis in internet-based communication reflected in mass media reporting has so far been contrasted with only a few linguistic studies that deal with the use of small pictorial symbols (cf.e.g. Kelly / Watts 2015; Cramer et al. 2016; Danesi 2017; Dürscheid / Siever 2017; Herring / Dainas 2017; Pappert 2017; Siebenhaar 2018; Dürscheid / Meletis 2019; Beißwenger / Pappert 2019a, 2019b, 2019c; Imo / Fladrich 2020; for a detailed overview of the state of research see Beißwenger / Pappert 2019a, pp. 11–27). Nonetheless, the desideratum mentioned is recognized and named by the various authors. Imo (2019, p. 51) emphasizes that in research on multimodal interaction via short messages, inter alia. the "range of functions" of emojis should be taken into account. Against the background of the different semiotic resources in digital writing, Dürscheid (2016, p. 459) advocates not only describing them in their system, "but also considering their pragmatic function more closely."

That Emojis undoubtedly make important contributions to the creation of meaning and social understanding can be shown in interaction excerpts such as the one reproduced in example 1, in which it is obviously important for Chris to use an emoji (probably accidentally)

) to correct meta-communicatively afterwards, d. H. through the actually intended form

to replace. It makes a difference to those communicating Which Emoji form appears at a specific point in a post or a sequence of posts. If you imagine the excerpt in Fig. 1 without any emojis, there would be no difference in terms of postings # 30 and # 31 (assuming that the heart Chris actually intended was in # 31) on the propositional and action level, probably but on the social: the two communicators use heart emojis to enhance their relationship put into the picture and thus - although presumably indisputable at this point in the exchange - to assure each other and non-linguistically of their unbroken, mutual appreciation and affection. Postings # 33 and # 34, on the other hand, would not be immediately interpretable without emojis: In # 33, the emoji implements a necessary element of the syntactic structure and is used instead of a word; After subtracting the pictorial element, the posting would not be propositionally accessible and, for Emma, ​​probably hardly constitutable as an action. Posting # 34 works entirely without linguistic units; Trading here is exclusively with symbols. Posting # 32 is a special case because, due to the metacommunicative act, there is a mentioned use of an emoji form here with the purpose of repairing the emoji use from # 31 and the intention of getting Emma to use the Overwrite cow emojis in their mental communication protocol with an instance of the heart emojis.

In this post we would like to look at emojis in terms of their pragmatic functions: We are interested in what emojis do in and for the organization of interpersonal communication Afford and the functions in which emojis are used by those involved in communication who are in certain relationships with one another on the background of specific communication occasions and a respective communicative history. Since different communication applications and platforms provide very different framework conditions for the design of communication, we will concentrate on the use of emoji in WhatsApp chats. WhatsApp is currently the most popular messenger service, used by more than 1.5 billion people worldwide.Footnote 1 In contrast to internet-based communication in forums, blogs, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, WhatsApp represents “a private, non-public form of communication” (Imo 2017, p. 97) and is therefore particularly popular as an application for everyday communication. Accordingly, there are numerous examples of Small talk, i.e. for forms of private everyday communication that primarily serve to negotiate and maintain relationships. In addition, the form of communication has special features due to the media that also have a not insignificant influence on the interaction behavior of those involved (see Imo 2015, 2019; Dürscheid / Frick 2014; with a didactic language focus: Beißwenger 2016c, 2018). WhatsApp brings together the structure of “classic” chat applications (Beißwenger 2007) with the mobility of SMS dialogues and the use of the smartphone as an end device.Footnote 2 WhatsApp communication also differs from classic chat in that it offers the option of gradually changing between an asynchronous and synchronous orientation of those involved in the communication process. The persistent availability of the written progress log releases users from agreeing to "chat sessions" for their exchange; accordingly, everyone involved can read posts and send their own new posts for communication when this seems appropriate and convenient for him or her. The characteristics of the form of communication constituted by WhatsApp can be summarized as shown in Tab. 1 (based on Imo 2015, p. 7; with various extensions and specifications).

