What is language?
Is that a collection of words?
A set of expression?
An exposure of emotion ?
A cultural identity?
A social dimension?
Human language is uniquely symbolic. Symbols are sounds or things that have been assigned by the user. Take for example the word 'dog'- does it in any way resemble to the physical form of the animal?
The meaning has been arbitrarily assigned.
And here lies the great advantage that language is extremely flexible being a learned symbolic communication system. The meanings assigned can be changed and new symbols are created. They are much more than the sequence of sounds to us.
The deaf community have developed sign languages over the last few centuries which are complex elements of communication with gestures and visuals.
Then there are dialects of several tribes and natives of regions where ethnicity is an important factor and also pidgin expressions of languages. In our country many use pidgin forms of English with variants of pronunciations and even for Hindi , our national language. InNorth Americathe Black english is the language of the people of African origin quite different from the official American English.
In response of historical or societal changes languages evolve. New words are invented regularly and old meanings change. Studies reveal that the word 'nice' meant foolish, lascivious, wanton, and even wicked in the 15th century.
Even if we ask what is English? What answers we can expect? Is it the Queen's English , English of Public School, or the English of New York orNew Delhi? Is there such a thing as 'correct' English, and is such 'proper English' superior to other forms?
The research stats of native speakers of language reveals the penetration of each language in the society: Chinese...1,113 million, English ...372 million, Hindi-Urdu ....316 million, Spanish ....304 million, Arabic ...201 million, Portuguese ...165 million, Russian ....155 million, Bengali.....125 million. English is the official language of 52 countries.
Linguists divide the study of spoken language into two categories--phonology and grammar. Phonology is the study of sounds. Grammar is how the sounds are used to make sense.
If somebody's language does not have some of the sounds of another language, it is usually difficult for him/her to hear the differences and to pronounce them correctly. For this reason, the R and L sounds in English are difficult to distinguish for native Japanese speakers. The placement of the tongue is the same for two sounds. Many English words have the same letter combination but are not pronounced the same. This is the case with mint and pint, clove and love, as well as cough and bough. English has more than 1100 combinations of letters that are used to produce the 40 commonly used sounds of the spoken language. This occurs with the 'e' sound in me, tea, tree, key, country, piece, and reprise. It is not surprising that English is a far more difficult language to learn. In English, word order is particularly critical to changing meaning. For example the words you, are, and there can be combined in three different ways to alter meaning:
There you are. You are there. Are you there?
Interestingly, in Latin derived languages, such as Spanish, French, and Italian, the word order is not usually as important. Meaning is primarily determined by the endings of words.
Now, there are interesting aspects of language in the expression of emotion . Most important of these is the role of figurative language in the conceptualization of emotion. Do metaphor and other figurative language matter at all in how we think about the emotions? Do metaphors simply reflect a preexisting, literal reality, or do they actually create or constitute our emotional reality? Very often speakers of English use expressions like boiling with anger, being swept off one's feet, building a relationship, and being madly in love.
To discuss briefly about this , we have to consider that there's a distinction between expressive and descriptive emotion words (or terms or expressions). Some emotion words can express emotions. Examples include shit! when angry, wow! when enthusiastic or impressed, yuk! when disgusted, and many more. It is an open question whether all emotions can be expressed in this way, and which the ones that cannot are and why. Other emotion words can describe the emotions they signify or that ''they are about.'' Words like anger and angry, joy and happy, sadness and depressed are assumed to be used in such a way. We should note that under certain circumstances descriptive emotion terms can also ''express'' particular emotions. An example is ''I love you!'' where the descriptive emotion word love is used both to describe and express the emotion of love.
Within the category of descriptive emotion words, there are also differences . Some of the emotion words are more basic than others. More basic ones include in English: anger, sadness, fear, joy, and love. Less basic ones include annoyance, wrath, rage, and indignation for anger and terror, fright, and horror for fear.
Figurative terms also describe emotions. Research works of linguists have revealed that boiling with anger is a linguistic example of the very productive conceptual metaphor ANGER IS A HOT FLUID, burning with love is an example of LOVE IS FIRE , and to be on cloud nine is an example of HAPPINESS IS UP . All three examples indicate the intensity aspect of the emotions concerned.
Now, this discussion has some strange but realistic correlation with my roji-roti (profession) i.e. advertising.
Sometimes I wonder whether advertising is a normal language! Or, is it like that advertising breaking the rule of normal language?
As we've experienced that the English language has evolved to have many different kinds of functionality, and each of which relates to different situations and styles of use. From a purist's point of view, it seems to make most sense to understand 'normal language' to include the variety of styles of English that mature speakers and readers control. This will form the backdrop of everyday language in its many functions, against which we can view advertising language.
