Research Article

Emojis on Board: The Communicative Functions of Emojis in Saudi Females’ WhatsApp Groups’ Interactions


  • Najah Ali M. Al-Jahdali King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia


This study examines the communicative functions of emojis as used by Saudi females aged between (35-55) in twenty-five female-only WhatsApp groups’ instant messages. These groups are chosen according to five different social purposes for which the group is created: sisterhood-related, close friendship-related, relatives-related, religion-related, and workplace-related. The data has been collected through screenshots of WhatsApp conversations naturally occurring between the females in these groups. The method used for checking the types of emojis and their frequencies is based on computer-mediated discourse analysis (CMDA) of ‘coding and counting’ (Herring 2004). All the different emojis were coded and counted and then were put to qualitative analysis on theories and methods of interactional sociolinguistics (IS) such as (Gumperz 1982; Dressner and Herring 2010). Results show that emojis have been used to express various kinds of emotions such as happiness, sadness, longing for old days, etc. Furthermore, they have been used to express different communicative functions of what Gumperz (1982) refers to as ‘contextualization cues’ such as congratulation on happy occasions, agreeing on others’ comments, compliments, sharing information with others, gratitude, sending prayers, reminding the members of religious tasks, laughing, arguing, etc. The results also prove that emojis are context-dependent and are used to help users to approximate real daily face-to-face situations to others and to facilitate the different expressed emotions and communicative functions to receivers (Dressner and Herring 2010; Evans 2017).

Article information


International Journal of Linguistics, Literature and Translation

Volume (Issue)

6 (6)





How to Cite

Al-Jahdali, N. A. M. (2023). Emojis on Board: The Communicative Functions of Emojis in Saudi Females’ WhatsApp Groups’ Interactions. International Journal of Linguistics, Literature and Translation, 6(6), 88–104.



Computer-mediated communication, communicative functions, emoji, instant message, interactional sociolinguistics, Saudi culture, style, WhatsApp group.