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The Interpretation and Use of Emoji emoticons (Emojis) in Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

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A system has emerged that supports the delivery of tone via written text, by the inclusion of emoticons called Emojis. In recent years Emojis have been embedded in many of the most popular social media applications such a Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat. Emojis have developed into a symbolic communication system understood and used by millions of people across the globe. This study aims to establish how people interpret and use Emojis and to guide decisions about whether or how Emojis might be incorporated into AAC systems. Utilising a survey research design children (8-12 years), adolescents (13-18 years) and adults who use AAC were asked to complete tasks involving the categorisation, ranking, interpretation and use of Emojis.
Results are presented in relation to the attitudes of AAC users towards Emojis and their sensitivity to the potential to use Emojis to convey emotional nuance and prosodic elements frequently absent from messages communicated via AAC.
Implications of the willingness of individuals who use AAC to use Emojis and the contexts in which they might use them are discussed with regard to possible intervention planning for building communicative competence and expanding the paralinguistic capabilities of AAC systems.
There a unique opportunity to harness a global symbolic movement and investigate its integration with AAC systems to provide clients with a means of adding tone and expressiveness to their AAC messages that is also used by millions of other people every day.

Author(s):

Jenny O'Brien    
Department of Clinical Speech and Language Studies, Trinity College Dublin
Ireland

Martine Smith    
Department of Clinical Speech and Language Studies, Trinity College Dublin
Ireland

 

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