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Ideogrammatic Icons: A Linguistic Armageddon of the Digital Age?


Ideogrammatic Icons: A Linguistic Armageddon of the Digital Age?

Dr. Maha Sourani


Human communication has significantly changed from cave paintings in the Upper Palaeolithic age, to using symbols, then papyrus, texts, to cyberspace language and lately emojis. Netspeak has become the norm with a significant number of people refraining from using Standard language. That significant change, especially in this digital era, has led to wide speculation that there could be creation of a new language or devaluation of the existing one. This article seeks to determine whether the digital age is taking the standard form of language back to its early beginnings. A qualitative study design was used for addressing the research questions. More importantly, this article is based on an action exploratory research study. A questionnaire was used as the major tool for data collection. 200 teenagers from 10 schools in the North of Lebanon were the focus of this study. Findings demonstrated that there are significant similarities between the current and old traditional ways of composing language, thus implying that pictures, symbols and emojis are taking the upcoming generation back to the old age when images were predominantly used. The second finding was that the use of digital images by Generation Z may not have resulted in the development of a new language, but there is likelihood that this could be the scenario in future. Consequently, the increased use of digital forms of communication only signals a significant evolution of systems of visual language. There is need for future research to comprehensively understand how various forms of digital communication can be used universally and across all generations as a visual language.

Key terms: Digitization, language change, emojis, generation Z, communication.


* Associate Professor of Linguistics and Educational Technology, Lebanese University III


Background Information

Language is consistently evolving and Internet is currently playing a crucial role in fuelling that evolution. There has been concern that rapid evolution makes it difficult for the older generations to keep up, but it is becoming increasingly clear that the larger proportion of English language is similar to that the society had about 20 years ago. Crystal (2011) argues that e-communication is not quite different as many may think since 90% of the language used in any of the texts is Standard English. Nonetheless, the way people communicate, the use of punctuations, syntax, and abbreviations used are determined by the medium and context of communication. Indeed, the use of emojis and other digital images, including new punctuations on social media forums, such as Twitter, has opened doors to casual expression.

In fact, during 2015 emojis led to the arrest of a teenage boy and forced Vladimir Putin to become angry in Russia. Currently, they are used in about 50% of all sentences on sites such as Instagram, while Facebook is set to introduce them along the popular ‘like’ button that is used as an expression or reaction to a post (Crystal, 2018). If the headlines were to be believed, emojis are merely the tipping point, with some outlets claiming that emotions in text conversations are a new or emerging language that may soon rival English in usage globally (Hauser et al., 2014). Many believe that this could be a great evolution of the new mode of communication while others contend that it is linguistic Armageddon.

Furthermore, communication between humans has consistently changed over the years and adapted to lifestyles, social trends as well as technology. Since language is acknowledged as a living organism, it is responsive to social attitudes and change, and its usage or form evolves in tandem with the users’ needs and accessibility to tools for communication. Initially, increased adoption of mobile communication devices elicited concerns that language was short and terse. The other argument was that important communication cues, especially the non-verbal cues, were disappearing, thus negatively affecting overall communicative ability (Crystal, 2013). However, a counter-argument arose suggesting that language exists in various forms; emojis and emoticons is one of these forms. It is also, a common aspect in Aralish language that has emerged as a new language form.

Justification and Objectives

            This article tracks the development in the use of emojis and the implications for standard language communication within the 21st century. Its core aim is to investigate the syntactical change in language from a historical point of view as well as current generation’s grammatical patterning of language. This article focuses on the low-level research of computer-mediated communication or current communication trends from a linguistic angle with an aim of substantiating whether there has been evolution or devolution or regression of Standard English language.

Furthermore, this article sheds light on the less-studied syntactical change phenomenon. Previous studies on syntactic language change have had methodological limitations. For example, many of the studies carried out have utilized convenient samples that are devoid of cross-national research. Also, many of the studies have only explored English as the changing language, while disregarding the changes witnessed in other languages. Moreover, despite many of the studies focusing on particular population groups, none of the studies has focused on syntactical language change among 14 to 16 year olds. This is despite the fact that this cohort has the highest use of digital images and internet today. This research study might overcome many of the limits mentioned by adopting a comprehensive approach through the use of a large sample. This work is based on testing the following hypotheses:

Hypothesis 1: The use of digital images demonstrates that the digital age is taking us backwards to the old area where images and symbols were used to convey information.

In other words, this article predicts that the use of emojis today signals the retrogression of standard language that could become even more prevalent in the future with advancement in computer-mediated communication.

Hypothesis 2: Increased use of digital images by Generation Z has not led to the introduction of a new language, but could create new languages in the future.

This article speculates that the increased use of symbols, drawings, and emojis by the new millennial has not created a new language, but led to new forms of language interaction, thus making communication to become even more interesting. However, there is likelihood that there has been creation of other languages, especially non-English languages including Aralish.

Research Questions

-What are the similarities and discrepancies between syntactical contemporary and traditional language communication?

-How has visual language systems changed over time?

-How does Generation Z compose the English language using images?

-What is the future of human communication, and its implications on the structure of language?

Article Structure

The introductory part entails background information, justification, research questions, and hypotheses. The second section is the literature review that provides a detailed description of findings of studies conducted about syntactical change of the English language. Significant focus is placed on the evolution of emojis, their impact on the use of language and the way Generation Z (especially teenagers) makes use of them. The methodology section describes the design of the study, participants, data collection, reliability and validity of data. In the qualitative data analysis section, the results obtained are presented, while the conclusion section summarizes the findings, provides recommendations, limitations and implications for future research.

Literature Review

Evolution and Devolution of Language

Transcription is among the most ancient documentation form. As the first step of language development, it has been described as an efficient way of keeping track of crucial information, transcription as well as dictation that were instrumental for better understanding of complex fields. Despite being used widely today, transcription traces its roots in history. It began during 3400 BCE when scribes could train in scripts and hieroglyphics for them to be employed during the ancient Egyptian and Roman eras. One century later, people transcribed their languages into stone tablets. That paved the way for written language and was the main mode of communication (Hauser et al., 2011). The printing press’ invention in 1439 resulted in the drop of transcription for some time. Notwithstanding, it is during this period that there was development of modern English shorthand.

Whereas many people believe that Shakespeare’s English is old, he spoke and wrote modern English, although in its earlier form. The poetry of Chaucer including The Canterbury Tales are ideal illustrations of middle English poetry. Furthermore, Beowulf that traces its roots back to 700-1000 CE is one of the most famous old English poems that illustrates the way language has changed (Chaucer & Ellis, 2014).  Since shifts in language occurred over many years ago, it would be inappropriate to argue that the English language merely shifted from old to middle and to modern English in 1100 and 1500 respectively. It is also worth noting that the common belief of a standard language was influenced by the use of Internet language. This has been dominated by the use of emojis and emoticons today to express meaning.

Yet, Aralish has emerged as a new language used for communicating within the Arabic language on the Internet or for sending messages through mobile devices when there is no Arabic alphabet available for technical reasons. Appropriation of characters was done to manage Arabic letters that lack an approximate phonetic equivalent. An example is that Latin numerical “3” is used for representing Arabic letter “ayn.” This form of transliteration does not have a universal name because it is comparatively young, and remains prevalent in informal settings (Syafei & Nurcahyo, 2015). Some refer to it as Arabic Chat Alphabet since it was commonly used for communicating online chat services, with the major name being “Aralish” or “Arabish.” Egypt was among the first nations to use it. The system has gained prevalence and could be seen within domain names like “Qal3ah”. Despite the Arabic language being well-integrated with all Macs and Windows XP, Aralish is still used in instant messaging programs including MSN messenger as well as Yahoo messenger since they lack Arabic keyboards at times (ibid).

Discrepancies and Uniformities among Digital and Traditional Language

            Language has changed significantly, but still has an array of similarities and differences to traditional language. Emojis and emoticons have emerged as clarifiers for text messages and play a critical role in expressing creativity in language. Previous studies suggest that Millennia are substantial users of emojis (Alshenqeeti, 2016). This has resulted to concerns on whether such icons are instrumental for the creation of new visual languages for a savvy generation or whether they are spearheading the revitalization of an earlier expression form within the digital arena. Ideally, verbal languages were representative of early symbol or pictorial languages, and substantial similarities can be made between them and emojis. The aforementioned are commonly used interchangeably with other digital symbolic forms called emoticons, but there are clear differences. Emoticons are usually combined to create pictures and their difference with emojis is that the latter are small pictures that were initially introduced by Shigetaka Kurita during the late 1990s in Japan as a way of providing emotional context as well as contextual cues.

Numerous studies acknowledge that the term ‘emoji’ is obtained from the Japanese characters (picture + moji), but not as some believe that it is obtained from the English term emotion (Danesi, 2016). Japanese mobile device users quickly adopted these tiny images in order to facilitate the expression of images prior to spreading the entire world. According to Moschini (2016), emojis are great ways of communication and exhibit that digital culture is playful and visual. Since the introduction of face-based emojis, their library has expanded and evolved to currently include food, faces, animals as well as pictures. Such pictorials can convey information without using grammatical structures including morphemes, and deliver better meaning to the message being sent by teenagers in a highly expressive and creative way (Tauch & Kanjo, 2016).

Additionally, the complexity of early pictorial systems contradicts the argument that language is devolving as some of the responses suggested. An interesting aspect is the similarity between cave paintings (done more than 40000 years ago) that narrated stories in pictures using various images including animals and humans instead of words, and the system of communication depicted by Egyptian hieroglyph used for recording history (Scoville, 2015).

            Apart from Egyptians, the post millennial generation utilized visuals or pictograms when writing because they considered it as creatively expressive, and an effective way of conveying ideas. Danesi (2016) contends that emojis are contributing to the expansion of linguistic capacity, and opening up other possibilities, including traditional writing, thus making language to be depicted as playful and more visual. Danesi (ibid) further suggests that this expansion takes language to more intelligent and creative forms.

Clear similarities with the past exist, in case one examines the modern writing system precursors, including hieroglyphics as well as other communication pictographic systems. One of the major impediments associated with accepting emojis as a new form of language and alphabetic system complement is that its widespread use has evolved from commercial and teenage culture. Notwithstanding, Apple and Google appreciate the importance of standardizing symbols, thus standardized more than 722 emoji codes using the Unicode Consortium. Baddeley and Voeste (2012) contend that this is similar to attempts geared towards standardization of typefaces within the 16th century in order for engravers not to have complete freedom over the way the production of their letters was carried out, thus resulting in rebellion against management of an evolving language.

Despite emojis being standardized, e-symbols have not been all Unicode approved. Consequently, this signifies the role played by electronic pictures and symbols as language when social groups come up with their paralanguage as a way of identifying themselves as unique. Such non-lexical components of communication have contributed to the evolution of language, and this is the instance for emojis, thus reinforcing the argument they are adapted to meet new challenges and demands of a new society (Gamble & Gamble, 2016). Therefore, emojis could be perceived as an effective way of conveying pragmatic information using short texts through imagery (Kern, 2015); the same way olden days’ pictographic communication systems did. Also, the emoji language is not taught but acquired after some time through sharing and usage.

Impact of Digital Communication on Language Form and its Composition

            People use digital images for specific purposes of communication (Kaye, Malone, & Wall, 2017), especially as non-verbal cue tools, suggesting that using them relates to better ability to express the actual meaning of the message. Kelly’s (2015) study of high school students established that many of the participants utilized emojis for enhancing comprehension of the text, with the main objective being the conveyance of emotions. Digital images make language to become more informal unlike the one used in face-to-face interactions. Digital communication forms also make language more interesting. In fact objects, symbols, food and other images are used for denoting communication. Nonetheless, Riordan (2017) established that emojis play an instrumental role in relaying affective information that is necessary for fulfilling a social role.

Since I-generation is made up of teenagers who are receptive of technology, they tend to incorporate pictorial symbols into their communication, especially messages. Also, they exhibit generational differences due to their consistent exposure to technology from their younger years. For Generation Z, emojis have been heralded as their universal language. It is what they best understand since they have grown up behind keyboards and mobile phone screens (Alshenqeeti, 2016). They also use them for adding flavour and context by ensuring that they fill the communication gap attributed to digital communication. Teenagers use a digital shrug or smile rather than an in-person smile. They, also, compose language using emojis for clarifying. Occasionally, the sole use of text-messages could be confusing, but online teenagers add the right emoji and their readers understand the meaning conveyed.

