Implied Slur On Competition English Language Essay


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Harris and colleagues … have shown that people are very prone to draw inferences about products from advertisements and to remember those inferences as directly stated facts…There is more evidence that we are even more prone to draw inferences from advertisements than from other types of prose (Harris, 1981:104).

We have referred so far to inferences as strongly related to context, prior knowledge and relevance and, in what follows, we are going to present Harris's constructions (1999) related to the process of inferencing, thus providing additional information to what the relevance theory suggests about inferences and underlining the main principles related to this process of inferencing. Harris (2009:124) makes a distinction between five types of linguistic constructions that encourage the addressee to infer beyond what is actually stated in the ad and that may be deceiving without lying. The constructions and the examples are taken from Harris (ibid.):


This type of claims that can be deceptive refers to hedge words or expressions such as: may, can/could help, fights, helps, works, acts, can/could be, virtual, virtually, refreshes, fortifies, etc. Such words or expressions give less force to the claim but do not deny it entirely.

e.g. Rainbow toothpaste fights plaque.

Scrubble Shampoo may help to get rid of dandruff symptoms.

Although I can't promise to make you a millionaire by tomorrow, order my kit and you too may become rich.

Elliptical comparatives

In a comparison an adjective or an adverb is usually used and it is compared to something which is considered to be standard. Still, in advertising, there is no specific reference to other products, the comparative element being left out. So if one sees/reads "X cleans better" ("better than what?"), one cannot consider the sentence to be false because anything true may be used to complete this comparative, thus making the ad more credible. Sometimes the superlative is used and the technique is the same, no reference is given to the group to which the product is related.

According to Goddard (2002) such words used in the comparative are like "an electrical charge as a result of making a connection, hitting the spot, having a finger on the pulse, pressing the right button". The occurrence of the comparatives is more common in the slogan of the ad, marking the quality of the product.

e.g. The Neptune Hatchback gives you more.

Fibermunchies have more vitamin C.

Powderpower laundry detergent cleans better

Implied causation

In order to avoid direct statements, advertisers make inferences by using juxtaposed imperatives, meant to create a cause-and-effect relationship which in fact is more a correlational one. By doing this, the advertisers do not state directly that the product/service "will have the stated effect, but the causal inference is very easy to draw" (Harris, ibid.).

e.g. Help your child excel in school. Buy an Apricot home computer.

Shed those extra pounds. Buy the Blubber buster massage belt.

Implied slur on competition

In these types of claims, there is an indirect reference to the products of the competition which are put in an unfavourable or even negative light without making direct statements but by implying the negative elements.

e.g. If you do your taxes and you are audited by the IRS, we will accompany you to the audit.

Our company gives refunds quickly if your traveller's checks are lost or stolen.


Advertisers use sometimes some scientific proof or specific numbers, results of surveys, experiments or studies but do not give complete information about these scientific results, thus implying more than it is actually stated and misleading the customers.

e.g. Three out of four doctors recommended Snayer Aspirin.

2000 dentists recommended brushing with Laser Fluoride.

In a survey of 10 000 car owners, most preferred Zip.

The AIDA model

In order to sell a product/service, advertisers have to attract attention, to make the product/service known with the help of the advertisement. Even if the attitudes to advertising are different or even if people sometimes try to avoid it by switching the channel, closing the website or flicking past it in a newspaper, advertising works, otherwise there would not be such huge investments in it. Therefore, advertisers' first duty is to make people notice the ad so that there is a chance for the product/service to be purchased.

The tasks of advertisers have been defined with the help of different conceptual models which outline the patterns that an ad has to follow in order to be successful. These models have first been published, according to Egan (2007:43), in 1898 and although they have been continuously reviewed, they "still have important resonance today". First, we are going to present some of the most important models that have been proposed over the years, models which are considered classical theories for the way in which advertising works. Then, we are going to analyse the ads that represent the corpus of the study with the help of one of these models.

One of the most known models is the AIDA model which was attributed to E.S. St. Elmo Lewis once Strong's book The Psychology of Selling and Advertising appeared in 1925. AIDA stands for: Attention, Interest, Desire and Action, the model being created at the beginning as a useful guide for salesmen. DOGMAR (Defining Advertising Goals for Measuring Advertising Results) is another model created by Colley in 1961 in order to identify and underline the communication role of advertising. Another model is that of Lavidge and Steiner (1961) with its six stages: Awareness, Knowledge, Liking, Preference, Conviction and Purchase. These stages show that "the awareness created by advertising imparts knowledge of the product's attributes and develops a liking for it … believing that the preferred products would satisfy their wants and desires, [the receivers] are led to the action of purchasing the products (Tyagi and Kumar, 2004:251). The last two important models are that of Rogers (1983) who mentions the following stages: Awareness, Persuasion, Decision, Implementation and Confirmation, and that of Bovee et. al. (1995) who suggest that "this post-purchase period is the point when advertising should be used to bolster the costumers' sense of satisfaction about the action or purchase , this phase representing the beginning of a new cycle in the communication process" (Egan, 2007:44). The stages of this model are: Awareness, Comprehension, Acceptance, Preference, Ownership and Reinforcement.