We would like to comment on three characteristics of the form of communication in more detail, as they are of particular importance for the linguistic analysis of WhatsApp communication in general and of emojis in particular:

  1. 1.

    Dialogicity and sequentiality:

    Dialogicity and sequentiality, as well as the ability to react quickly to new contributions from partners, bring WhatsApp communication closer to structural proximity interaction. This is based on the concept of interaction conceived by Imo (2013, pp. 51-83), according to which interaction occurs when two or more people jointly constitute, continue and modify a situation via language and the respective utterances are sequentially related to one another so that »Gradually shared meaning emerges« (Imo 2013, p. 57). The contributions of the individual participants are designed to serve relevance obligations from previous contributions of other participants and at the same time to form the context for follow-up comments that are realized again by others.

  2. 2.

    Reference to text forms:

    Despite their structural proximity to interaction, WhatsApp communication - as well as other forms of internet-based communication - shows a characteristic difference to oral conversations, which affects all levels of the communication process (production, organization, processing) (Beißwenger 2007, 2016a) and which is due to that in her Text forms be used as a means for the production, the fixing and the transmission of statements of participants and provide the processing basis for the reception (Beißwenger 2020). The use of text forms as a format for the realization of communication contributions has technological and historical reasons (ibid.). The social appropriation of the thereby constituted, new form of enabling and realization of dialogically-sequentially conceived, mediated interpersonal communication has produced a communication practice in which the limitation of the elementary form of interaction (= oral face-to-face conversation) is overcome by ( as with the communication with Texts i. S. v. Ehlich 1983 et passim) communication contributions are persistent and replaced by the physicality of those involved. In WhatsApp and similar applications, interaction becomes time-flexible and - due to the access via the smartphone - even more mobile usable and ubiquitously available. The possibilities and the (temporal and spatial) range of interaction are thereby expanded in a technology-specific manner. The result is a new form of organization of communication, which we with Beißwenger (2020) as Text form-based interaction describe.

    The reference to text forms as a format for the production, constitution, transmission and provision of contributions to dialogical-sequential intended interaction forms the essential resource, on the background of which it is possible to use pictorial symbols as a means of designing interaction. Characteristic for text forms is their visuality and their flatness. They are prototypically (and also viewed historically) designed as a carrier of written language, which, however, can be enriched with further visual character types (font design, images) and in individual cases can also consist of exclusively non-linguistic units (e.g. only images).

  3. 3.

    Mobility and context:

    The mobility of communication also means that communication can take place in any situation and in any conceivable place, "which has led to new challenges in relation to context and the indexicalization of utterances" (Imo 2019, pp. 41–42). Due to the diatopic structure of communication with the simultaneous opportunity to relate to one another in a dialogical and sequential manner, strictly speaking, it is not communication as such, but rather the individual participants in the interaction become individually mobile: They constantly change location and situational Context in which they find themselves individually, while they are connected with their interaction partners via a thematic and sequential context and continue to develop this dialogically. This distinguishes communication in WhatsApp and comparable applications from both oral interactions and linguistic action with texts and is only possible through communication using text forms in the sense described above.

In the following, we first introduce our description framework, which describes the functions of emojis against the background of the media, material and semiotic framework conditions that are characteristic and formative for communication in WhatsApp (Section 2). We then use a data example from the MoCoDa2 corpus to demonstrate how this description frame can be used as the basis for formulating functional descriptions for emoji uses in use, i.e. on the background of the documented or reconstructed pragmatic conditions of their use, can be used (Section 3). The article closes with an outlook on why emojis are so successful as a new means of linguistic action, especially in private everyday communication (Section 4).