If one looks around in literature on advertising, or searches on the WWW, it is not uncommon to find claims to the effect that advertising breaks the rules of normal language and language use. However, from the perspective of a professional linguist, few of these claims really seem to be supportable. Now, with the exception of linguists, few people have any reason to pay close attention to the way that language is actually spoken, for a wide range of communications. Like many aspects of human being and human behavior, the impact of our unconscious knowledge of language is much greater than our conscious knowledge of it, so the facts about language that are immediately accessible to the average person only relate partly to the consideration of what the language is and how it is used.
In print advertisement text provides information about the product, and more importantly, provides a connection to the image to build a persuasive communications of the core message. Apart from the descriptive information about the product, the text also serves the purpose of catching the reader's attention, as well as (typically) short phrases that act as a kind of slogan, and finally the name of the company and/or the name of the product.
Relevance is a primary concept in understanding advertisements considering all aspects of human communication. Every advertisement is interesting from the perspective of relevance. A seminal research work on use of language in advertising made the observations that much natural communication does not involve sequences of totally directly informative expressions, or questions followed by literal answers. However, speakers and listeners in a conversation each assume that the others are rational and cooperative participants, and therefore conversation moves forward as each listener finds the relevance of what was just said. Also, it is sometimes the case that the intended relevance in an advertisement is not fully clear and mostly in such cases the advertisement is visually led.
In the practice of advertising, the professionals pose the question: How can products be differentiated by means other than performance claims alone? Here involves the strategy to connect the 'Product' image to the image of 'You' (the consumer). The value of going beyond the Product to You includes taking product positioning 'beyond logic, and into the realm of emotion', and building 'product relevance and product personality'. The advertising professionals argue that advertising works best when the head says, 'I get it.' and the gut says, 'I like it.' The goal is to determine the best 'product' image, the best 'you' image, to execute the connection between the two, and, to avoid the obvious.
In a research conducted by a company showed consumer patterns and preferences in order to determine the best way of presenting the product, and the best way to make a connection to the consumer. The analysis argued that the key consumer attitude is the need for control, and so their advertisements aim at providing benefits for the consumer in terms of providing control and enhancing consumer attitudes.
Think about the way that hair is portrayed in advertisements for hair products: either immaculately styled, or free-flowing and in motion. The styled image is used in advertisements that connote (a woman, typically) getting herself ready to socialize; the free-flowing image connotes freedom in life: freedom from worries about hair, freedom to travel, freedom of expression. To take another example, cigarette advertising typically associates the product with different cultural contexts: the relationship image of WILLS is very familiar. Other types of context are quiet, individual settings, or general social fun situations.
When you see a complete advertisement, you get a certain kind of meaning for the image, within the overall context that the advertisement provides. It may seem as though the image was 'made for' that particular advertisement. However, a moment's thought will let you realize that, to a certain extent, any image can have any meaning. The text of an advertisement is primarily the extra information that guides the reader to a particular interpretation of the whole, and thereby a particular interpretation of the image. There could be many ways to interpret the image that we see, but the anchorage i.e. the texts such as caption that provides relevance to the reader and points us to a relatively specific meaning.
Discussing briefly about the use of words we know that each word has two definitions, the denotative and the connotative. The denotative meaning is basically the dictionary meaning, the one that almost anyone can understand who speaks or desires to speak the language . However, of greater importance, particularly in advertising, is the connotative definition, the definition each individual conjures up in his or her mind in response to hearing or reading the word. That definition can be denotative in effect, but strictly individual.
For example, take the word 'chair'. It has a denotative meaning: a piece of furniture designed for one person to sit upon. Anybody can point at such a piece of furniture and the audience will respond with 'chair' (or whatever word means 'a piece of furniture designed for one person to sit upon' in their language). In connotative meaning they will imagine what they consider a chair. It could be a desk chair, a wing chair, a dining room chair, or whatever image appears before the mind's eye representing to that person a 'chair'. This is not a specific image common to all, but a general concept dependent on the individual. This is why people use modifiers like adjectives and adverbs: they narrow the general concept to one specific to the speaker's intent.
There's famous story of the end of World War II,when the Allies force sent a message to the Japanese demanding surrender and the Japanese responded with the word 'mokusatsu', which translates as either 'to ignore' or 'to withhold comment'. The Japanese meant that they wished to withhold comment, to discuss and then decide. The Allies translated mokusatsu as the Japanese deciding to ignore the demand for surrender. The Allies therefore ended the war by dropping the bomb and transforming the world we live in forever.