We are going to analyse the ads that represent the corpus of this thesis with the help of the AIDA model and we are going to fuse these stages with those mentioned by Vastergaard and Schroder in their book The Language of Advertising (1985). Thus, the stages attention and interest are going to be treated together because "one obvious way of catching the reader's attention is to show him (or her) that what the product has to offer is of interest to him/her" (Vastergaard and Schroder, 1985:58). The two stages are best represented in the headline, slogan, if present, of an advertisement, therefore we are going to focus on the way advertisers arouse attention and create interest with the help of the presupposition triggers present in the headlines and slogans of the corpus and also with the help of the different types of inferences used for these two important tasks. Thus, we are going to make a classification of the most frequent presupposition triggers and inference constructions used in the headlines and slogans, if present, of the English and the Romanian ads that represent the corpus of the thesis.

Afterwards, we are going to focus on the desire and conviction stage which is illustrated in the body copy of an ad. It is the point where advertisers have to be irresistible because at this stage "readers are likely to stop reading if you don't provide them with sufficient reason to continue. Ideally, it should immediately demonstrate that there are desirable rewards for reading on" (Veloso, 2005:96). We are going to classify the maxims that are flouted and the inference constructions that are used in the body copy of the English and the Romanian advertisements that represent the corpus of the thesis. The last classification is going to be related to the advertisers' invitation to action which is usually presented in the concluding paragraph of the body copy. According to Vastergaard and Schroder (1985:69) the methods used to call to action are "imperative clauses encouraging the audience to buy the product, other directive speech acts encouraging the audience to buy the product and directive speech acts inviting the reader to ask for a trial or for more information". Based on these methods, we are going to analyse the corpus to see if all these steps are followed in both English and Romanian ads and also to make a classification of those acts that are mostly used in the English and the Romanian advertisements that represent the corpus of the thesis.


The concept of cohesion

Discourse is not just a set of utterances that come together by chance: it expresses unity and connection. The text, be it spoken or written, is a complete unit with features that distinguish it from a random set of sentences. Being a text means having texture "A text has texture, and this is what distinguishes it from something that is not a text. It derives this texture from the fact that it functions as a unity with respect to its environment." (Halliday and Hasan, 1976:2). The texture is given by some ties, by the "cohesive relation that exists" between different items in an utterance (ibid.).

Cohesion denotes the linguistic devices that connect the sentences and clauses, occurring "where the INTERPRETATION of some element in the discourse is dependent on that of another. The one PRESUPPOSES the other, in the sense that it cannot be effectively decoded except by recourse to it" (ibid.:4). Halliday and Hasan (ibid.:2) give the following example to illustrate a cohesive relation between some elements of an utterance:

Wash and core six cooking apples. Put them into a fireproof dish. - "them" in the second sentence refers back to "six cooking apples" in the first sentence, this gives cohesion to the two sentences, so that we interpret them as a whole; the two sentences together constitute a text.

Halliday and Hasan refer to conjunctions as a type of markers for cohesive relationships, being different from the other devices because they "are cohesive not in themselves, but indirectly, by virtue of their specific meanings; they are not primarily devices for reaching out into the preceding (or following) text, but they express certain meanings that presuppose the presence of other components in the discourse" (ibid.:226). Brown and Yule (1983:191) exemplify the taxonomy provided by Halliday and Hasan with the following conjunctive discourse markers:

additive (used to add more information to what has already been utterd) : and, or, furthermore, similarly, in addition

adversative (used to indicated something contrary to what has been previously uttered): but, however, on the other hand, nevertheless

causal (used to introduce result, reason or purpose): so, consequently, for this reason, it follows from this

temporal (used to express the order of events) : then, after that, an hour later, finally, at last

In the 1930s one man touched the lives of millions of women. He wasn't a film star or a singer, but a scientist. He invented nylon. Yet two years later, beset with doubt, he took his own life (Cook, 2001:151) - both but and yet in this example are adversative conjunctions suggesting opposition, difference.

Conjunctions signify systematic connections between units of the text, namely between forthcoming units, what is about to be said, and preceding units, what has just been said, the attention being focused on "the function they have of relating to each other linguistic elements that occur in succession but are not related by other, structural means" (Halliday and Hasan, 1976:227).

Another cohesive relationship is that of reference (Halliday & Hasan, 1976) or referring expressions (Cook, 2001) which have a semantic interpretation by referring to elements within a text or even outside it. When the interpretation is done within the text, the relationship is called endophoric, while the interpretation outside the text is called exophoric. According to Halliday and Hasan (1976:18) the exophoric relationship does not play any role in the cohesion of the text, but the endophoric relationship is important for the cohesive relation within the text. The endophoric relations are of two types: anaphoric (Halliday and Hasan) which refer back to the text for their interpretation and cataphoric which refer forward in the text for their interpretation. Brown and Yule (1983:193) illustrate these relationships with the following examples:

exophora: Look at that. (that = the sun)


(i). anaphoric - Look at the sun. It's going down quickly. (It refers back to the sun.)