How we deal with emojis: a pragmatic description framework

In this section we present our descriptive framework for the linguistic analysis of the specifics of emojis in internet-based communication (cf. in detail: Beißwenger / Pappert 2019a, pp. 33-90). The approach is pragmatic well-founded. The fundamental question to which the description frame gives an answer and to which it develops a series of differentiations is "What contribution do emojis make to the organization and design of communicative action in interaction?" We regard the specifics of acting with emojis as a disposition of factors on five levels of description:

the media and material conditions of communication on the Internetthat cannot be changed by those involved in communication and on the basis of which emojis can develop their specific potential for action. For WhatsApp communication, the reference to already described in section 1 is central here Text forms as a means of constitution, mediation and shaping of mutual understanding.

the semiotic qualitieswhich result from the characteristic symbolism of emojis and which can be activated in specific (and different) ways in each use.

the pragmatic potentialwhich result under the given framework conditions (i) through the semiotic qualities (ii) and which form the basis for the fact that emojis can take over certain functions in communicative action in internet-based communication. This potential underlies every use and is played out in every use of an emoji.

the pragmatic functions, which take over emojis in specific uses and which can be described in relation to the linguistic and sequential context as services in relation to the constitution of the action and the design of the interaction.

the Practices, in which the pragmatic functions can be differentiated depending on the context and which are understood as characteristic constellations of media resources (= semiotic qualities and the potentials opened up by them) and the specific requirements of an interaction situation.

Fig. 2 illustrates the interaction of the various factors. For the functional analysis of emojis, the top level of representation - the level of the specific functions - is important. Here, specific uses of emojis are considered and provided with a functional description against the background of the situational and sequential context in which they are embedded and which is either documented (= chat process) or based on metadata or interpretatively (= situational conditions) . In order to understand why emojis can take over certain functions in specific contexts and what possibilities exist for using emojis for the design of interaction, the description levels below the level of the functions in Fig. 2 are of interest. We present the different levels in more detail below.

Medial and material conditions of text forms

Communication via WhatsApp is text-based communication (Beißwenger 2020). The basis of the production, transmission and reception of utterances is the same format that also forms the basis for linguistic action with monological texts, but here for the organization of a dialogical-sequential and thus interactive intended exchange is adapted.Footnote 3 The format is genetically written into the technology (i.e. on the developer side) and cannot be changed or varied for the users in concrete communicative action. The format sets i.a. the following external conditions for the contribution design and for the organization of communication:

  • It conceives communicative utterances as utterances that are presented to the addressees as products and the production of which is indexed in its processuality for the other participants ("XY is writing ..."), but is not accessible to reception.

  • It conceives communicative utterances as visual units that are prototypically realized using written language. The management of the user generated content, which is entered by the producer for the purpose of realizing a communicative statement via the user interface, pre-structured two-dimensionally and segmentally: content is constructed from left to right by combining discrete visual segments (characters and icons). There is an automatic line change at the boundaries of the input field and the posting display generated by the system; the producers can also set forced line breaks themselves. The resulting utterances are as a whole along the topological dimensions Left Right and up down structured.Footnote 4

  • Users have the option of not only including written language generated by the keyboard, but also media objects in the design of their postings. The integration of image and video files and emojis is possible.Footnote 5 Image and video files cannot be freely placed by the producers. If they are combined with written language, the linguistic parts of the posting are always below the media object. Emojis, on the other hand, are created by the producers like characters using the keyboard, which has to be switched from the mode »selection of characters« to a mode »selection of emojis«. Entered emojis are structurally treated by the system in the same way as characters, which means that emojis and characters can be freely combined during input (see Fig. 3).

Emoji form semiotic terms

Emojis are outside specific contexts of use Picture signwho have favourited facial expressions, body gestures, animals, objects, symbols, landscapes and others. (see the examples on the emoji keyboard in Fig. 3). In the specific context of use, these images can be pragmatized in very different ways. The focus is not on the emoji as a picture symbol, but on the object depicted with it, which is then used either as an icon, a symbol or an index. We illustrate this basic assumption with two short examples in which emoji forms that depict faces, facial expressions or face-related gestures are used iconically, indexically and symbolically (see Fig. 4).

