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Unfolding The Linguistic Features English Language Essay

The language of advertisements aims at precise, clear, pointed and arresting communication. Like all communicative endeavours, in advertising, getting the message across is of prime importance. However, the use of language in advertising is of a particular character because the advertiser cannot afford to be delinquent or uncritical. The aim of this paper is to investigate the extent to which rules or conventions of the English language are broken in print advertising. It also shows the practical usage of linguistic features especially figures of speech in newspaper advertisements. This paper is based on many concrete examples that strengthen the theoretical part of the paper.

Keywords: Advertisements, figures of speech, linguistic features, newspaper

El lenguaje publicitario se enfoca en la comunicación precisa, clara, directa y llamativa. Como todo intento comunicativo, en publicidad el objetivo de transmitir el mensaje es de vital importancia. Sin embargo, el uso del idioma en publicidad posee un carácter particular ya que el publicista no se puede permitir ser ofensivo o acrítico. El objetivo del presente artículo es investigar el grado en el que las reglas o convenciones del inglés se rompen en la publicidad impresa. También se muestra el uso práctico de rasgos lingüísticos, especialmente figuras retóricas, en la publicidad dentro de los periódicos. Este artículo se apoya en varios ejemplos concretos para fortalecer la parte teórica.

Palabras clave: Avisos publicitarios, figuras retóricas, periódicos, rasgos lingüísticos

Introduction

Language is the most significant gift to human beings. Can someone think of the world without ‘speech’? It is through language that we encode and decode information. Generally speaking, all communication, creative or critical thinking etc. and its articulation would have been non-existent if language did not exist. This world would certainly be dark if the light of language did not illumine it. Sapir, the noted linguist observed:

Human beings do not live in the objective world alone, nor alone in the world of social activity as ordinarily understood, but are very much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society… (Cited by Salzmann, 1993, p. 153).

Taking cue from the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, it is not out of place to mention that it is language which determines the limits of our world, which constructs our reality. Therefore, language is not neutral. It is not merely a vehicle which carries ideas but it shapes ideas. It is the programme for mental activity (Whorf, 1956). Given that language is such an influential force in shaping our world, it is obvious that those who have the power to make the symbols and their meanings are in a privileged and highly advantageous position. This springs from the fact that language can be used creatively— the best examples of such use are seen in advertisements.

Now-a-days advertising has penetrated into every nook and corner of one’s life. Advertizing not only offers information but also has a strong element of persuasion. This is the prime reason that researchers have tried to unveil the mechanisms of advertising: the linguistic dimension of the message, word-play, the use of image and sound, the process of coding and decoding, the interaction between message and audience, etc.

The Language of Advertisements

The language of advertisements aims at precise, clear, pointed and arresting communication. Like all communicative endeavours, in advertising, getting the message across is of prime importance. However, the use of language in advertising is of a particular character because the advertiser cannot afford to be delinquent or uncritical. As Weir (1960, p. 26) says, “The heart and soul of advertising are, and, in many opinion, will remain the creation of effective communication between producer and customer.”

It is certainly an interesting discovery that the creators of advertisements take liberties with language as poets do. The advertisers have an ‘advertising license’ just as the poets have a ‘poetic license’. The commercial advertisers like artists play with language creatively modifying the natural order of structure and form. Therefore, the language that’s used in advertising is deliberate in its attempt to create a positive impression of the product or service. A number of linguistic features get foregrounded to create different styles in order to create the advertisements which have imperishable impact on the reader. Foregrounding can be achieved in two ways: 1. Parallelism and 2. Deviation. For instance, deviation in advertisements can be found at different levels, some of which are explained next.

Lexical deviation. An example of ‘broken words’ also come under lexical deviation. These refer to separate words into smaller units. Such a technique is often applied to create unexpected effect upon the readers. For instance:

The new definition of Smart Casual.

The Complete Man Raymond

Since 1925

(The Times of India, 30 September 2008, Tuesday, p. 21)

Syntactic Deviation. Syntactic deviation includes violations in syntactic arrangement which could be described as ‘bad’ or ‘incorrect’ grammar. For instance:

Uflex packaging solutions help to bring to you your favourite spices and other foods just the way you want them – fresh and pure. Which is why packaged food giants like Cadbury’s, Britannia, Nestle, TATA tea, P&G and Pepsi have placed their trust in us. And which is also why Reliance Retail and Bharti Walmart – India’s youngest private labels – have left the task of preserving quality and freshness to us.

