Article in:Internet Pragmatics: Online-First Articles
More than playfulness
Emojis in the comments of a WeChat official account
This study aims to uncover the complexity of emoji usage on Chinese social media. We investigate emoji usage in comments on push notifications from the WeChat official account of Guokr, which was chosen as a representative for an open forum for public communication. The data includes 2552 comments from 90 articles pushed by the account. The analysis adopts a discourse-pragmatic perspective within the framework of intercultural pragmatics (Kecskes 2014), taking into account both the local discourse environment and the cultural context. It is found that Chinese WeChat users show a preference for using emojis that are unique to the WeChat platform. Qualitative analyses were carried out on selected WeChat emojis used in comments fulfilling the speech acts of self-disclosure, self-praise, humor and complaining. Emojis are found to be used to perform and reinforce a sense of playfulness in social media, but underlying this playfulness there is a discursive conformity to social norms in real life. The use of emojis resolves the tension between the openness and freedom in social media and the conservative, constraint-bounded nature of established social norms.
Keywords: emojis, intercultural pragmatics, Chinese social media, WeChat official account, speech act, self-disclosure, self-praise, humor, complaining
Published online: 24 March 2020
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