Masarykova univerzita Filozofická fakulta Katedra anglistiky a amerikanistiky

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Masarykova univerzita

Filozofická fakulta
Katedra anglistiky a amerikanistiky

FF AJ Anglický jazyk

PhDr. Katarína Nemčoková
Disertační práce

Školitelka: prof. PhDr. Ludmila Urbanová, CSc.


I hereby declare that I worked on this thesis independently using only the sources listed in references.



I owe my deepest gratitude to my supervisor, prof. PhDr. Ludmila Urbanová, CSc. Her expertise, constant scholarly and personal encouragement, motivating support and patience enabled me to write this dissertation. She has been a teacher who every student longs to meet in the course of their studies.

My special thanks belong to Gregory Jason Bell, my dear friend and colleague, for his invaluable editorial comments and language supervision.

I would also like to thank to Juraj Hrúz for his acute observations, challenging discussions and help with statistics.

Finally, my endless gratitude belongs to my wonderful support team – my dear family and friends, who always seem to do the right things.


Introduction 8

2 Notions and Concepts of Advertising Communication 13

2.1 Categories within the Genre of Advertisements 15

2.2 Categories of Product Consumer Ads 16

2.2.1 Categories Based on Media of Distribution 16

2.2.2 Categories Based on the Targeted Recipients 16

2.2.3 Categories Based on the Marketing Techniques 17

2.3 Corpus Description 19

2.4 The Context of Advertising Communication 24

2.4.1 The Conjunctures of Advertising Communication 25

2.4.2 The Structure of an Advertising Message 29

2.4.3 The Goal of Advertising Communication 33

2.4.4 The Sender of the Advertising Message 39

2.4.5 The Recipient of the Advertising Message 41

2.4.6 The Sender and the Recipient in the Social Power Context 42

2.4.7 Magazines as the Channel of Advertising Communication 44

2.4.8 Display Product Consumer Ads as a Sub-genre 47

3 Mental Space as a Common Interpretive Principle 49

4 Storytelling as a Discourse Strategy 52

4.1 Advertising Stories 55

4.1.1 Fictional Stories 55

4.1.2 Hinted Stories 58

4.1.3 True Account Stories 64

4.1.4 Plot-lines Conclusion 74

4.2 Storytelling Cues 75

4.2.1 Time Sequencing of Events as a Storytelling Cue 76

4.2.2 Characters as Storytelling Cues 77

4.2.3 Location 83

4.3 Cues Conclusion 84

5 Intertextuality as a Discourse Strategy 85

5.1 The Phenomenon of Intertextuality 85

5.1.1 Genre and Voice in Intertextual References 86

5.2 The Functions of Intertextuality 88

5.2.1 Intertextuality and Associations in Mental Space 88

5.2.2 Intertextuality and Products in a New Context 89

5.3 Types of Intertextuality 90

5.4 Intertextuality in Print Advertising 91

5.4.1 Illustration-Depicted Intertextuality 91

5.4.2 Mass Culture Intertextuality 100

5.4.3 Non-Specific Multigeneric Intertextuality 106

5.4.4 Multigeneric Intertextuality Scale 114

5.4.5 Heteroglossic Intertextuality 117

5.5 Concluding Remarks on Intertextuality in Ads 126

6 Metaphor as a Discourse Strategy 127

6.1 Metaphor as a Cognitive Device 127

6.1.2 Functions of Metaphors 127

6.1.3 Presence of Metaphors in Printed Ads 128

6.1.4 Metaphors Used as a Discourse Strategy in Advertising 129

6.1.5 Creating and Filling the Mental Space with Metaphors 130

6.2 Metaphors Used as a Discourse Strategy 132

6.2.1 Distribution in the Corpus under Investigation 133

6.2.2 Revealing Metaphors 134

6.2.3 Ideological Metaphors 154

6.3 Conclusion on Metaphor as a Discourse Strategy 158

7 Overlapping Discourse Strategies 159

7.1 Storytelling and Intertextuality 160

7.2 Storytelling and Metaphor 162