(Advertisement of UFLEX Flexible Packging)

(The Times of India, 20 August 2008, Wednesday, p. 13)

Why settle for any other AC when you can get a DAIKIN?

(Advertisement of DAIKIN Air-conditioner)

(Dainik Bhaskar, 27 May 2012, Sunday, p. 12)

Leech (1966), in his pioneering and comprehensive study on English in Advertising, has analyzed different aspects pertaining to grammar, vocabulary, discourse, rhyme and rhetoric of advertising. He has shown the relation of these aspects with the functional factors such as attention value, listening ability/readability, memorability and marketing power. The linguistic devices such as illustration, display typography, alliteration, rhymes, elliptical constructions, metaphor and paradox are some of the aspects linked with attention value. Simple and colloquial style and familiar vocabulary are connected with readability. Phonological regularities such as alliteration, rhythm, rhyme and jingle are related to memorability. Frequent use of imperatives and superlatives are associated with marketing power. For effective communication, advertisements use specific language.

In advertisements, the characteristics of common language, i.e., arbitrariness, grammatical accuracy, semantically correctness are exploited maximally. There is a frequent use of disjunctive grammar in advertisements (i.e. in which non-finite clauses and small phrases are independent). Therefore, the language of advertisements is distinct. Leech (1996, p. 95) remarks: “Disjunctive language is primarily associated with headlines, subheads and signature”.

The major function of the language of advertisement is obviously to attract attention and to persuade people to buy the product or service it presents. Memorable slogans, humour etc. are also used to enhance impression. Besides, an advertisement may also amuse, inform, misinform, worry or warn. Advertisements revolve around market economy and information technology. It clearly shows that the control over the language is not only in the hands of academic institutions but it is also shaped by the traders and marketing agencies based on their conception which works well for the sale of their products in the market.

Investigating Some Linguistic Features:

The language of advertising frequently uses figures of speech and other stylistic devices that are considered typical of poetic language, such as puns, metaphors, alliteration, assonance, rhyme etc. Practically being conscious of the space and scope of this research paper, it is not possible to discuss all the linguistic features microscopically. Consequently, such examples have been selected for this study which exhibit the most widely stylized linguistic features used by the advertisers in newspapers.

At the Phonological Level

Alliteration.

The world of fashion

Has a new trend: Tradition.

Presenting Rivaaz, a stunning range of gorgeous gold jewellery from Gitanjali.

(Advertisement of RIVAAZ jewellery by Gitanjali group enterprise)

(Business Standard, 19 December 2008, Friday, p. 12)

Alliteration is the repetition of the consonant sound usually at the beginning of a word. It is one of the oldest poetic devices. In the above example, the phoneme /t/ is repeated at the initial position of words ‘trend’ and ‘tradition’ and the consonant phoneme /g/ is repeated at the initial position of words ‘gorgeous’, ‘gold’ and ‘Gitanjali’.

Furthermore, the presence of fluid sounds (nasals, lateral, sibilants) adorn this beautiful alliteration with a glazed rhythmic effect.

Good time to Grab Golden Opportunity on 11.11.11

(Advertisement of BCL Homes at Mohali)

(The Tribune, 10 November 2011, Thursday, p. 1)

In the given example, the repetition of the consonant phoneme /g/ at the initial position of words is evident. This repetition of the velar plosive with short intervals presents an effect to act swift.

GATEWAY TO A DEFINING DECADE

Indian Overseas Bank

BANCON 2011 BANKER’S CONFERENCE

(Advertisement of a conference by Indian Overseas Bank)

(The Hindu, 4 November 2011, Friday, p. 20)

In the given example, the consonant phoneme /d/ at the initial position of words ‘defining’ and ‘decade’ is repeated. Besides, the vowel glide /ei/ in ‘gateway’ and ‘decade’ is repeated which is the example of assonance (repetition of vowel sounds).

BLACK BRINGS BAD LUCK.

THAT’S JUST A SUPERSTITION.

(Advertisement of SPORTSTAR – THE SPORTIER TABLOID)

(The Hindu, 28 October 2011, Friday, p. 15)

This is an interesting example with repetition of the consonant phoneme /b/ at the initial position of words above -- clubbed with assonance through the vowel /ᴂ/ in ‘Black’, ‘bad’, ‘that’ --- creating an effect of statement /b/ and then jeering negation /ᴂ/.

