There was a recent question posted asking about how to interpret kaomoji, which promptly started garnering close-votes. Setting aside the question of whether that question is a good question or too general in scope, is off-topic really a valid reason for closing it?

Kaomoji, and similarly emoticons in English and other languages, aren't necessarily words you would find in an official dictionary. Then again, neither is most internet slang, but that still doesn't mean someone using slang isn't speaking a language.

Merriam-Webster defines language as:

a systematic means of communicating ideas or feelings by the use of conventionalized signs, sounds, gestures, or marks having understood meanings

Sure, something like (^^;) isn't your traditional hiragana symbol. Yet, on the internet, it still is a way of communicating an idea or feeling with a mark that is understood (in this case, the concept of 苦笑).

Moreover, the various symbols used in one language don't necessarily carry over to another language, which suggests some cultural or perhaps linguistic influence. For example, compare the common emoticons in English to the common kaomoji.

Aren't kaomoji as much a part of the Japanese language as other slang words?

  • 3
    I agree that there is room to include Kaomoji under the "Culture" part of the "Language & Culture" umbrella... However, the question you are referring to is a bad examples imho: it is frustratingly vague and unanswerable other than by putting together exhaustive lists of commonly used kaomoji (which might be the reason why people voted to close, rather than the scope aspect). – Dave Jul 13 '12 at 7:28
  • 6
    Dave, that would be fine, but then it shouldn't be closed as "off-topic"; it should be "not constructive". – Troyen Jul 13 '12 at 16:21
  • 1
    Leaving this as a comment as I don't really have a well defined opinion on this topic blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/11/the-pee-wee-herman-rule – Andrew Grimm Jul 18 '12 at 12:07
  • Are emoticons part of the English language? – Questioner Jul 25 '12 at 7:21
  • @DaveMG I think so, as far as any internet slang (or slang in general) is part of the English language. New "words" are made up all the time, why can't symbolic "words" join a language? – Troyen Jul 25 '12 at 16:39
  • @DaveMG: In fact that has been asked on English Language & Usage: Should emoticons be regarded as punctuation marks? – hippietrail Mar 3 '14 at 7:53
  • 2
    Another question on this topic of interest is on the Linguistics site: Should emoticons be considered punctuation? – hippietrail Mar 4 '14 at 19:27

Aren't kaomoji as much a part of the Japanese language as other slang words?

By Merriam-Webster's definition, it mentions a "systematic means" of communicating ideas. From what you said, this would mean that kaomoji must follow some kind of system. Can we apply the systematic means that we use words in a language the same way to kaomoji?

For example, is it possible to spell/draw kaomoji incorrectly? Can kaomoji be used in a sentence incorrectly? However, even slang words can be spelled incorrectly as well as used incorrectly.

EDIT: Is it possible that a difference between slang words and kaomoji exist because of what they are based on? Slang words can originate from already existant parts of the language. Japanese slang words are based on the same Japanese constructs as other words. As far as loan-words go, these constructs are the same (katakana). Kaomoji is based on how our facial expressions appear to be, and any symbols we can find in ascii to make a representation of those expressions.

It makes more sense to call kaomoji its own language which happens to be understood by most Japanese and others.

EDIT2: It might be the case that kaomoji should just be classified as some kind of "symbols" the same way we treat posts with the "punctuation" tag. Kaomoji are not "words", yet they do convey "specific meaning". This is the same issue as the post I made about 囲み文字 where they are not words either, yet they are comprised of kana, kanji, and other symbols.

  • 4
    I would say yes to both questions. Kaomoji are subject to typos (the same way emoticons can be subject to typos - ever seen :0 instead of :)? ) and they can be used incorrectly such as something like 私は(^^;)学校まで歩いた。 Or more seriously, it's possible to use a kaomoji that is actually inappropriate for the given situation. – Troyen Jul 14 '12 at 7:17
  • 1
    @Troyen: How do we know :0 is not just a different kaomoji rather than a mistake? How do we know 私は(^^;)学校まで歩いた。is incorrect? – Chris Jul 14 '12 at 7:24
  • 2
    Based on context. Communication doesn't work if both sides don't agree on the same meaning for a set of symbols (or words). Over time, certain kaomoji have been used enough in the same manner that they have acquired a specific meaning shared among most people. Just like how slang can eventually be adopted among a larger population. – Troyen Jul 14 '12 at 7:29
  • When someone uses a "known" kaomoji in a strange context, the first inclination is to assume incorrect usage. That doesn't necessarily mean it is incorrect; someone could be trying to bring new meaning to that kaomoji, but it is natural to be skeptical at first. Just like if I started using common words in a manner that does not match their accepted definitions. – Troyen Jul 14 '12 at 7:30
  • 1
    This may be all very well true, but what legitimate reference exists that we can base kaomoji off of? Otherwise, it will end up as subjective entirely. – Chris Jul 14 '12 at 7:46
  • I don't know about any official reference as often "official" language groups don't document slang (though note that official English dictionaries now have entries for "smilies" and "emoticons", which at least recognizes their existence). However, community-made urban dictionaries exist for slang words, where a large group of internet users have come to agreement on what certain slang words mean. I believe the same is true for kaomoji/emoticons. If a majority agrees on a specific meaning for a kaomoji, that meaning wins out - same as with the meanings of words. – Troyen Jul 14 '12 at 7:52
  • 1
    In that case, we need to know if the majority has agreed on a specific meaning for each kaomoji. As of now, I get the impression that most of them have "general" meanings. – Chris Jul 14 '12 at 7:58

What part of speech do you think (^^;) belongs to?

  • 4
    Adverb: modifies or qualifies an adjective, verb, or other adverb or a word-group, expressing a relation of place, time, circumstance, manner, cause, degree, etc. =P – Flaw Jul 13 '12 at 15:57
  • 3
    Does it follow the same distribution as other adverbs? Is it a manner adverb or sentential adverb? Can you replace 私は、昨日、学校まで歩いた and say 私は(^^;)学校まで歩いた? – user458 Jul 13 '12 at 21:35
  • I would say it does not behave like other adverbs. But adverbs are the closest thing I can pin them to without having to create a new part of speech for them. =P in my previous comment could be changed out for a narrative phrase - " ~, said Flaw playfully/cheekily as he stuck out his tongue at sawa". In a way it expresses the manner I presented my sentence, which is not entirely unlike adverbs. – Flaw Jul 14 '12 at 12:44
  • Can (^^;) be an adjective? – Chris Jul 16 '12 at 17:25
  • @Chris Japanese adjective ends in i or na. – user458 Jul 17 '12 at 0:53
  • How about a noun? – Troyen Jul 17 '12 at 6:47
  • @Troyen Can you say (^^;)が? – user458 Jul 17 '12 at 9:52
  • 4
    Instead of taking the form of a word, would it be more appropriate to say that it is just a modifier for a phrase or sentence similar to an exclamation point? – Chris Jul 17 '12 at 16:06
  • 2
    I would think it's closer to an interjection than an adverb. – Pacerier Jul 27 '12 at 5:55
  • 1
    I think it's closest to punctuation. – snailplane Sep 10 '15 at 21:27

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .