Research Article

Are You Emojically a Mom? Age, Social Role, and Emojis in Saudi Mother-daughter WhatsApp Groups


  • Najah Ali Al-Jahdali Assistant Professor of Cognitive Semantics at the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, King Abdulaziz University (KAU), Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia


This descriptive linguistic study aims to check the effect of age (old/young) and social role (mother/daughter) on the kind of emojis and their intended meanings that Saudi mothers use while chatting with their daughters. The data has been collected from twenty Saudi mother-daughter WhatsApp groups’ chat interactions. The study is qualitative in its approach and has used computer-mediated discourse analysis (CMDA) of ‘coding and counting’ (Herring 2004) on (58 screenshots) and has revealed (42 emoji types) of Saudi mothers used in different frequencies. A combination of multi-choice and open-ended questionnaires has been tailor-made to arrive at the subjective perspectives of ninety Saudi young females. The findings show that there are variations in the kind of emojis used and their intended meanings, signaling the two generations and social roles apart. The results signaled (7 Saudi mom emoji types) that are never used by Saudi young females at all. These emojis were found to be age-specific and social role specific. The rest of the emojis (35 emoji types) were found to be used by both groups but with differences in usage and intended meanings, marking again the differences in age and social role. Despite variations of emojis and their meanings, there were many factors that helped youngsters to understand the intended meanings of their mother’s emojis: the accompanying text, frequent chatting with their mothers, and the literal representation of the emojis their mothers used. Even though accommodation is the process Saudi young females developed in order to understand their mother’s emojis and their intended meanings, there were minor misunderstandings found. The reason has been attributed to what has been termed in this study as the ‘emoji gap’ that marks the effect of age and social role (Evans 2015, 2017; White 2017; Marko 2022). Saudi mother-daughter WhatsApp conversations revealed that they are approximate to the structure of face-to-face conversation in relation to their back-and-forth quasi-synchronous messages, topics discussed, the informal style, the intimate relation, and the Saudi dialects used accompanied with related emojis that agree with the content of the digital texts. In this study, emojis are proved to be a visual language that mirrors its users in relation to their age and social role in digital text.

Article information


International Journal of Linguistics, Literature and Translation

Volume (Issue)

6 (9)





How to Cite

Al-Jahdali, N. A. (2023). Are You Emojically a Mom? Age, Social Role, and Emojis in Saudi Mother-daughter WhatsApp Groups. International Journal of Linguistics, Literature and Translation, 6(9), 13–29.



Age, emoji, social role, instant messages, mother-daughter, WhatsApp group, computer-mediated communication, Saudi culture, digital text