Volume 2, Issue 2
  • ISSN 2542-3851
  • E-ISSN: 2542-386X
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Mobile messaging is considered as a prominent site for phatic communication, where interpersonal connection is often foregrounded over information transaction. Though frequently overlooked, a large amount of this interpersonal work is done nonverbally through regular and meaningful emoji use. This exploratory study deals with emoji use within Laver’s (1975) phatic token framework, showing that different relationship structures (e.g., status-differential vs. solidary) correspond to distinct phatic token norms. The article analyzes phatic emoji use in a small-scale corpus of WhatsApp interactions between (a) a teacher and her L2-English students and (b) a teacher and her friends/family. Qualitative and quantitative analyses reveal patterns which widely corroborate Laver’s account of socially marked and unmarked token options: the teacher, the students, and the friends/family members tend towards addressee-specific use of neutral, other-oriented, and self-oriented phatic emojis.


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