Characteristics of persuasive language
comparative analysis of two texts
Introduction and literature review
Kress and Leeuwen (1990: 2-3) state that all kinds of texts ‘today involve a complex interplay of written text, images and other graphic elements’ which together can define ‘visual literacy’. In addition, Goddard (2002: 5) argues that we are so used to being surrounded by advertisements that we do not think about ‘its nature as a form of discourse, as a system of language use’. In persuasive texts, Kress and Leeuwen (1990: 17) remind us that two interactive participants are involved: the author and the reader. To persuade readers, authors of persuasive texts use features of verbal texts and visual texts. After having discussed these different characteristics, I will use some of them to compare a famous World War II American propaganda poster (cf Text A) with an anti-smoking advertising (cf Text B).
Firstly, the meaning of verbal texts and their connection with the context - referring to everything out of the text - and the co-text - directly surrounding the text - are crucial to understand the producer’s purposes. Use of words, verbal phrases or noun phrases as slogans in advertising is very frequent. The persuasive power of marketing texts, as Culpeper et al (2009: 454-455) highlight, depend on a ‘clever use of language’. Producers often play with different linguistic features such as spelling, morphology, lexical choice, semantics and pragmatics. Mullany and Stockwell (2010: 11) add that the blending between the two last features called ‘deixis’ and defining what is pointed out in a text is largely used as well to persuade. Furthermore, marketing teams appeal to our background knowledge using concepts such as ‘intertextuality’. Goddard (2002: 51) explains that ‘intertextuality’ occurs when words of a text are based on another text already known. That means that readers have to remember the origin of this text to understand its aim. Mullany and Stockwell (2010: 13) add that our previous knowledge is also sought in the use of conceptual metaphors such as ‘Time is Money’ that are familiar to readers. Another concept referring to our general knowledge is called ‘presupposition’. Goddard (2002: 38) defines ‘presupposition’ as ‘ideas taken for granted’.
Secondly, to support verbal texts, marketing teams use many different visual concepts. One of them is called ‘image act’. Kress and Leeuwen (1990: 27) report that ‘image act’ is the means used by producers to invite viewers to enter into a relationship with them. The most popular ‘image acts’ are demands and offers. To make a demand, agents will use pronouns like ‘you’ or ‘we’ and will also likely use ‘grammatical moods’. Kress and Leeuwen (1990: 18) explain that these concepts provide the means for asking a question, making a statement, giving a command or making offers. Mullany and Stockwell (2010: 76) underline that for instance, ‘imperatives give a command’ whereas ‘interrogatives ask a question about the world’. In addition to these linguistic features, authors will persuade through graphic means. The text will be written in different fonts, with letters of different sizes or in bold to emphasis some words. Many other graphic concepts will be used such as colours, ‘framing’, which Kress and Leeuwen (1990: 31) define as a ‘window of the world’, vectors, perspective, mental processes, metaphors, euphemisms which are words used in place of unpleasant ones, hyperboles which exaggerate an idea, or angles. For instance, according to Kress and Leeuwen (1990: 32, 40), the vertical angle illustrates power while the horizontal angle is used to represent involvement. Symbols are also mostly utilized to persuade.
Comparative analysis of texts
Before describing the co-text and the context of the two texts, let us describe their social and historical contexts. Text A is one of the famous American campaign posters of World War II. It is easy to...
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