Speculated Future of Language

Language is consistently evolving. With the emergence of new languages such as Aralish and other forms like emojis, there could be development of other forms of language (Syafei & Nurcahyo, 2015). The evolution of emoticons from images to symbols with deeper meaning suggests that the ‘language of emojis’ is not a new language form, but merely a new way of an old communication method (Tuttle, 2016).  Yet, scholars estimated that their use is insignificant, devalues and devolves language. Such concerns seem to be unfounded since Internet language and emojis are merely an advancement of the other forms of visuals used in the past (Kaye et al., 2016). Therefore, the future of language remains unclear, but the certain aspect is that visual forms of language will continue evolving rather than devolving.


Study Design

A qualitative action exploratory research study design was deployed for this study. The rationale for this study design is that there has been little research conducted on the study area. As such, there is need to develop a theoretical foundation for syntactical language change. Ideally, exploratory research as suggested by the name, seeks to explore research questions, and does not seek to provide conclusive and final solutions to current problems. This study research was deployed because syntactical language change during digitization has not been defined clearly. The action exploratory study design is also instrumental for determining the nature of the issue under study (Taylor, Bogdan, & DeVault, 2015). Since the topic is still researchable, the study is not intended to offer conclusive evidence for this article, but further understanding of the problem under study. The other rationale for selection of the exploratory research design is that it is flexible and adaptable to change. It is particularly critical for laying foundation that will result in future studies. Finally, the rationale for exploratory action design is that it is crucial for saving time as well as other resources by ascertaining during the earlier stages the research types that can be pursued.

Research Site and Participants

A convenient sample of 200 students was selected from 10 schools in the North of Lebanon for this article study. The inclusion criteria entailed ensuring that study participants were between 14 and 16 years old. Random sampling of the institutions was done to eliminate bias. This article mainly selected this age because they are representative of tech-savvy learners. The age cohort is also representative of the transitional period from the elementary to secondary level. They are termed as Generation Z because they are digital natives.

This cohort is born in an era permeated and dominated by smartphones, and is accustomed to an array of devices. The other characteristic is that such group age is innovative, and creative, especially in their use of language symbols, drawings and pictures in communication. Generation Z represents the second generation to have accessed the Internet during the formative years. It is also the generation that has the higher exposure to technology compared to the Millennia.

Furthermore, this population remains a target for this article because it has the highest usage of digital images, including emojis, and secondly because the researcher anticipated that their usage of the Internet language and other digital images would differ significantly from that of other generations. Despite their communication skills being of lower quality compared to previous generations, I-Generation has the highest affinity for computer mediated communication. Thus, for example, they usually communicate substituting text in their messages with GIFs and emojis (Bosch-Jover & Revilla, 2018).

Data Collection

            Twenty students were selected from high school, but 50 of them declined. 32 of the students who declined stated that they were basically disinterested in taking part in the research, while the other 18 students stated that they are not connected via 4G. This resulted in only 200 participants who accepted to take part in the research. Permission was sought from the directors of the 10 schools being researched (Appendix A). The sample selected was predominantly homogenous. Random sampling was used for selection of study participants. The major reason for such selection is that there was no need to divide the sample population into groups or sub-populations before choosing population members at random (Flick, 2018). In other words, it eliminated the element of bias since all students aged between 14 and 16 years had an equal chance of being considered and selected for the study.

            The target population included students who could access the Internet using a smartphone. A combination of both close ended and open ended questions shaped the format of the questionnaire. A total of 200 students completed the questionnaire until the end. The questionnaire was made up of 23 questions (Appendix B) predominantly closed questions. The researcher also noted that there was a higher response rate and this may not have been attained through predominantly using open-ended questions, solely. The questionnaire was categorized into four major questions that addressed the research questions under study. The information obtained was critical for justifying or nullifying the hypotheses since it provided the patterns in responses.

Ethics with Validity and Reliability

Internal consistency was tested to determine the reliability of data. The questionnaire provided consistency for the stated hypothesis. The close-ended questions enabled the researcher to analyze the responses in an easier way. Since the administered close-ended questions were more specific, they communicated similar meanings unlike open-ended questions that enabled participants to use their words (Flick, 2018). Also, validity threats were minimized through careful selection of participants. As stated earlier, directors signed the consent form to ensure that research ethics were fulfilled and maintained.

                                                        Findings and Analysis

                 Q1: What are the similarities and discrepancies between syntactical contemporary and traditional language communication?