The two chat participants in Fig. 4 are students of a seminar on the subject of "Internet-based communication" who are preparing for an oral examination on the seminar content. In Post # 37, Lena uses the monkey with her hands clasped over her eyes indexicalto express that she is uncomfortable with the sunburn ("ouch!"). In Post # 40, Tobias uses a dark-skinned female face emoji to take up the sunburn reported by Lena. The emoji is iconic uses and at the same time ensures the continuity of the topic ›sunburn‹. In Post # 41, Lena uses an emoji that, as a shape, recreates a thoughtful face. The deictic "that" in the linguistic part of the posting can be interpreted in two ways; Depending on the reading, the threefold iterated pensive face has a different semiotic quality:

  1. 1.

    If one evaluates »that« as an anadeictic reference back to the face emoji with dark skin color in Tobias's post, then Lena’s thoughtful faces can be interpreted as indexically intended: Lena would like to express that she is in terms of the validity of her assessment, that the tanned emoji could be an indexical emoji is uncertain (in fact, with this reading, this assessment would be wrong).

  2. 2.

    If, on the other hand, one evaluates "that" as a catadictic reference to the pensive faces, then it would be

    to be interpreted as a meta-communicative use with which the emoji - in triplicate - as shape that is quoted in this case iconic stands for itself. Reading 1 is more likely than reading 2 from a sequential perspective; We nevertheless list reading 2, as this example shows very nicely that, depending on the interpretation of the linguistic context, different underlying semiotizations can be assumed for one and the same emoji use.

In relation to WhatsApp, we also value the semiotic condition of the emoji form, the fact that emojis can be freely combined with each other and with characters in the production of communication contributions (Segmentality). They are segmental units of utterance design that can be combined to form larger units with units for which the same combination conditions apply.

Pragmatic Potential: Visual Salience and Framing

Text form-based interaction is interaction under the conditions of writing, visuality and two-dimensionality. Persistence, visuality and two-dimensionality constitute an expression format that includes all the expression components in the reception (basically also at the production level) simultaneously co-present presents. Temporality becomes tangible under the conditions of text forms as “visibility in the surface” (Schmitz 2011, p. 30). Flatness makes it possible to compose written elements spatially, to work with visual means of grapho stylistics and layout, whereby the writing can appear together with other visually based character types or other character types can form a communication entirely without the participation of writing. Nevertheless, in the vast majority of chats in WhatsApp, the majority of the utterances are in writing. Written language thus forms the Default modality, in which we are confronted with contributions to the interaction. Against this background, pictorial symbols jump straight into the eye and bind - intentionally or unintentionally - the attention of the recipient.

Under the conditions of (i) the reference to text forms and (ii) the basic pictorial character of emojis (as forms), a fundamental characteristic of emoji uses in WhatsApp postings or processes is theirs visual salience: They are surface phenomena that stand out as a figure to the eye against the background of the writing. They are perceived immediately and processed holistically, without - as with the written parts of the utterance - the meaning and meaning can only be made accessible for mental processing through selection. Images are “perceptual signs” (Sachs-Hombach 2003, p. 74) that are not only noticeable at first glance, but are also interpreted immediately and effortlessly as “quick shots into the brain” (Kroeber-Riel 1996, p. IX) can.

In concrete contexts of interaction, the visual salience proves to be pragmatic potential, which is updated every time an emoji is used - precisely because its prominence draws the attention of the recipient to certain points in the two-dimensional utterances and in the also two-dimensionally represented course of interaction, even before the processing of the linguistic parts of the utterance.

However, emojis not only stand out in a perceptual physiological sense. You are also able to index reviews about the social context of interaction. They indicate that their user conceives the socio-situational conditions of the current communication as proximity conditions. Your effect is the one context-creating framing (i. S. v. Auer 1999, p. 171, on the framing cf. also Goffman 1977), which is about "creating an informal atmosphere among equals" (Auer 1999, p. 173). Emojis mark the interaction as (rather) informal and provide the addressees with the key they need to answer Goffman's question "What is actually going on here?" (Goffman 1977, p. 16) for their counterpart, the uses emojis in his utterances to answer as follows: »a communication that - from my point of view - is carried out between people who perceive themselves as roughly the same at least in this situation, who are mutually well-disposed towards their skills, needs and Mutually respecting and appreciating wishes, and within the framework of which private matters can also be discussed «.

