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Anthropologist Marcel Danesi was teaching a linguistics class at the University of Toronto when a student asked what he thought about emoji, the tiny images of faces, animals and everyday objects increasingly inserted in digital conversations.

Brands are using emoji not just to target specific groups, but “to gather information” to improve future services, according to Ovum’s Ms. Clark-Dickson. She expects the market to grow as machine-learning software facilitates emoji communications among older people, who may be less fluent in emoji.


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