The main copy of advertising language usually applies words from a restricted sub-set of English---common words, often with some emotional as well as literal value. In advertisements aimed at teenagers, the pronouns 'you' and 'he/him' are highly frequent. In other advertising domains, we can find some interesting contrasts in the use of pronouns. From the point of view of a practicising linguist of how language is used in advertising here 's list of words used in advertising :
The twenty most frequent adjectives: 1. New 2. good/better/best 3. Free 4. Fresh 5. Delicious 6. Full 7. Sure 8. Clean 9. Wonderful10. Special11. Crisp 12. Fine 13. Big 14. Great 15. Real 16. Easy 16. Bright 18. Extra 19. Safe 20. Rich
The twenty most frequent verbs: 1. Make 2. Get 3. Give 4. Have 5. See 6. Buy 7. Come 8. Go 9. Know 10. Keep 11. Can 12. Look 13. Need 14. Love15. Use16. Feel 17. Like 18. Choose 19. Start 20. Taste
As just discussed why the difference between the denotative and connotative definitions of words of such importance? It is because the greatest impact of words comes from using the connotative meanings to affect the audience's emotional response. One reason for this is that you cannot argue away emotions because they do not respond to logic. Thus if you can make your audience agree with your point of view on an emotional level, your competition's logical arguments won't sway them about why they shouldn't feel that way.
Some other applications in advertising:
Abstract word - abstract words are almost entirely defined by their connotation, such as truth, beauty, and justice what the individual feels they mean affecting him or her emotionally.
Concrete words are those that have definite referents. That is, you can point at an example of what you mean by that word. For example, when you say the word 'chair,' you can point at the concrete item, a chair, to clarify your meaning to your listener. Concrete words have definite denotative meanings, and often have weak emotional connotations.
Fuzzy words are those that have no concrete referents, for which there is no object that can be pointed at to clarify what the speaker means. Fuzzy words are virtually all connotation, with their denotative meanings dependent on who is defining them or can mean whatever you think they mean, and thus can mean different things to different people.
An effective use of words often used in advertising is using logical fallacies. These fallacies, 'tricks of the trade,' are based as they are on word choice and syntax rather than evidence.
The usual way to create the tricks of the trade is by mixing concrete and fuzzy words, denotative and connotative meanings. Fuzzy words are particularly useful, since it is possible for the copywriter to mean one thing by a word, knowing all the while that the average reader will assume the meaning is something totally different. For example, 'made inUSAorJapanorChina' is a fuzzy phrase. It seems to be saying that the product is constructed of parts built in that particular country, put together by its citizens working in a factory of that country..
Weasel words are those words that are used into a sentence that change the actual meaning of the sentence while leaving an impression that is different. It's the easiest way to avoid having to take any responsibility for anything you say, or seem to say. For example, the sentence 'Our canned corn is as good as fresh cooked corn.' The impression given is that the canned corn is as good (whatever that means) as corn on the cob right off the stalk. However, the phrase contains a weasel word: 'cooked'. Thus, the sentence actually says that the canned corn is as good as corn that has been cooked; now you need to cook it again to serve it. Note the sentence does not say that the canned corn is as good as fresh corn; it's as good as fresh cooked corn.
A dangling comparative is a statement which seems to be comparing one thing to another, but in actuality never actually states what the thing being compared is being compared to. What generally happens is that the comparison is left up to the audience to complete. For example, 'Our tires stop 25% faster.' Note that the statement never says what the tires stop faster than. The audience would naturally expect it to be other tires, and would mentally finish the statement 'Our tires stop 25% faster than other tires.'
Buzz words are words that seem to say something, but what? They are extremely popular in advertising. For example, a major word is 'crisp' when applied to soft drinks or wine. What does this word mean? That the drink crackles like broken glass when you drink it? You chew it like potato chips?
Guilt by Association (a sort of association fallacy) - in which you attribute characteristics to someone or something based merely on the society they keep. In advertising, guilt by association is usually a positive statement about the product rather than a negative one. That is, the associations are positive rather than negative. An appeal to emotion and emotion is a potential fallacy. For example, a product must be good because it is associated with good things or people: a car must be good because race driver has one; a sports drink must be good because a sports star drinks it; a brand of make-up must be good because a top model wears it. Again, the quality must be there, but that it keeps good company doesn't prove its value.
So as I initially put the question whether advertising language is normal or not it may be stated that the unusual aspects of language that we sometimes find in advertising can be fruitfully considered to be examples of 'artful deviations'. Advertising is truly the business of creativity, and so what creative possibilities one's language allows justifies how much advertising goes beyond the boundaries of that language.