Functions and Practices

Visual salience and framing are effects that are directly attached to the use of an emojis under the media and material conditions of WhatsApp communication due to their symbolism and their assignment to the sphere of the informal and private and which cannot be suppressed. For this reason, we do not regard them as functions, but as potentials that are always active as soon as emojis do not form the default modality of the expression design and thus stand out figuratively from the background.Footnote 6 We speak of a function if the use can be assumed to be useful, which can be described as an alternative from several selectable options. Nevertheless, functions are not independent of the pragmatic potentials described: Salience and framing provide the resources that can be used for different and specific functions.

Under one function we understand a disposition of (i) requirements that arise across the board for specific communication situations as requirements for the design of interaction, and (ii) the repeated use of available semiotic and pragmatic resources, attested in numerous and cross-contextual use, to cope with them. A function is related to resources of a certain type. It describes their empirically verifiable performance in coping with requirements of a certain type.

Under the conditions of specific contexts, functions can take on different forms. We describe these characteristics - in the tradition of Schegloff (1997), Heritage (2010) and others - as Practices. Practices »are characterized by the context-sensitive use of certain linguistic-communicative forms as resources for solving fundamental tasks of the constitution of interaction and for producing certain actions« (Deppermann et al. 2016, p. 1).

With regard to emojis, we distinguish between two functional areas, each of which can be assigned a number of practices. The first area of ​​functionality is to use emojis as a Readable for verbal utterances. Make it readable is contextualization under the conditions of text-form-based interaction. With the use of emojis in this function, the context is constituted for the addressee, against the background and under whose conditions the user would like to have a linguistic utterance interpreted or on the basis of which the user's attitude to an uttered state of affairs can be reconstructed without explicitly formulating it in language. In this use, emojis function as contextualization cues (in the sense of v. Gumperz 1982) or “contextualization keys” (Knoblauch 1991, p. 453), on the basis of which the “meaning of the communication and the strategies and intentions pursued by the speakers” (ibid. ) should be inferable without the meaning, strategies and intentions being explicitly presented in language by the user.

A linguistic utterance is around Legibility notes extended, if it is not certain for the producer that, on the basis of the chosen linguistic form in the given context, the addressees are able to recognize the intentions and goals of their linguistic action. The non-explicitness of the linguistic utterance can be justified pragmatically, i. H. be consciously chosen. Legibility notes control the interpretation. They generate inconsistencies that are intended to signal that what is linguistically uttered is not what is meant and that a reading of the utterance must be sought that is consistent with the given reference and the sequential context (Practice 1.1: Calculated inconsistency as an instruction to search for what is meant) or they disclose the attitude of the producer to what is said or to preferred subsequent actions that he / she considers important for the interpretation of what is said and what is meant by it (Practice 1.2: Non-redundant marking of attitudes as a presentation of inwardness).

The second functional area is the use of emojis as Visibility maker. At the To make visible it is about using visual means to make the linguistic expression clear, pleasing and socially acceptable. Practices of making visible have in common that the use of emoji expresses that the user regards the relationship with the addressees as valuable, worthy of preservation and protection. In contrast to practices of making legible, practices of making visible do not contribute anything to the interpretation of the utterance on the level of proposition or illocution. Visualization practices also do not mark practitioners' attitudes towards what they are expressing. Instead, they expand the framing performance of emojis using their visual salience as well as the form specifics of the specifically chosen emoji instances by further aspects of the relationship work: The utterance is "put into the picture", i.e. H. Proposals or parts of them are - either in addition to their linguistic realization or as an alternative, but in no case mandatory - transformed into another sign modality in order to indicate that one has made an effort to make the utterance appealing and to support its reception . In these usages, emojis act as Illustrations (Practice 2.1: Calculated redundancy as "putting the linguistic expression in the picture") or as alternative (pictorial) forms of realization of propositions or partial propositions (Practice 2.2: Act without language).