THE MEETING OF MINDS.

THE TRIUMPH OF THOUGHT.

The Indian Banking Industry is future-ready.

BANCON 2011

(Advertisement of an annual conference by Indian Overseas Bank)

(The Hindu, 5 November 2011, Saturday, p. 19)

In the given example, the consonant phoneme /m/ at the initial position of words ‘meeting’ and ‘minds’ is repeated and the phoneme /t/ in the words ‘triumph’ and ‘thought’ is repeated.

Rhymes. Rhyme is one of the popular features of advertisements. It is musical and gets success to catch the customer’s attention.

Take what

you want,

when you want,

where you want.

(Advertisement of a Scan Disk 8GB USB)

(The Times of India, 30 September 2008, Tuesday, p. 3)

The Best Bank – India

The Best Equity House – India

(Advertisement of Deutsche Bank)

(Business Standard, 15 December 2008, Monday, p. 1)

Journey is in Doubt

if the Ticket is from a Tout

(Advertisement of NORTHERN RAILWAY)

(The Hindu, 30 October 2011, Sunday, p. 5)

In your moments of happiness, it’s there.

In your moments of prosperity, we’re there.

(Advertisement of NSE – National Stock Exchange of India Limited)

(The Economic Times, 9 November 2011, Wednesday, p. 11)

Onomatopoeia. It is a figure of speech in which the sound reflects the sense. It is also at times called echoism.

Mmmm…. Smells good! Uflex?

Uflex packaging solutions help to bring to you your favourite spices and other foods just the way you want them – fresh and pure. Which is why packaged food giants like Cadbury’s, Britannia, Nestle, TATA tea, P&G and Pepsi have placed their trust in us.

And which is also why Reliance Retail and Bharti Walmart – India’s youngest private labels – have left the task of preserving quality and freshness to us.

(Advertisement of UFLEX Flexible Packging)

(The Times of India, 20 August 2008, Wednesday, p. 13)

At the Lexical Level

Lexis is subject to innovation and experiment. Advertisements have rich and colourful vocabulary i.e. use of nouns, pronouns, adjectives, neologisms, clipping, acronyms, blending etc. The choice of vocabulary depends on the context the advertiser wishes to present, the audience and thereby the register. Advertisements provide a springboard to learn the words and phrases quickly. For instance:

Why settle for any other AC when you can get a DAIKIN?

(Advertisement of DAIKIN Air-conditioner)

(Dainik Bhaskar, 27 May 2012, Sunday, p. 12)

This is an example of acronym as AC is formed by joining the initial letters of ‘air-conditioner’.

NIFTEM (National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship and Management)

Admission Notice 2012-13 (B.Tech. and M.Tech.)

About NIFTEM…

WORLD CLASS EDUCATION IN FOOD TECHNOLOGY AND MANAGEMENT

Provision for state-of-the-art research labs in future

LIFE AT NIFTEM CAMPUS

Entire campus is planned to be a High-Tech Wi-Fi campus

In the above given example, there is use of acronym in NIFTEM. Clipping is used in labs as it is short form of ‘laboratory’. High-Tech and Wi-Fi are examples of blends: High-Tech from High and Technology, Wi-Fi from Wireless and Fidelity

An overview of the matrimonial advertisements presents interesting examples of multiple adjectives. Advertisers use comparative and superlative degrees to exhibit the excellent quality/ superiority of their product/person. The superlative description of bride/ groom looks like:

Wanted a beautiful, slim, tall, well educated girl belonging to a respectable, educated Jat Sikh family

(The Tribune, 27 December 2008, p. 5)

Whenever the string of adjectives seem to be less effective, intensifiers such as really, actually, very, exceptionally, etc. are used.

Sometimes classifiers are also added like: convent educated, ex-convented, modernist, green card holder, high status, etc.

If fair fails to convey what the advertiser wishes to convey, gori, with all its associations in the Indian context, is added to the list of the attributes of the bride. All the adjectives used in matrimonial advertisements are adjectives of implications/ illocution.

A glance on common affixation. The ‘–ing’ and ‘–ed’ suffix is very frequently used, especially in matrimonial advertisements mincing compound words. Generally speaking, this reflects the lexical creativity of Indian English.