The first finding was that there are significant similarities between digital images and traditional way of composing language. Asked whether they agreed that digital images have taken the society backwards with language change, 35% of the participants stated that they were unaware, but expressed confidence that the digital age had made language to become more creative and interesting. The responses provided resonate with findings from the literature review, thus affirming that the digital age is taking us back to a darker and more primitive era.

However, the 65% of the participants suggested that current digital images are quite different since many digital images are pictograms and symbols whereas hieroglyphics were a logogram or system made up of written characters that constitute a word. Asked whether the images they use improved their grammar and language, almost all of the participants reported that the images and symbols they used did not have any grammatical system and significance, thus could not be said to have improved their language composition. The participants believed that each of the images they use represented an idea instead of a particular word. The similarities and differences obtained from this finding suggest that the digital age has taken us back to the old age, when symbols were predominantly used, and are filling the need to use non-verbal cues in computer mediated communication.

            This finding that there are significant differences and similarities between digital age communication and traditional age communication resonates with the findings by Pohl, Domin and Rohs (2017), but the major difference in this article is the age cohort used. In tandem with this response, some studies including McIntyre (2016) and Jones (2015) emphasized that higher use of digital images, including emojis, suggest that language is devolving, and taking the society back to the olden days that were dominated by pictorial images of ancient history; perceived to be less intelligent or intellectual. Evans (2015) established that what the opponents of digital images fail to appreciate, similar to the responses, is that these images signal the evolution as well as living nature of language.

            Emoji critics also contend that when texting was popularized, there was loss of communication skills and literacy due to the high usage of shortened text language. Contrary to this, there are no solid and substantiated findings for this being the case, and Moschini (2016) contended that the usage of emojis is currently perceived as a creative language form. This was echoed by the finding that creativity is one of the differentiating factors between traditional and digital images. Ideally, messages that involve emojis could be complex and advanced, and could also depict the ‘rebus’ perception.

Finally, 65% of the participants agreed that current digital images are an evolution from the past ways of communication, including Cuneiform. This finding resonates with reviews which established that earliest pictograms were made by cavemen who used images for coming up with abstract ideas. Even early writing systems including Cuneiform that was utilized by Sumerians was an icon system emanating from wet clay that evolved with the advancement with the period’s digital programming technology (Tuttle, 2016). Therefore, comparing traditional communication images with electronic pictorial symbols suggests that digital emojis descend from the universally acknowledged pictograms or icons. Regarding their evolution, there is need to understand that they emanated from Japan who shared with the Chinese a pictorial language format, thus making them similar to their character systems.

Q.2: How have visual language systems changed over time?

Finding 2: Human communication has significantly changed from cave paintings in the Upper Palaeolithic age, the use of signs, drawings, symbols and other forms. 80% of the participants affirmed that they prevalently used new forms of expression, including symbols, emojis and other digital images. This finding resonates with the fact that language has consistently evolved over time, but this change is only aimed at facilitating communication and making it easier. Cyberspace language became the norm with a significant number of people refraining from using Standard English. 75% of the participants believed that the significant change in language use, especially in this digital era, has led to wide speculation that there could be creation of a new language or devaluation of the existing one.

            Regarding the Aralish language, 87% of the participants affirmed that they were aware of its use, while 9% declined. 4% of the participants were unsure about its usage, and whether it is a new form of language. Participants who were affirmative underlined the finding of Hauser et al. (2011) who suggested that Aralish could be described as a character that encodes Arabic to Latin alphabet. In fact, the alphabet’s users have come up with some specific notations for transliterating some of the letters that are non-existent within the Latin alphabet.

Indeed, in the last few years, and particularly since the 1990s, text communication technologies invented in the West have increasingly become common in the Arab world, including bulletin board systems, mobile phone text messaging, instant messaging and personal computers. Many of these technologies initially had the capacity to communicate through only the Latin alphabet, and some still lack the Arabic alphabet as a feature (Kanoongo, 2016).

Furthermore, 66% of the participants asserted that usage of Aralish is mainly in online communication, including bulletin board systems or blogs. The finding further suggests that youths, especially post millennial generation are the major users of Aralish within the informal settings, including communication with friends as well as other youths. Asked about the prevalence of use of Aralish in formal settings, 25% of the participants asserted that such form of language remains rare within the formal settings, and is predominantly used for short communications. This finding aligns with the argument that the length of any communication in Aralish scarcely goes beyond more than some sentences at ago. Many participants use the Roman character, the same way it is used in English, and this could vary according to regional variations within the Arabic letter’s pronunciation.