Practices of visualization are also relevant for the interference-free design of interaction where the relationship with the partners is in danger of being disturbed by the potential effects of individual actions. In such cases, emojis function as "social cement" placed in the picture, which is added to risky utterances as a precautionary measure to indicate that, despite possibly undesirable implications of the utterance, the users respect the wishes of the addressees and that they have a good relationship characterized by mutual appreciation respect, think highly of. In such uses, emojis are a means of polite action and serve to mitigate potential facial threats (Practice 2.3: Attenuation as a means of organizing linguistic activity in a socially acceptable manner). Despite the weakening, what is propounded and intended by the utterance (e.g. asking someone to do something, criticizing someone) remains unchanged. This distinguishes the making visible for the purpose of making one's own utterance socially acceptable from practices of making it readable, which either suggest a different reading or which mark attitudes towards what is proposed that cannot be read from the linguistic utterance itself.


In the following analysis, we will apply the description framework presented to the analysis of a longer excerpt from a WhatsApp chat. We will show that the functions and practices to be worked out must always be determined in relation to the interactive negotiation process. For the interpretation of specific emoji uses, the placement of the post in which they are embedded within the progress log is decisive, which - together with the linguistic parts of the embedding post - forms the sequential context and the context of expression against the background of which the emoji as an expression a specific function (making readable or visible) and a specific practice.

Using the example, we want to show that specific uses of emojis can be functionally described with the description framework outlined in Section 2. At the same time, however, we also show that the question of what an emoji does in individual cases depends to a large extent on what we as analyzers know about the participants, their relationship and their communicative and biographical history. We will explicitly address these uncertainties where they are relevant for analysis, because depending on the assumption, different readings - and thus different function assignments - can result for individual emoji uses. That doesn't make the analysis less informative, but less speculative.Footnote 7

In the data example from the MoCoDa2-Corpus is about belated birthday greetings and trying to meet up. For those involved in the interaction, Karina and Justin, it is documented in MoCoDa2 that they come from the same home village, but now both live in Münster and have been friends for a long time. However, they see each other very seldom, which obviously seems to be primarily due to Justin, which is supported by the further chat history (not shown here). The excerpt analyzed here, whose posts were all written on the same day, comprises twelve posts that contain twenty emoji uses.

We first present the excerpt as a whole (Fig. 5) and then successively analyze the emoji uses in the postings. In order to make it easier to understand the analysis, we put the analyzed postings in front of our analysis texts.

In Post # 1 (Fig. 6), which was sent at 1:34 a.m., Justin congratulates Karina slightly late on her birthday. He points out that he tried to call - probably on time - and quotes his planned phrase "Happy birthday du Nudel ey" for the telephone call, reproducing the conceptual orality that can be expected in the conversation. A friendly laughing emoji (

) as well as a triple iteration of another emojis depicting a Spanish (?) dancer (


There are three different ways of interpreting the laughing emojis. Which is correct depends on (a) which part of the previous utterance the emoji refers to and (b) what we can assume or want to assume as the result of a shared biography and communication history of the two.

Readings 1 and 2 interpret the laughing emoji as an expression of a practice of making visible, in the service of face work (= Practice 2.3). If the emoji refers to the unsuccessful call, it would serve to save face of both parties: on the one hand, to protect Justin's face because he only tried it once, which can be considered inappropriate given the birthday of a (close?) Friend, on the other hand, the preservation of Karina's face, which was obviously not attainable (= reading 1). If, on the other hand, the emoji refers to the term "noodle", Karina's positive self-image would be confirmed, which is apparently attacked by the uncommented use of the expression "noodle" (= reading 2).Footnote 8 But it is also conceivable that the friendly, laughing emoji refers to the rather unusual name "noodle". It makes these legible insofar as the emoji indicates that "noodle" is meant here in a joke (= reading 3 and practice 1.1). Alternatively, it is also conceivable that »noodle« represents a tender term for Karina that has coagulated over time in the communication history of the two. In this case, there would be another practice of making visible: the emoji does not bring any additional information relevant to the language into play, since Karina can assume that Justin means this tenderly when he calls her "noodle". Instead, by adding a positive facial expression, the positive feeling that Justin Karina brings with the use of the expression "noodle" is put into the picture (= practice 2.1). The redundancy of the visual to the linguistically expressed is thus an expression of appreciation (= reading 4).