(ii). cataphoric - It's going down quickly, the sun. (It refers forward to the sun.)

Lyons (1977, cited in Brown and Yule, 1983:205) states that, when referring to an entity, it is very important that the expressions used to describe it are true of that entity so that the correct reference takes place. Brown and Yule add that it is not actually necessary for the speaker to believe in the truthfulness of the description but rather in his/her power to make the hearer "pick out the intended referent" as "successful reference depends on the hearer's identifying, for the purposes of understanding the current linguistic message, the speaker's intended referent, on the basis of the referring expression used".

Ellipsis and substitution are two other types of cohesive devices which have a strong relationship, ellipsis being considered as a special case of substitution or as Halliday and Hasan point out, "ellipsis can be interpreted as that form of substitution in which the item is replaced by nothing" (1976:88). Ellipsis or zero substitution is represented by the omission of some elements in the surface text which are assumed to be obvious from the context, thus they are retrieved and inferred. Ellipsis is of three types: nominal, verbal and clausal (ibid.:146). Nominal ellipsis refers to the omission of a noun (all the examples which illustrate the three types of ellipsis are taken from McCarthy, 1991:43).

e.g. Nelly liked the green tiles; myself I preferred the blue.

Verbal ellipsis is of two types: echoing and auxiliary contrasting (Thomas, 1987 cited in McCarthy, 1991:43). Echoing means repetition of an element from the verbal group, while contrasting means changing the auxiliary.

e.g. echoing - A: Will anyone be waiting?

B: Jim will, I should think.

contrasting - A: Has she remarried?

B: No, but she will one day, I'm sure.

Clausal ellipsis refers to the omission of single or multiple clause elements, "especially common are subject-pronoun omissions (doesn't matter, hope so, can't help you, etc.)" (ibid.:44).

e.g. He said he would take early retirement as soon as he could and he has.

Substitution refers to the replacement of one word or expression in a text with another, the difference between substitution and reference being related to the fact that "substitution is a relation in the wording rather than in the meaning", it is "a relation between linguistic items" (Halliday and Hasan, 1976:88-89). It is similar to ellipsis because it also functions at nominal, verbal or clausal level. The most common words used for substitution are "one", "do", "so/not" and "same". The following examples taken from Halliday and Hasan (ibid.:91,113,130,134) illustrate the three types of substitution:

e.g. nominal - Cherry ripe, cherry ripe, ripe I cry.

Full and fair ones - come and buy.

verbal - He never really succeeded in his ambitions. He might have done, one felt, had it not been for the restlessness of his nature.

clausal - Is there going to be an earthquake? - It says so.

Everyone seems to think he's guilty. If so, no doubt he'll offer to resign.

Ellipsis and substitution are related to the context, a lot being actually assumed from the context when something is omitted or substituted. This happens because of the belief that omitted or substituted elements are easily retrieved and there is nothing unnatural or meaningless about using them.

Lexical cohesion differs from the other types of cohesive devices because it is not grammatical, it is "the cohesive effect achieved by the selection of the vocabulary" (Halliday and Hasan, 1976:274). The two main categories of lexical cohesion distinguished by Halliday and Hasan are reiteration and collocation. Reiteration is classified into repetitions, general words and synonyms, near-synonyms or superordinates. The following examples taken from Halliday and Hasan (1976:278) illustrate the process of reiteration by which "one lexical item refers back to another, to which it is related by having a common referent".

e.g. repetition - There was a large mushroom growing near her (…) She stretched herself up on tiptoe, and peeped over the edge of the mushroom.

general words - Robert seems very worried about something. I think you ought to have a talk with the boy.

synonym - Accordingly … I took leave, and turned to the ascent of the peak. The climb is perfectly easy.

near synonym - (…) Among the bulrush beds, and clutch'd the sword/And lightly wheel'd and threw it. The great brand/Made light'nings in the splendour of the moon.

superordinate - Harry's bought himself an new Jaguar. He practically leaves in the car.

According to Halliday and Hasan (ibid.:284) collocation is the most problematic type of lexical cohesion because it is fulfilled with the help of associations of "lexical items that usually co-occur". More than that, because of a relation of reciprocity between the lexical items, Halliday and Hasan extend the definition by stating that "there is cohesion between any pair of lexical items that stand to each other in some recognizable lexicosemantic relation", this including not only synonyms, near synonyms or superordinates, but even pairs of opposites, such as boy and girl, like and hate, wet and dry; words from the same ordered series, dollar and cent, north and south; words from unordered series, basement and roof, road and rail; or even long cohesive chains, such as candle, flame and flicker, hair, comb, curl and wave.

To sum up, the concept of cohesion is related to assumptions and interpretations of elements based on other elements from the context, one presupposing the other, the process of decoding being effective only if the retrieval is correct and successful. The whole process is based on the interlocutors' environment, on the textual meaning and the use of logical, formal relations between the sentences in order to organize the information appropriately because "sentences are contextually appropriate when they express propositions in such way as to fit into the propositional development of discourse as a whole" (Widdowson, 1978:25).

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