ELSEVIER Journal of Pragmatics 29 (1998) 155-171
The noun phrase in advertising English*
Fonds Gustave Guillaume, Ddpartement de langues et linguistique, Facult~ des Lettres, Pavillon Charles-de Koni.~ck, Universit~ Laval, Quebec G1K 7P4, Canada Received 17 August 1995; revised version 7 April 1997
The purpose of this paper is to give a formal description of two unusual features of the noun phrase in English print advertising: its ability to operate as an independent clause in all areas of an ad - headline, subhead, signature line and text - and its complex premodifying structures. Premodification in the noun phrase is characterized by the abundant use of comparative and superlative adjectives and of colourful compounds, and by the tendency to place the product (or trade) name in first or early position in lengthy designations. This last, unusual feature disrupts the traditional word-order of premodifying adjectives in the noun phrase. Examples selected for analysis are chiefly from current (1993-1996) Canadian and American newspapers and magazines.
This paper examines various features of the noun phrase in English print advertising, more specifically, the noun phrase's ability to operate as an independent construction in the headline, signature line and body copy (i.e. text) of an ad, and its complex and often bizarre premodification structures. I am primarily interested in presenting a formal description of advertising language, rather than a semantic description, although an overlap of the two is somewhat unavoidable at times. I will first investigate the noun phrase'!; status as an independent clause in advertising English, and will then analyse its unusual structural features - more specifically, the complexity of the pre-modifying part. Though some theories on the word-order of adjectives are touched upon, the aim of the present paper is not to incorporate my observations in the framework of a specific or general linguistic theory. This study attempts chiefly to bring to ligh,E specific 'disjunctive '~ uses of the noun phrase in * I am grateful to Walter Hirtle, Patr:ick Duffley and two anonymous reviewers for the Journal of Pragmatics for their ideas and insightful comments. Any errors are my own responsibility. The terms 'disjunctive' and 'discursive' are from Leech (1966). 'Discursive style' designates the type of English prescribed by traditional grammars, and 'disjunctive style' is characterized as one displaying the unusual features typical to contemporary advertising English, e.g. the use of phrases as independent clauses. 0378-2166/98/$19.00 © 1998 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved PH S037 8 - 2 1 6 6 ( 9 7 ) 0 0 0 5 3-2
s. Rush / Journal of Pragmatics 29 (1998) 155-171
Canadian and American print advertising. Thus the main purpose of the syntactic analyses in the present paper is to highlight peculiarities of structure encountered in advertising English. Examples selected for analysis are mainly from current (1993-1996) Canadian and American newspapers and magazines. I have also supplemented my data, when necessary, with examples listed in Advertising slogans of America (Sharp, 1984). Finally, though the focus of Leech's 1966 study, English in advertising, is mainly British television advertising, it has nonetheless proved to be an invaluable source for my research.
2. The noun phrase with independent status
A major difference observed between traditional English grammar and advertising English is the frequent use of the noun phrase as an independent clause in advertising English. This grammatical divergence is particularly noticeable when used in advertising headlines 2 (though it is not restricted to headlines as we shall see below) as the following examples illustrate: (1) The Art of Writing. (Mont Blanc pens) (2) The after dinner Bar-Be-Que. (Cool Whip whipping cream) (3) Every face. Every day. (Clinique cosmetics) By...