Q.3: How does Generation Z compose the English language using images?

Finding 3: 78% of the participants stated that they mainly compose the English language using emojis, emoticons and other digital images and symbols. However, the other 22% stated that they struggled to compose and understand the meaning conveyed through the integration of digital images. The finding suggests that emojis and emoticons are common among 14 to 16-year olds. The finding further indicate that these symbols, and icons are prevalently used in informal communication.  The participants were more creative in application of various emoticons including sadness, surprise, laughing or smileys.

Furthermore, Netspeak was also common among the participants, and the findings also suggested that it has erased the boundaries that exist between informal and formal communication, thus creating a global language. According to 90% of the participants, the simplicity of Netspeak creatively shapes messages. Some of the impacts of the use of digital images that they reported were spreading unique words into languages, disregarding the rules of spelling and grammar. The finding affirmed that Netspeak and digital images are used by Generation Z for adding flavour to language and making clarifications.

Q.4: What is the future of human communication, and its implications on the structure of language?

Finding 4: 57% of the participants asserted that they were not sure about it. 20% stated that language will become more creative and interesting, while 23% of them believed that there could be emergence of new languages in the future. Perhaps, this finding was attributed to the fact that many of the participants were not aware of the history and development of language. Contrary to popular belief, 15% of the participants argued that they did not perfectly understand digital language, but only prevalently use it. Rather, the students admitted their acceptance of technology that dictates the deployment of emojis, at the message’s complexity level. Participants still think that symbols and emoticons’ use are insignificant, devalue and devolve language. Such concerns seem to be unverified since Internet language and emojis are merely an advancement of the other forms of visuals used in the past (Kaye et al., 2016). Therefore, the future of language remains unclear, but the certain aspect is that emojis and other visual forms of language will continue evolving rather than devolving.


This article aimed to ascertain whether the digital age is reverting the standard form of language to the traditional era but with a different format. The first finding was that there are substantial similarities between current and traditional ways of using or composing language, thus insinuating that the digital age is comparable to the old age when images were used for communication.

The other finding was that the digital age may not have led to the development or creation of new languages, but languages such as Aralish suggest that there could be new languages in the future. Digital images have evolved from the traditional images, including Cuneiforms. Arguably, human communication has substantially evolved due to advancement in technology, and the increased use of the Internet. The current generation’s way of communication differs significantly from the past generations. With Netspeak becoming common and popular among I-Generation members, the digital age is leading to more creativity of language. Therefore, the digital age can be compared to the old age, but this does not imply that language is devolving.

The other critical finding from this article was that many Generation Z members often compose language using emojis, emoticons and other digital images. Interestingly, they are mainly used in informal communication to express various emotions and make language more interesting. The evolving nature of language insinuates that there could be development of newer languages that are quite different to what people are accustomed to. However, the future of language remains unclear and speculative at best. A constant feature of language is that it will continue evolving with time.

            Furthermore, the development of digital images from single images could be observed in the evolution of Sumerian Cuneiform as well as Egyptian hieroglyphics, thus suggesting that Aralish and emoji languages are not entirely new languages. Rather, they are what Alshenqeeti (2016) describes as “a new form of an old method of communication (p.64)”. Consequently, digital images are a paralanguage form that provides users with a way of communicating with their social groups. This view has resulted in the conception that digital images are only meant for younger generations, including Generation Z, despite prior research suggesting that this is false. Instead, creativity and acceptance of digitization dictate the deployment of digital images and the message’s complexity. In spite of the strong support for the use of digital images, some argue that their usage is an inferior form of language. They, also, believe that their use not only devalues but also devolves language.

Notwithstanding, this article’s findings suggest that these perceptions are unfounded and disregard human needs in their communication. In fact, digital images, especially emojis, are substituting Netspeak, including terms such as ‘LOL’. As a result, digital images merely place visual forms of communication into the current digital age. One undeniable fact is that text language that is devoid of digital images like emojis and pictograms could be misinterpreted in meaning and context if it lacks additional clues. As such, digital images offer these clues creatively and innovatively through the delivery of a suggestion to the message’s receiver of the sentiment that should be expressed in the message. Despite cultural variations in the usage of emojis, their prevalence globally insinuates that they could be deployed as a means for avoiding or reducing cross-culture misunderstanding.

