Construction of Iconicity in Scenes of Kaomoji
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The purpose of this contribution is to analyze the construction of kaomoji (face characters) and to consider the relation between the iconicity of kaomoji and the specific Japanese writing system. In Japanese computer-mediated communication kaomoji may depict nonverbal forms of communication, such as facial expressions, gestures, prosody, and so on. kaomoji do not have a distinct explicit meaning; their respective function is generally defined by the context that interlocutors share. Therefore, kaomoji provide contextualization cues. Some kaomoji, however, which have recently emerged, include supplemental words as a ‘voice’ emitted by the ‘kaomoji actors’. These supplemental voices help to represent a specific situation of discourse or interaction. For this reason, receivers can interpret the meaning of a kaomoji without any prior contextual knowledge. Consequently, new kaomoji do not represent faces alone but dynamic scenes of (inter)action and behavior. The following contribution argues that the emerging strategies of introducing ‘voices’ to kaomoji are particular to written Japanese, which is, in turn, based on a demand to represent, at least to some degree, the ‘actual’ situations where the embedding discourse takes place. This observation is interrelated to the shared employment of distinct visual ideographs in Japanese (such as kanji, katakana, and hiragana), which can easily integrate the iconicity of kaomoji.