Advertising Discourse

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Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses 13 (2000): 67-88

Text World Creation in Advertising Discourse

Laura Hidalgo Downing Universidad Autónoma, Madrid
lhidalgo@bosque.sdi.uam.es

ABSTRACT This article explores the way in which text worlds are created in advertising discourse by analysing linguistic choices and features of context which are crucial in the determination of specific relations between sender(s) and target audience(s), in particular, deixis and frame knowledge. The argument is that a textworld model is particularly adequate for the description of the way in which advertising discourse is processed in an active, dynamic, context-dependent way. In this process, addressees reconstruct the world projected in the discourse according to their own cultural and personal knowledge from the linguistic and visual clues provided in the advertisement. 1. Introduction The creative potentiality of advertising as a discourse type which plays with the evocation of imaginative situations has been pointed out recently by several authors (see, for example, Cárter and Nash, 1990, Cook, 1992,1994, Semino, 1997). Thus, Semino has observed that "advertising is a genre where the setting up of vivid contexts and discourse situations is often crucial to the achievement of the text producers' goals" (1997: 53). Indeed, some authors have observed the similarities between certain types of advertising and literary writing, in that both discourse types créate fictional worlds in order to pursue a communicative purpose; this must be partly due to the fact that many present-day advertisements are less concerned with the listing of "objective properties of things", than in linking "the product to some other entity, effect or person..., creating a fusión which will imbue the characterless product with desirable properties" (Cook, 1992: 105). Thus, the advertisement projects imaginary situations or worlds which invite the addressee to identify

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Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses

with the desirable properties displayed in the ad and thus ultimately invites the addressee to buy the product (see, for example, Campos Pardillos, 1995). Tbis article explores how fictional worlds are created in advertising discourse by analysing linguistic cholees and features of context which are crucial in the determination of specific relations between sender(s) and target audience(s), in particular, deixis and frame knowledge. Although advertising discourse establishes complex relations between textual and visual components of ads, this article focuses on the textual aspeets and makes only some general references to visual information, since a detailed analysis of the visual aspeets would require a different approach.' 1.1. Linguistic choices, contexts and worlds Before going further, it is necessary to explain briefly the concepts of linguistic choice, context and world, since they are at the basis of the discussion which follows. The notion of linguistic choice is crucial in functional linguistics (see, for example, Halliday, 1973, 1994): choices made in discourse at the different linguistic levéis (lexis, morphology, syntax, phonology) are significant and determine the creation of different meanings. These different meanings are processed contextually and the adequacy of a given message will depend on the relation between the linguistic choices made and the features of context; a standard definition of context includes the following information: CONTEXT - the immediate situational context: the physical context the knowledge brought in by the participants in the interaction the language itself - the socio-cultural context. A crucial aspect of context is thus the kind of relationship that is established between the participants in an interaction, a relationship that is determined by features such as age, social status, personal relations, background knowledge, etc. These features are always present in the creation of situations in...
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