DOI: 10.36190/2021.07

Published: 2021-06-01
Semantic Journeys: Quantifying Change in Emoji Meaning from 2012-2018
Alexander Robertson, Farhana Ferdousi Liza, Dong Nguyen, Barbara McGillivray, Scott A. Hale

The semantics of emoji has, to date, been considered from a static perspective. We offer the first longitudinal study of how emoji semantics changes over time, applying techniques from computational linguistics to six years of Twitter data. We identify five patterns in emoji semantic development and find evidence that the less abstract an emoji is, the more likely it is to undergo semantic change. In addition, we analyse select emoji in more detail, examining the effect of seasonality and world events on emoji semantics. To aid future work on emoji and semantics, we make our data publicly available along with a web-based interface that anyone can use to explore semantic change in emoji.