As a way of propagating and transmitting information, advertising’s role connot be underestimated because it is not only an artful technique in persuading people to buy, but also gradually has become a must for social communication which in turn influences the development of society and economy. The purpose of this paper is to study the linguistic features and sociological features of advertising English, in the hope to help copywriters at home markets in their creating process.
Nowadays advertising has penetrated into every corner of our life as its transmitting media in many forms: newspaper, magazine, TV, radio as well as network. The goal of advertising decides its language to be simple and direct, distinct from the characteristics of other discourses. Thus an analysis on the linguistic features of advertising English in the linguistic field is worthwhile. Under such circumstances, a study on the linguistic features of advertising English will have practical effects on the composing and translating work of the copywriters.
The whole paper is divided into five chapters. The first chapter traces back the origin of advertising and a brief introduction on the classifications, roles and definitions of advertising is presented for the later discussion.
The second chapter introduces the theory of advertisements and stylistics, the precise balance of words (either spoken or written) and pictures is determined by the creative concept and the medium used, but the combination of images and words makes up the language of advertising.
The third chapter starts from the theories in syntax, lexicology, rhetoric and ends with the linguistic features analyzed in the field of discourse analysis.
The fourth chapter combines the viewpoints from the previous chapter third and explores the effect of the advertising English as a whole advertising process. The last chapter, also the conclusion part, shows that though advertising language appears to be flowery and refined, its content is no better than commonest language could convey. By exposing the various techniques advertisers have employed in their writing, this part hopes to remind consumers that advertising English is gradually attaining the negative and ambiguous role in guiding people to buy.
Keywords: Advertising, Advertising English, Linguistic Features
Chapter 1 Introduction
No other statement could have summed up the charm of advertisement than what Aldous Huxley has commented. As he has said advertisement as a literary form is the most exciting, the most arduous literary form of all, and the most pregnant in curious possibilities. In his comment he asserted advertisement is a literary form and the copywriting process is the delightful and salubrious exercise for the mind. But all in all, what is advertising, and what makes it unique?
1.1 History of Advertisement
Advertisement emerged from the womb of commodity production and exchange. The condition for the existence of advertising is “at least a segment of the population must live above the subsistence level”. When this situation occurs it also becomes necessary for “the producers of materially ‘unnecessary’ goods to do something to make people want to acquire their commodities.” (Vestergaard and Schroder 4)
The embryonic form of advertising in the world is street cries, which exist even today. Advertising was not unknown in ancient Greece and Rome, but advertising as we recognize it did not start until the seventeenth century in the West. It was at about this time that newspaper began to circulate. Before that, it is printing which was first invented in China and then introduced to the West that played a vital role in the production of print advertising. “Classified” (small ads) types of advertising were dominant before the nineteenth century and style and language used in ads at that time tended to be direct and informative. The industrial Revolution, which began in England in the mid-1700s and reached the United States by the early 1800s, facilitated mass-production of goods. Meanwhile advertising became more and more important in the industrial market. The great breakthrough for advertising came only in the late nineteenth century. Technology and mass-production techniques were then sufficiently developed for more firms to be able to turn out products of roughly the same quality and at roughly the same price. This brought on a crisis of over-production and under consumption which meant that the market needed to be stimulated by advertising. At this time advertising changed its function from proclamation to persuasion. In the twentieth century, advertising developed rapidly alongside the advent of new media-radio and television in succession.
According to Richard Pollay’s content analysis of two thousand print ads from ten leading magazines in the USA, ads have progressively turned towards the emotional rather than the informative approach and there is a shift seeing human nature as rational to seeming it as emotional.
Today in China, while our economic structure is shifting from the entirely planned economy to the socialist market economy system, advertising is becoming more and more active and sophisticated. In 1992, China’s advertising expenditure reached $ 862 million, among the fastest growing countries in Asia. This year with the entry of China into WTO, this expenditure figure will undoubtedly rise up, which will support the view that advertising is an indispensable means for providing the information that all market-oriented industrialized societies need for their economies to function efficiently.
