Nov 13, 2019 | 08:35 am | 1799
This study is a pragmatic analysis of the use of English in selected billboard adverts of products consumed or used in Nigeria. Ten textual samples will be analyzed using the pragmasociolinguistic concept; a concept which examines the pragmatic, social and linguistic contexts with generated advertisers’ choice of linguistic elements. The study observes that; illocutionary forces (speech acts) are intentionally directed towards the advertisers’ communicative intentions; in commercial adverts, language is mainly a persuasive instrument; in their choices of words, advertisers rely on the mutual knowledge they have with their audience. As it will be generally noted in this study, presuppositions are potent in commercial bill-board adverts.
1.2 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
The word ‘pragmatics’ was derived from the Greek word ‘pragma’ which means ‘deed’ or ‘action’. Pragmatics has emerged as a reaction against the hitherto-purely formalist approach to language study; an approach which had deprived man of the most outstanding of his ability; the ability to negotiate a meaning to the world instead of extracting a meaning that was already there. The emergence of pragmatics has caused the replacement of the idea of ‘linguistic competence’ with ‘communicative competence’. Linguists who have championed the cause of a context-dependent layer of linguistic study included: Austin, Lyons, Searle, Leech and Halliday. A pragmatic analysis of language use in advertisement is an investigation of how language has functioned in communication between the advertiser and his audience. This has incorporated the fields of linguistics, philosophy, communication theories, psychology and marketing. Leech has cited ‘that English of advertising has aroused though hardly engaged the interest of linguists’. It is understood that the pragmatic analysis of language is the investigation into that aspect of meaning which was derived not from the formal properties of words and constructions, but from the way in which utterances were used and how they are related to the context in which they were uttered. According to Leech (1983: 57), the scope of pragmatics includes:
i) the message being communicated
ii) the participants involved in the message
iii) the knowledge of the world which they share
iv) the deductions to be made from the text on the basis of the context
v) the impact of the non-verbal aspect of interaction on meaning.
However, in this study, the dimensions of language shall be investigated in commercial bill-board adverts by using the tools of pragmatics, evolved by different theorists in the literature: speech acts, (locutionary, illocutionary and perlocutionary acts) presupposition, mutual contextual beliefs, world knowledge, non- verbal communication and cooperative principles.
The study of speech acts (which is the core of pragmatics) has grown appreciably, but from a theoretical perspective in particular. In this study, the theoretical base of speech act study will be extended to practical climes, using textual samples that are probably different from those analyzed in previous studies of language used in advertisements; also, critical comments that appear novel in the literature of pragmatics will be examined.
This study will contend that advertisers are not unaware of the nature of communication; they have known that communication could make or mar society, unite or separate people, foster or destroy ties, promote or hinder patronage. This research will posit that language should be appropriately used in adverts. Advertisers have achieved their illocutionary goals by skilfully manipulating linguistic and para-linguistic elements of communication. For example, advertisers have decided on what constitute captivating, exciting, persuasive and all- embracing language. Many business organizations have failed because of lack of patronage which could be traceable to poor advertising strategies. The consumers or would- be consumers may not be fascinated by certain products, but by the pragmatic use of language (the speech act machinery) in the advertisement of such products. This research effort shall align with the philosophical saying that ‘the word is mightier than the sword’. It has been noted that people have the general belief that the language of advertisement is exaggerative and deceptive. People have claimed that advertisers deliberately manipulate language to achieve intended persuasive effects. However, in this study, it will be shown that advertisement might not be successful if the pragmatics is sacrificed on the altar of persuasive language; advertisers did not just use speech acts to persuade, but have also taken care to adhere strictly to pragmatic matrix.
