This week, Oxford Dictionaries have chosen the new Word of the Year 2015: the ‘face with tears of joy’ emoji. Inspired by the increasing popularity of emojis amongst digital users of all ages, this choice indicates a shift in the way written communication works. In an effort to tame the torrent of information, emojis are the digital shorthand of our times.

The choice has already attracted a lot of criticism: some people point out that the new Word of the Year is not even a word, others claim that emojis represent a backward step in the use of language. It is undeniable that emojis are a constant presence in people’s lives, and that they are used as a means of communication in their own right. About six billion emojis are sent every day around the world; some bars and restaurants allow their customers to order food and drinks with combinations of emojis, and you can now buy classic novels such as Moby Dick and Alice in Wonderland in this form.

According to Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford Dictionaries, one of the best features of emojis is their flexibility – they can be used in different combinations to create new composite meanings. However, many feel that emojis cannot be compared to real languages, as they lack the fundamental syntactic structures that all languages have and that allow us to infer meaning from words. In future, as new emojis are created, they might be able to express more complex concepts and more closely resemble real languages. Does this mean that their role in communication will increase? Do emojis have the potential to become a new universal language?

Leave a comment to let us know what you think.