IJLLL 2022 Vol.8(2): 65-73 ISSN: 2382-6282
DOI: 10.18178/IJLLL.2022.8.2.324

Sarcastic Meaning of the Slightly Smiling Face Emoji from Chinese Twitter Users: When A Smiling Face Does Not Show Friendliness

Shiwei Wang
Abstract—In most cultures, the Slightly Smiling Face (smiley) icon indicates friendliness and niceness. However, this SSF symbol in emoji may also indicate a negative meaning of sarcasm and irony to some Chinese social media users. This research analyses the sentiment reflected in the use of the SSF emoji as used by Chinese users on Twitter and applies quantitative methods to investigate the linguistic and social constraints of the SSF emoji's negative variable from 2016 to 2020. Results show that positive or negative emotional expression of SSF emoji is highly dependent on the content of the sentence and its context. Therefore, the SSF emoji has no semantic value as a word for expressing emotions but acts as an emotive anaphora or a modal particle. Simplified Chinese users from mainland China use the SSF emoji with a negative sense more than Traditional Chinese users from Taiwan. These differences may reflect the users’ media preference and cultural identification through the use of emoji, a global language for the digital age. Most Chinese users use a single SSF emoji, which can convey either emotion, at the end of the sentence, but when the SSF emoji is used in a repetitive manner, it is more likely to indicate a sarcastic emotion. Both variables, (single use / repetition) and Chinese types (Simplified / Traditional), significantly correlate with the use of the negative variant of the SSF emoji (p < 0.05). The change in the meaning of the SSF emoji from the expression of positive to negative sentiment demonstrates that emojis may change through time in ways similar to other forms of language.

Index Terms—Emoji, auto-antonym, semantic change.

Shiwei Wang is an independent writer, Guangzhou, Guangdong, China (e-mail: zephyr.wong@live.cn).

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Cite:Shiwei Wang, "Sarcastic Meaning of the Slightly Smiling Face Emoji from Chinese Twitter Users: When A Smiling Face Does Not Show Friendliness," International Journal of Languages, Literature and Linguistics vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 65-73, 2022.

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