Moreover, this article established that age may not necessarily be a determinant for the usage of digital images, despite technology acceptance being so. Previous findings have also demonstrated that gender is a key determinant in the use of digital images since women tend to be more expressive as well as emotional during communication compared to men.

Limitations and Implications for Further Research

During the course of this search, some obstacles were faced which may or may not have affected the results of the experiment. These obstacles are discussed in what follows.

To begin with, the sample of the study was 200 learners from different schools situated in the North of Lebanon. The results underscore the need for a follow-up study utilizing a large number of subjects from different regions in order to corroborate the results of this research in general terms.

In addition to that, data collection tool used posed a limitation to this article. Ideally, close-ended questions can suggest ideas that are lacking on the point of view of the respondent. Also, generation Z members who did not have prior knowledge or lack historical knowledge of language change and its evolution may have been influenced by the close-ended questions. They may have been compelled to misinterpret questions by providing simplistic responses to even issues that could be complex.

Furthermore, the participants’ age range was another limitation since it is unclear on whether the findings presented could be transferred directly to the general population. Notwithstanding, individuals in this range are known to be among the highest users of digital symbols, emoticons, and images.

            Consequently, increased use of digital communication forms suggests that there is substantial visual language evolution. Further research is needed to comprehensively understand the way standardized ideogrammatic icons could be utilized universally as well as among all generations to convey the writer’s feeling or intended tone. Also, there is need for more research to investigate the collective application of digital images or pictorial symbols, and whether they might contribute to the grammatical arrangement of words and morphemes or become storytelling language.


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Appendix A: Permission for Research

Date: ___________

School Director: ____________


My name is Maha Sourani an associate professor at the Lebanese University. I wish to carry out research for my article that involves exploring the syntactical change of language in the digital age. This research will be carried out under the superintendent supervision. Towards this end, I am seeking for consent to involve your students as participants for this research. After completion of the article, the full research will be published online.

If approved, students who participate in the research will complete a questionnaire at your institution during school time. The process shall take 15 to 25 minutes maximum. The results of the questionnaire will remain confidential. During publication of this study, documentation will be done for only the pooled results. Also note that there will be no costs that your institution or individual participants will incur.

I will greatly appreciate your approval for carrying out this research. In case this shall be the case, I will make follow-up with a call next week and address any concerns or queries that may arise. In case you agree, I kindly request you to sign the form found in the envelope.

Yours sincerely,

Approved by:

_____________________         ____________________       _________

Name and title                        Signature                                               Date

Appendix B: Questionnaire


  1. Gender: Male/Female________________________
  2. Which language do you use?


  1. How long have you been using digital images?
  2. In what ways have digital images impacted your use of language?
  3. Do you know of any similarities and/or differences between communication in the digital era and traditional period?
  4. Have digital images taken the society backwards?
  5. Has the digital age made language to become more interesting and creative?
  6. Are current digital images different from the traditional ones like hieroglyphics? Briefly Explain________________________________________________________
  7. Do digital images improve your grammar and language?
  8. Have digital images contributed to the development of a new language? Yes or no?
  9. Name some of the examples of new languages that you think are a result of digital images.
  10. ____________________
  11. ____________________
  12. Can current digital images be considered as an evolution of the past communication forms? Yes or No_______________________________________________

11.How did visual language systems change over time ? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________.

12.What new forms of expression do you use? (Signs, symbols, emojis, or emoticons)

13.What do you understand by the term language communication change? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

14.Did you use Aralish (a combination of Arabic and English) language before?

Yes or No____________

  1. In what ways or how frequently do you use Aralish language?
  2. Do you consider Aralish as a new form of language? Yes or No____________

17.How do you compose the English language using images? ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  1. How often have you used NetSpeak?
  2. What is the speculated future of language? _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________.
  3. Do you believe that the future could be characterized by the development of new languages? Yes, No or not sure_________________________
  4. Do you believe that the digital era is contributing to the evolution or devolution of standard language?


         Thank you for your participation J

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