1.2 Classifications of Advertising
Advertising may be classified by medium (newspaper, magazine, radio, television). By target audience (consumer, industrial, business), by geography (international, national, regional, local), or by its function or purpose (product or non-product, commercial or noncommercial, primary demand or selective demand, direct action or indirect action).
Because it is difficult to gain access to enough date for English commercials and ads on radio or TV, thus, the subject of this research paper will mainly concentrate on the print advertising.
1.3 Roles of Advertising
An advertiser’s main purpose is to present and exhibit product or service, and to spread the influence and coverage of which to the extent that the potential purchasing population becomes real and actual. Simply put, advertisers try by the various means at their disposal to get people to buy the product or service advertised. Moreover, advertisers want potential purchasers to consider what is advertised to the exclusion of all other similar products or services. They therefore attempt to construct an advertisement that will fully involve the attention of the potential purchaser and which will have a persuasive effect. Advertisers thus create a semiotic world in order to persuade their audience of essential “rightness” of purchasing the product or service advertised.
1.4 Definitions of Advertising
After a brief introduction of the classifications and roles of advertising, we now come to the definitions of advertising. From different perspectives or purposes, the definitions might also vary. In English, the word “advertise” has its origin in “advertere” in Latin, meaning “to inform somebody of something”, “to bring into notice” or “to draw attention to something”, etc. In Chinese, the equivalent term “guanggao” means “widely announce”.
The father of modern advertising, Albert Lasker said that advertising was “salesmanship in print”. Although the definition was given long before the advent of radio and television, and the nature and scope of advertising at that time were considerably different than they are today, this often-repeated saying indicates that the ultimate objective of advertising is to sell. Obviously it is not a working definition because we cannot use it to cover all advertisements. Today, a widely quoted working definition of advertising was put forward by Courtland L. Bovee and William F. Arens :” Advertising is the nonpersonal communication of information, usually paid for and usually persuasive in nature, about products (goods or services) or ideas by identified sponsors through various media.”（Cook，Guy. The Discourse of Advertising. London: Routledge,1992）
Another linguist Bolen defines advertising as a “Paid, non-personal communication through various mass media by business firms, nonprofit organizations, and individuals who are in some way identified in the message and who hope to inform or persuade members of a particular audience.” (Carter, Ronald and Goddard, Angela, Reah Danuta et al. Working with Texts. London: Routledge,1997)
If the definitions of advertising were too vague and abstract to comprehend, a few words of its function would help to clarify this crucial term. Broadly speaking, advertisements have at least one of two functions: informing or persuading, although overlap may often take place in one single piece. The trick here is that an informative advertisement informs “the customer about goods, services, or ideas and then tells how to get them means of an identified sponsor” (Bolen 6). Examples of informative advertisements are not a few, ranging from flyers to insertions in magazine and newspapers, all of that aim to advertise new products/services or special prices on certain products/services. This type of advertisement gives basic, factual information and sometimes shows a photos or an illustration of the product/service to give the target audience a better view about the advertised product.
Persuasive advertisements are thus the instruments used by advertisers “who have defined their target audiences and determined the effect they hope to achieve through persuasive advertisements in the media” (Bolen 9). And a persuasive advertisement should try to persuade the potential customers to buy the new product. (Bolen 6) The persuasive function is not only limited to attracting the potential customer into buying a certain object, but also including the selling of services, ideas, norms and values.
To summarize, we would get the idea that firstly advertising is a communication process. Secondly, at least a medium is used. Thirdly, this communication process has a definite purpose to convince the target audience. The above three characteristics suggest advertising is closely connected with the society, employing its media, interconnecting with its people and guiding their buying habit. Also in achieving the advertising effect, the advertising language should be vivid and attractive, whose linguistic characteristics would be covered in the Chapter 3.
Chapter 2 Theoretical Background