7.3 Intertextuality and Metaphor 166

7.4 Storytelling, Intertextuality and Metaphor 169

8 Statistical Summary 175

9 Conclusion 179

9.1 Functioning of Storytelling, Intertextuality and Metaphor as Discourse Strategies 179

9.2 The Principle of Undercoding 180

9.3 Power Relations in Advertising Discourse 180

9.4 Strategies Revisited 181

9.4.1 Storytelling 183

9.4.2 Intertextuality 185

9.4.3 Metaphor 188

9.5 Hypotheses Revisited 190

Bibliography 192

Corpus Material 201


Appendix I: Glossary of Terms 203

Appedix II: Corpus of Ads (Textual Parts) 213

Appendix III: Corpus of Ads (Full Ads) 263

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

(T. S. Eliot: Little Gidding (V), No. 4 of “Four Quartets”)


Discourse is language at work. Advertising discourse, which is the focal point of this dissertation, has a specific social setting and its influence on events in society is profound. Fairclough in his study of discourse as a tool of power sees the relationship of language and society as internal and dialectical. He stresses three principles that determine the relationship of language and society: “Firstly, … language is a part of society, and not somehow external to it. Secondly, … language is a social process. And thirdly, … language is a socially conditioned process, conditioned that is by other (non-linguistic) parts of society” (1989, 22).
Advertising discourse inevitably involves the conditions of its social setting; that is both of its production and interpretation. This is where the dissertation positions itself: it deals with advertising discourse in printed ads, as determined by its social environment. As discourse is also a social practice, the participants in this practice create the critical viewpoint of the study. Due to its social embedding, discourse in the context of advertising reflects current social norms, values and trends and serves as a window through which these may be seen, described and understood. Cook (2001, 69) in his thorough description of the discourse of advertising, adds: “Internalized meaning is inseparable from the language which handles it, [so] it can hardly be said to be internal at all, for language is realized outside the individual in interaction with others. Our very identity may be outside ourselves, in our interaction with others”.
Cook recounts the Saussurean view of discourse study: “The study of a message involves three areas – the psychological, the textual and the physical […] – and the relationship between these areas” (2001, 68). In an attempt to provide a balanced analysis of instances of advertising discourse, this dissertation combines the mapping of the physical environment of printed advertising; the mapping of the participants of respective advertising communication together with their motives, needs and desires; and the analysis of specific discourse devices operating in advertising messages. These are inevitably determined by the setting and the participants.
Advertising in the brisk times of present-day consumerism is a developing genre. The forms and means of advertising communication are changing rapidly. The changes, novelties and irregularities in the discourse of advertising seem to be its major attributes. Wilmshurst and Mackay (1999, 195), taking a marketing and ad-creating perspective, list two aspects of good advertising:

rule 1 There are no rules.

rule 2 There may be exceptions to rule 1.

However, despite the fact that no rules guide the ads creation, it seems viable to observe and interpret the language strategies explored in ads as trends. The trends seem to be the invariables behind the motifs of ad creators and interpretive mechanisms of ad recipients.