-ing type

home-loving, good-looking, English-speaking, working, smart-looking, etc.

-ed type

well-placed, well- established, well-trained, career- oriented, broadminded, sweet-tempered, fair- complexioned, sweet-natured, etc.

Of the two types, the –ed formations are more frequent. Most of these items do not have a dictionary entry in the structure, sense and world-class in which they appear. Though at times semantically unintelligible and structurally bizarre to the native speakers of English, they have by now acquired full justification and stylistic significance in English newspapers of India.

At Syntactic Level

Elliptical construction. An elliptical construction is a sentence in which certain word/words are deliberately omitted because they can be understood easily from the context. In almost all the headlines, elliptical sentences are used.

Trump Vidyarthi Plan comes again.

(Advertisement of Trump Prepaid Mobile Card issued by MTNL)

(The Times of India, 24 December 2008, Wednesday, p. 24)

Rule the road

(Advertisement of CHEVROLET CAPTIVA Car)

(Business Standard, 15 December 2008, Monday, p. 16)

Dishing it out

(Advertisement of ‘dish tv’)

(Business Standard – the strategist, 6 January 2009, Tuesday, p. 1)

Carry the bank in your wallet!

(Advertisement of facilities of ATM of Oriental Bank of Commerce)

(The Tribune, 8 Nov. 2011, Tuesday, p. 18)

Tense. Among all the tenses, it is the present tense and specifically Present Indefinite Tense that is frequently used in advertisements.

Gitanjali presents RIVAAZ

(Advertisement of jewellery)

(Business Standard, 19 December 2008, Friday, p. 12)

Finally a real estate pullout that helps you to find your dream home. We value your dreams…

(Advertisement of Real Estate - Every Saturday with The Tribune)

(The Tribune, 7 Nov. 2011, Monday, p. 9)

Where there is trust, reassurance follows.

(Advertisement of LIC Finance Ltd.)

(The Hindu, 13 January 2009, Tuesday)

Imperatives. Imperative syntactic constructions are frequently used in advertisements.

Let us surprise you,

Come experience France.

(Advertisement of a France hand bag)

(Business Standard, 15 December 2008, Monday, p. 16)

Binary connectives. In these types of connectives, two parts (words or clauses or sentences) are connected with each other. The word which is emphasized in the first part is opposite to the word emphasized in the second part. As these connectives are concise in form which draw attention of the consumers easily. For instance:

“Play more.

Pay less.”

(SAMSUNG Virgin mobile)

(The Times of India, 30 September 2008, Tuesday, p. 5)

SBI Car Loan

WALK IN. DRIVE OUT.

(Advertisement of SBI Car Loans)

(The Hindu, 4 November 2011, Friday, p. 1)

Grammatical inversion.

Opportunity you can’t afford to miss

(Advertisement of TDI Centre Jalandhar)

(The Tribune, 4 February, 2009, Wednesday, p. 18)

Nominal has been placed in an inverted order in the above example.

Grammatical parallelism. Parallelism is commonly used in advertisements. It consists of phrases, clauses or sentences of similar grammatical construction.

WE SWITCHED THEIR CARS FOR A WEEK AND CHANGED THEIR MINDS FOREVER.

Experience the Ford difference with a test drive today!

(Advertisement of Ford Cars)

(The Tribune, 9 November 2011, Wednesday, p. 5)

In this example, the word ‘their’ is repeated in first sentence. In the second sentence, the consonant phoneme /t/ at the initial position of words ‘test’ and ‘today’ is repeated and the consonant phoneme /w/ at the initial position of words ‘we’ and ‘week’ is repeated. It is example of alliteration also.

Anaphora. A scheme in which the same word or phrase is repeated at the beginning of successive phrases, clauses, or sentences is called anaphora. It is also called epanaphora. Anaphora encompasses some of the grammatical rules that facilitate cohesion in discourse.

Discover the magic of cooking

Introducing the new USHA cooktops,

that make cooking a truly magical experience

(Advertisement of USHA Cook-tops)

(The Tribune, 12 November 2011, Saturday, p. 5)

In the given example, there is repetition of words ‘cooking-cooking’ and ‘magic-magical’.

