You can Register Here ,   OR

The Theory of Emoji

People 👪 have been using images to tell stories since the time of cave paintings. Writing ✍ developed from 🖼 pictures. The Egyptians produced a standardized image set, hieroglyphs. Hieroglyphs were basically a single font so that everyone was carving "bird" the same way, with nearly 5000 total characters, and 24 hieroglyphs also functioning as a kind of alphabet based on their phonetic associations. Chinese ideograms 🈳 were similarly abstracted from pictograms that could be seen to represent physical objects. Pictures were a difficult basis for complex writing, however, first because you would need clear and consistent images for tens of thousands of different things (bird is easy, but how do you show the difference between a swallow and a sparrow?), and also because many concepts are too abstract or complex to draw. Most languages therefore cottoned on to the 💭 idea of alphabets, a limited set of characters that could represent the 🔊 sounds of their words, making it possible to communicate over time or distance with anyone else who knew the same language. Alphabets did not erase images as a means of conveying ideas - illuminated manuscripts are filled with drawings as well as writing - but 🔡 letters or ideograms instead of pictures have now carried most of the functional load of written communication for thousands of years.

And then, suddenly, there were emojis. More than the simple emoticons that can be composed on a keyboard, like ;), emojis are little 🖼 pictures that are supposed to show the same thing on different electronic 📱 devices. A 🕊 is a 🕊, irrespective of PC or Mac, and regardless of whether you speak Japanese or Zulu. More than 1300 emojis have been approved by Unicode, the 🖥🏭 electronics industry consortium that agrees on the characters that will be consistent for every language and every 📱 device around the 🌍 world (albeit with different artistic renderings allowed that can be confusing, and demonstrate the point that images are a delicate communications medium). With more than a thousand pictures on everyone's phones, 👪 people have begun using those images instead of written words in informal contexts, particularly text messaging.

This return to 🖼 pictures opens a lot of ❓ questions, both for the role of Emoji as an alternative representation system within a language like Italian, and the potential for Emoji as a communications bridge among 👪 people who speak different languages. With a limited picture set, is it possible, as is being investigated in an experiment conducted by Scritture Brevi, to form multi-emoji expressions so that 👪 people can distinguish their swallows from their sparrows? Can such combinations transcend language differences, or are they embedded in cultural or phonetic associations that are specific to certain groups? As more emojis are approved into the 🌎 global system, will they become a common feature of daily communication, or will people abandon them as too complicated to locate or interpret, versus just typing letters? To what extent will Emoji improve communications across languages - will the image set become established firmly enough for 👪 people who speak different languages to communicate complex 💬 thoughts with confidence? And, from a more technological standpoint, can we use emojis to elicit parallel terms among languages that are not currently paired by dictionaries? Can we work with the crowd to tag emojis for a range of communicative concepts, such as adding "sparrow" to the tags for 🕊? When we get good🔢 data for a language that is not well supported in the technological realm, can we push that to 📱🏭 device manufacturers so that people everywhere can easily look up "bird" or "swallow" in their own language?

With these ❓ questions, you can see that the reason we have put so much effort into the 😂🌎🤖 EmojiWorldBot project, isn't because emojis are trendy and cute. Rather, they provide an important gateway to 👅 linguistic technology and 👅👅👅 multilingual communication for the future. Please join us by installing EmojiWorldBot on your computer or 📱 mobile device, available for you now. /info/emoji_theory

Kamusi GOLD

These are the languages for which we have datasets that we are actively working toward putting online. Languages that are Active for you to search are marked with "A" in the list below.


•A = Active language, aligned and searchable
•c = Data 🔢 elicited through the Comparative African Word List
•d = Data from independent sources that Kamusi participants align playing 🐥📊 DUCKS
•e = Data from the 🎮 games you can play on 😂🌎🤖 EmojiWorldBot
•P = Pending language, data in queue for alignment
•w = Data from 🔠🕸 WordNet teams

Software and Systems

We are actively creating new software for you to make use of and contribute to the 🎓 knowledge we are bringing together. Learn about software that is ready for you to download or in development, and the unique data systems we are putting in place for advanced language learning and technology:

Articles and Information

Kamusi has many elements. With these articles, you can read the details that interest you:

Videos and Slideshows

Some of what you need to know about Kamusi can best be understood visually. Our 📽 videos are not professional, but we hope you find them useful:


Our partners - past, present, and future - include:

Hack Kamusi

Here are some of the work elements on our task list that you can help do or fund:

Theory of Kamusi

Select a link below to learn about the principles that guide the project's unique approach to lexicography and public service.

Contact Us

We welcome your comments and questions, and will try to respond quickly. To get in touch, please visit our contact page. You must use a real email address if you want to get a real reply!

© Copyright ©

The Kamusi Project dictionaries and the Kamusi Project databases are intellectual property protected by international copyright law, ©2007 through ©2018, under the joint ownership of Kamusi Project International and Kamusi Project USA. Further explanation may be found on our © Copyright page.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.


Discussion items about language, technology, and society, from the Kamusi editor and others. This box is growing. To help develop or fund the project, please contact us!

Our biggest struggle is keeping Kamusi online and keeping it free. We cannot charge money for our services because that would block access to the very people we most want to benefit, the students and speakers of languages around the world that are almost always excluded from information technology. So, we ask, request, beseech, beg you, to please support our work by donating as generously as you can to help build and maintain this unique public resource.


Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to general questions you might have about Kamusi services.

We are building this page around real questions from members of the Kamusi community. Send us a question that you think will help other visitors to the site, and frequently we will place the answer here.

Try it : Ask a "FAQ"!

Press Coverage

Kamusi in the news: Reports by journalists and bloggers about our work in newspapers, television, radio, and online.

Sponsor Search:
Who Do You Know?

To keep Kamusi growing as a "free" knowledge resource for the world's languages, we need major contributions from philanthropists and organizations. Do you have any connections with a generous person, corporation, foundation, or family office that might wish to make a long term impact on educational outcomes and economic opportunity for speakers of excluded languages around the world? If you can help us reach out to a potential 💛😇 GOLD Angel, please contact us!