Man has used language (as evident in commercial adverts), to communicate his individual thoughts and feelings as well as psychological experience. The advertiser, for example, has personal feelings about the taste of the public (he may even have sound knowledge of it) and the desire of the consumer (since he has assumed that the consumer is a rational thinker); a rational thinker would read the advertisement contents on different products and decide which is preferable despite his background knowledge of how deceptive language of adverts could be in the country. Man, being a social animal, interacts inevitably with others in society; he relates both with people and with social institutions. In deciding on advertisement strategies, the advertiser has taken into consideration, the idea of ‘sociology of language’ or ‘sociolinguistics’. The advertiser might not be conscious of these nomenclatures used in linguistics, but they reflect in his advertising strategies. Simply put, advertisers have targeted their adverts at society, using social realities; advertisers have used language to achieve intended effects on the target audience with whom the advertisers have shared same background knowledge. The study has noted that both linguistic and paralinguistic elements are employed by advertisers as illocutionary strategies. For effective advertising, advertisers have employed the norms (formal properties) and pragmatics (individualistic dimensions) of language use as well as other media of communication. Scholars have opined that for a meaningful analysis of texts through a pragmatic-analyst approach, it is necessary to acknowledge the fact that pragmatics, syntax and semantics co-exist. Adding to this observation, Brown and Yule stated that any analytical approach to linguistics, which involves contextual considerations, belongs to that area of study called pragmatics. They commented further on context phenomenon, saying, “the actual context is defined by the period of time and the place where the common activities of speaker and hearer are realized and which satisfy the property of ‘here’ and ‘now’, logically, physically and cognitively’’. We observed that the pragmatic theories of Austin (1962), Grice (1975) Bach and Harnish (1979) as well as Adegbija’s approach (E. Adegbija, Indiana University, USA, Unpublished Ph.D Dissertation) as described below will be useful for a comprehensive analysis in this study.
Austin posited that words count as actions, being that, in uttering certain words in certain contexts, actions are done, as long as the felicity conditions for the performance of such locutionary acts were met by participants of discourse. It has been noted that his classification of speech acts into locutionary, illocutionary and perlocutionary acts will be useful in this study, because such classifications have shown that advertisers’ choice of words have conveyed intended illocutionary forces and have also generated or yielded intended perlocutionary effects on the target audience. Grice has contended that the Cooperative Principle of Conversation, spelt out by maxims of Quality, Quantity, Manner and Relevance generate conversational implicatures, when flouted by participants of discourse. He has submitted also, that besides conversational implicatures, there are conventional implicatures, which are generated from the conventional meanings of words. It has been noted that in billboard adverts, conventional issues are of both immediate and remote relevance to the audience.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The objectives of this research effort are highlighted below:
( 1.) To examine the contextual use of English in selected billboard adverts in Nigeria.
(2. ) It will also look into how the samples of advertisement selected for this study comply with the cooperative principles of pragmatics.
(3.) It will examine the various ways in which advertisements reflect the socio-cultural experience of the consumers and advertisers in a particular context.
(4.) It will show how advertisers effectively or fail to convey their intended messages and information about a product to the consumers with their use of English.
1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
With the rocketing development of technology and commercial economy, the design and types of advertisement vary greatly. In the mean time, the social role that advertisements play attracts more and more attentive eyes in the society. It is clearly seen that advertisement makers exert great effort in the use of language, which becomes more and more delicate, attractive, and offers much for thought. Advertising language, considered as having interactional function, does not merely inform the customers about what is sold, but also to attract the customers’ attention so that an act of purchasing will expectedly follow from the language expression. Thus, it is evident that it is the advertisers’ attempt to establish a good social relationship with the customers.
Therefore, the charming specialty and exquisite form of advertising language contribute considerably to the selling of products. The study and analysis of advertising language, as well, becomes a new item for language learners. This study will mainly focus on the analysis of advertising language from the pragmatic aspect, especially Grice’s cooperative principle. The pragmatic implicature in advertisement use still has many good and typical examples. Through the analysis in the light of the cooperative principle, it is better to understand the advertising language and help develop the design of new and more exquisite advertisements. In the meantime, it can be seen that the implicature of most advertisements can be controlled so as to give consumers enough space to deduct the deep and non-conventional implicatures from the literal semantic meanings.
So far, this is an attempt to achieve a brief but comprehensive introduction of this research work. Having done that, a review of relevant materials, articles and journals relevant to this research topic will be considered in the next chapter.