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Emoticons in informal text communication: a new window on bilingual alignment*


The study of emoticon use in text communication is in its early stages (Aragon, Feldman, Chen & Kroll, 2014), with even less known about how emoticons function in multilingual environments. We describe a preliminary longitudinal analysis of text communication in an online bilingual scientific work environment and demonstrate how patterns of emoticon use constitute a novel yet systematic nonverbal aspect of communication. Specifically, coordination over bilingual speakers entails reductions in emoticon diversity over time that are greater for those who communicate in their L2 than in their L1. An analogous but weaker pattern is evident for lexical diversity in L2 but not L1. We hypothesize that reductions in emoticon diversity in the L2 are likely to reflect social contributions to alignment rather than purely proficiency.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Laurie Feldman, Department of Psychology, SS 399, The University at Albany, SUNY, Albany, NY 12222
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The writing of this paper was supported in part by NSF Grants BCS-1535124, OISE-0968369, and OISE-1545900 and NIH Grant HD082796 to J.F. Kroll and by NIH Grant HD01994 to Haskins Laboratories. We thank Kinsey Bice for her technical assistance.

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Bilingualism: Language and Cognition
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