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Emoji in Translation


There is a new Kickstarter to create a translation engine for emoji. This page has all of the wonderful details, including several examples of emoji in translation.

This reminds me of the project last year to fund an emoji Bible, which ended up with about 100 bucks. People realized that such a thing would be unwieldy at best, impossible at worst, and really what's the point?

The idea of an emoji Bible is interesting from a linguistic point of view, however. Written language uses more or less random symbols to represent either sounds (in the case of alphabetic and syllabic languages) or words (in the case of logographic languages). In this way, an emoji text is similar to any logographic language such as ancient Sumerian. We should note, however, that Sumerian logograms turned into syllables as the writing system was picked up by the Akkadians, and that Asian langauges have thousands upon thousands of signs to represent the complexity of human communication. These examples should make clear why an emoji Bible could never be successful. There simply aren't enough signs to do the job.

There is no theoretical reason why it wouldn't work if new logograms were created. Since emoji are more like "ideograms"—representing ideas rather than specific words—than logograms, it is true that one can create thin paraphrases of certain biblical texts. Such a text, however, would not be identified or function as a translation. Here's an example:

Emoji Bible

Are these successful or failed translations? What do you think? Tweet me about it.