Does the fact that English is written from left to right and Hebrew from right to left influence the way we use emojis in messages in these two languages? To answer this question, I offer a new kind of multiform reference (MFR), that is, the voice MFR.
Multiform References (MFRs) are the rhetorical devices that authors use to shift their readers’ attention between words and images to create a new, unified representation or meaning.
Verbal and Visual Poles are the points between which the MFRs extend, and which we identify by their semantic relationship. The illustration below shows two kinds of such relationships. The first is a semantic similarity (or synonymity) between the term “chick” and an image of a chick. This semantic similarity reflects the similar meanings that the term and the image denote.
There is also a semantic relationship between the terms “things” and “animals” and the image of the chick. This is due to the inclusion of the term “chick” in these two broad terms (chick is both an animal and a thing), and due to the semantic similarity between the term “chick” and the image of the chick. Put differently, the fact that the term “chick” is a member in the groups “animals” and “things” makes the image of the chick a member in them as well. This relationship is the holonym-meronym one, where the group or whole is a holonym to the member or part, which in turn, is the meronym to the group or the whole. In the illustration above, we see a scheme of a holonym-meronym MFR, where the verbal pole, i.e., the term “things” or “animals” is a holonym to the image of the chick.
Does the fact that English is written from left to right and Hebrew from right to left influence the meaning of messages that use emojis? The illustration below shows a message in English and another in Hebrew that, on the surface, convey the same meaning: “we’re ready.” The two also use emojis at the end of or after their verbal component. Since the two languages progress in opposite directions, in English, the chick and the hen look toward the text, which is left to them, while in Hebrew, they look toward an empty or undefined space while the text is right to them.
To better understand the impact of the direction of the text on the meaning of the messages, I offer to define the relationship between their verbal and visual poles, i.e., their MFR as voice. In our example, we consider the chick and the hen (the visual pole) as the source and communicator of “we’re ready” (the verbal pole). We do so due to the spatial vicinity of the two poles and the fact that we don’t see any other source for that phrase. Thus, we add a third MFR to describe the relationship between the two poles, which suggests that one voices the other.
Once again, does the fact that English is written from left to right and Hebrew from right to left influence the meaning of verbal-visual or multiform messages? In the message in English, the visual pole, which voices the verbal one, literally faces its own message. Therefore, this message might be understood as a response to someone else’s expectation from the chick and the hen to be ready as they direct their attention to where this expectation seems to come from. Moreover, perhaps someone else is ready, and the voice is not of the chick and the hen.
On the other hand, in the message in Hebrew, the visual pole faces an empty or undefined space. Thus, if the chick and the hen are those who voice their readiness, they don’t seem like responding to someone else’s expectation. At the same time, the fact that the visual and the verbal poles share the same direction, and the verbal pole precedes the visual one, suggests that the communicators of the readiness are right to the message, expressing their willingness to move forward, under the leadership of the chick and the hen.
To conclude, the direction of the text influences the meaning of our multiform communication, and therefore, ought to influence the way we use emojis in messages in both English and Hebrew.
- I based this post on the talk I gave on October 21 at the Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies at York University.