The three dancers put the birthday in the picture as a lively dance and decorate the congratulations as a practice of making it visible (= practice 2.1). The following expression of hope ("Hope you had a nice day.") Is supplemented by two illustrated hearts, which are symbolically interpreted at this point - that is, by activating cultural background knowledge of the convention on heart symbols - as an expression and confirmation of appreciation for Karina can be. As a practice, they make the intimate relationship visible, with the "double heart" reinforcing this effect (= practice 2.2); At the same time, the symbol, also in the context of practices of making visible, can also be understood as a visualization of the intensity with which Justin Karina linguistically wishes she had a nice day (= practice 2.1).

Regardless of their specific function - and regardless of whether Justin intended it or not - the two hearts also work structuringby delimiting two successive linguistic acts from one another, and in a very distinctive way. Here comes the pragmatic potential of the visual salience of emojis to wear, which emojis can always play when their visual environment does not consist mainly of graphics (but of characters, as is the case here).

The analysis of the emojis in Post # 1 (Fig. 6) shows that making them visible, i.e. the relationship work, plays an important role for Justin in his communication with Karina and that he conceives the situational framework for communication with Karina as conditions of closeness; otherwise he would not use emoji forms that indicate positive feelings and have strong emotions. The fact that he conceives the exchange as proximity communication is supported by indicators in the linguistic design: The posting shows a number of features of conceptual orality, such as the interjection »ey«, a paratactic structure as well as the elosions of unstressed vowels typical for spoken colloquial language (» hab ”,“ grad ”) and a colloquial form of fusion (“ wollts ”) (cf. Beißwenger 2016b, p. 22).

In Posting # 2 (Fig. 7) Karina first presents the sequentially predictable thanks for the congratulations - although rather unusual in form due to the choice of the vowel [i], but just like Justin's utterances based on the spoken colloquial language, realized here by means of a prosody "emulated" via the iteration of the vowel grapheme (Haase et al. 1997, p. 68). The thanks are accompanied by two heart emojis (

) and a sun emoji (

). The hearts reflect the visualization of the relationship status (or the decoration of the nice day wish) of Justin (= practice 2.1 or 2.2). The sun emoji in turn allows two different interpretations, depending on which linguistic or non-lingual element of the context is taken as the reference unit: If one assumes that the sun operates on the immediately preceding "double heart" symbol, it can be more symbolic Amplifier for the form of cultivating relationships that is realized with the heart. The sun stands conventionally for (life) joy and warmth, and in this way characterizes the type of relationship, at least as far as it concerns Karina (= reading 1). It represents a form of "acting without language" with which the relationship itself is thematized (= practice 2.2). Alternatively, the sun emoji can also be related to the »nice day« requested by Justin in post # 1 (Fig. 6). The stereotypical idea of ​​a beautiful day usually includes beautiful weather, and beautiful weather is culturally recorded (and e.g. also reproduced on weather maps) with the symbol of a shining sun. In this reading, the use of the sun emojis was a figurative reference to the subject of the wish expressed by Justin; the sun thus secures thematic continuity and makes it clear that Karina's »Dankiiiiiiiii« does not refer to the fact that Justin reports »only now« (= the last part of his post), but to the wish for a nice day (the one in the previous one -Posting a little further back). In this case, the sun emoji ensures the reference and replaces a linguistic form of reference (= reading 2); In this reading, it can also be assigned to the practice of "acting without language" (= practice 2.2), but realized here in the form of the choice of a visual instead of a linguistic reference.

The following statement in the same post ("I tried to call back briefly but you were sure to be working") is provided by Karina with two facial emojis: a friendly laughing (

) and a "toothy smile" (