As potential consumers, recipients are the ultimate driving force of frequent changes occurring in forms and contents of advertising discourse. Despite the seeming one-sidedness of the advertising communication, this dissertation sees recipients as active participants, the co-authors of the messages who enable the power of persuasion to work. Also, the recipients are learners and, with time, become more mature and careful interpreters. They grow aware of the power hidden in the discourse and naturally attempt to resist. In connection with maturing recipients Coulmas (2005, 5) points out that learning implies changes, which is another valid reason for the instability of the advertising genre. In the instability of discourse environment, propelled by the constant changes of society as such, the analysis of advertising discourse may reveal the actual position of the advertiser and the ad recipient, uncover the discourse strategies that are implemented in order to advance the functioning of marketing strategies for the time being, and forecast the trends for the near future.
Within advertising as a relatively new and constantly developing genre, printed ads in magazines represent the tradition-bearing form. This is directly linked with the reputation of magazines as a traditional mass medium in modern consumer-oriented society. Their long history as a social phenomenon reaches back to 1731 when Gentleman's Magazine, the first periodical using the term “magazine” was introduced (WFMA 2011). The 300 years of existence and enduring present-day popularity despite the threat of omnipresent electronic media mark the stability and trust which the readers seem to place in magazines as a source of information, learning and entertainment. They seem to be a solid, tangible base in an otherwise unreliable electronic information age. According to the Magazines: The Medium of Action (2009/2010) report, this reputation of stability and trust is also transferred to ads appearing in magazines. Their history as an indivisible part of magazines is the history of modern-day print advertising itself: the first ads integrated into the article pages of magazines date back to the 1890s. By 1910, a mixture of information and advertising on magazine pages became standard (WFMA 2011).
The aim of the research in this dissertation is to map discourse strategies in printed advertising and to disclose possible regularities of their employment. Since advertising is generally an unstable genre, the regularities and trends can be expected to be most noticeable in its traditional and stability-bearing forms and locations. That is the reason why magazine print advertisements comprise the research material for this dissertation.
Magazine print ads promote various categories of items. These differ in goals, target audiences and eventually in marketing means employed. When narrowing the scope of interest to the typical and characteristic elements, tangible goods appear in the center of attention. Unlike rather marginal charity causes, financial services, TV shows and travel destinations, tangible goods seem to reflect the prototypical advertising qualities. To be able to observe the core trends, only magazine ads promoting tangible goods are utilized for this dissertation.
Moreover, the geographical scope is specifically and purposefully limited to mainstream American magazines. The massive consumer market of the U.S.A. is heavily infused with and propelled by advertising; the massive North American media market poses virtually no limits to any element of the advertising context, whether it is the scale of products, the range of consumers or creativity of advertisers. In that way, it hypothetically allows a study of the mainstream - the core in which trends get established and from which they spread to the rest of the world.
The above-specified American magazine tangible product printed ads represent the prototypical features of present-day printed advertising. Within such material the following hypotheses will be tested:

  • Present-day printed advertising shows signs of empowering the recipients. The senders of the advertising messages allot more interpretive space to the recipients and thus lessen their own capacity to rule over the discourse.

  • Discourse strategies which enable recipients to co-create the meaning of the ad message are linked by one common interpretive principle.

  • Storytelling, intertextuality and metaphor are discourse strategies that personalize advertisements; recipients build emotive and attitudinal layers of message meaning.

  • Differences in employing discourse strategies in high-end vs. tabloid magazines reflect different types of advertised products in the two magazine categories.

Chapter 2 (Notions and Concepts of Advertising Communication) maps features related to current printed advertising. Firstly, through an outline of categories of advertising messages it establishes consumer product ads in magazines as a sub-genre sui generis. Based on the classification of ads it provides a description of the corpus which is the basis for later analysis. It also maps the context of advertising communication specifying its conjunctures, structure of an ad and goals of the communication. Marketing strategies applied by advertising experts to sell different categories of goods are described as mirror-images of discourse strategies detectable by linguistically-oriented analysis. Ultimately the chapter deals with the participants of the print advertising communication and detects links between the participants and magazines as the medium of communication. The senders and recipients are mapped from the pragmatic perspective as partners in the advertising dialogue, from the sociolinguistic point of view as discourse producers and users, and as power-holders and power-seekers in the society.

The next section of the dissertation focuses on the analysis of the emotion-enhancing and attitude-building discourse strategies employed in magazine ads. It establishes the common interpretive principle along which the strategies allow the recipients to become co-authors of the messages (Chapter 3). In separate chapters it provides analyses of discourse strategies of storytelling (Chapter 4), intertextuality (Chapter 5) and metaphor (Chapter 6) and uncovers their capacity to allow recipients to co-create the ad meaning. Each chapter studies how the interpretive principle of recipient’s mental space is explored with respective discourse strategies and how cues evoking the mental space operate to deliver the desired outcomes. At the same time, the chapters document how discourse strategies relate to advertising strategies and to the promotion of specific types of products.
Chapter 7, which is the closing analytical chapter, points out the overlaps of the three strategies and studies their co-employment in individual ads. Finally, the Conclusion (Chapter 8) summarizes the outcomes of the analyses and evaluates the findings with respect to the stated hypotheses.
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