At Semantic/Pragmatic Level

Simile. It is a figure of speech in which two dissimilar things are compared with each other by the use of words ‘as’ ‘like’ and ‘such as’, ‘as though’ to draw attention. The comparison is explicit. Advertisers use simile to intensify the features of the product. For instance,

A CONTEST AS BIG AS A PARENT’S HEART.

(Advertisement of Gini & Jony)

(Dainik Bhaskar, 12 November 2011, Saturday, p. 2)

A micro spring as thin as hair.

A roller ball almost as hard as a diamond.

A technology that adapts to you.

(Advertisement of Add Gel Pen)

(The Economic Times, 20 Feb. 2012, Monday, p. 1)

Metonymy. A figure of speech in which one word or phrase is substituted for another with which it is closely associated is called metonymy.

It’s Modern.

It’s Classic.

It’s like monogrammed stationery.

Or boutique tea.

Or aged wine…

(Advertisement of Apartments, Pune)

(The Economic Times, 17 Feb. 2012, p. 3)

Metaphor. A trope in which a word or phrase is transferred from its literal meaning to stand for something else. It is a comparison in which one thing is described as if it were another. For instance,

THE MEETING OF MINDS.

THE TRIUMPH OF THOUGHT.

The Indian Banking Industry is future-ready.

BANCON 2011

(Advertisement of an annual conference by Indian Overseas Bank)

(The Hindu, 5 November 2011, Saturday, p. 19)

Antithesis. For emphasis, a striking opposition or contrast of words is used in the same sentence. For instance,

INSTITUTE OF HOSPITALITY & MANAGEMENT

“COME AS A STUDENT LEAVE AS A MANAGER”

(Advertisement of an institute)

(The Tribune, 25 May 2012, Friday, p.1)

Conclusion

The modern world depends on advertising; therefore, their creators come with different techniques and styles of creating it in order to tell the qualities of the product and to increase its sale. Therefore, by analyzing a number of examples of newspaper advertisements, it can be said that the creators of advertisements use different styles to convince readers and break the rules or conventions of the English language. As newspapers are rich in variety of words, phrases, collocations, idioms, associations, different structures, so, they can be relied upon for a variety of purposes. And particularly newspaper advertisements being an important feature of newspapers are terse, precise, pithy and attractive and so is English language. So, what can be a better source for learning English language than newspapers advertisements?

Advertisements are also beneficial medium in ELT. These are eye-catchy, enhance creativity and provide knowledge about innovations. Although pieces of news, articles, letters to the Editor and all other printed items can be used to teach English but since advertisements draw attention of the learners and readers, they can be an interesting means of teaching English. Use of the mass media as a teaching instrument in the classroom has increased considerably at all grade levels in the past few years. Advertisements can be used as interesting aid for teaching English language as:

Advertisements provide us information about the new products coming in the market, thereby extending our knowledge and deepening our understanding. This will also acquaint the readers with language change with space and time.

Advertisements contain a wide variety of language styles not easily found in conventional language learning course books and students must be familiar with such language forms.

English- language newspapers are easily available in the libraries of schools and colleges, therefore, language teachers can use new material to develop the students’ language skills which create interest in learners and make them thoughtful.

Reading advertisements is an enjoyable and popular pastime for most of the people. So activities based on advertisements in the language classroom can become an extension of this interest for such people and for the teachers who apply them.

Advertisements are good source of building vocabulary as well as to understand structural aspects of language. The conventional way of vocabulary building by picking up words from advertisements and learning them appears to be gloomy and monotonous. It can be made interesting by using different teaching strategies such as association, using pictures (Look and Say), Synonyms and Antonyms, Magic Thread (Word Game) etc.

As the beauty of the language lies in the use of the figures of speech, it can be taught in an interesting way by using newspaper advertisements because examples from normal day life are easy to grasp. Furthermore, anyone who wishes to understand the significance and value of the work of language must concentrate on the elements of foregrounding. And foregrounding can be achieved through parallelism and deviation which have been discussed in the paper with examples of advertisements. So a teacher can teach this important part of deviation and usage of figures of speech through newspaper advertisements.

Thus, the present paper introduces the analysis of advertisements at different levels – phonological, lexical, syntactic and semantic. The above described linguistic features such as grammatical structure, alliteration, rhyme, and simile etc. provide learners a rich experience of language usage. This learning lightens the flame of creativity and motivates them to use the language authentically.


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