chapter  30
15 Pages

Englishes in advertising

ByAzirah Hashim

This chapter begins with an introduction to English in advertising and an overview of relevant literature in the field. Research on advertisements from different parts of the world focusing on language choice, code-switching and the role of English is then surveyed. Examples of print and radio advertisements from a specific country – Malaysia – are provided and the linguistic features discussed. Finally, a summary of the chapter is provided. Advertising in English began with an advertising supplement appearing in the London

Gazette as far back as 1666 and over a period of a hundred years the number and style of advertisements grew. Slogans and trade names then became famous in the nineteenth century (Graddol 1997). Advertising grew increasingly popular at the end of the nineteenth century owing to social and economic factors in the more industrialized countries. Mass production led to an increase in competition as companies vied for consumers and started using printing techniques to get the extra edge. Publishers in the United States realized that income from advertising would lead to lower selling prices for their publications, a realization that soon spread. More and more publications allocated pages of a magazine and newspaper to advertising, and today, ‘two thirds of a modern newspaper, especially in the USA, may be devoted to advertising’ (Graddol 1997: 85). In an increasingly globalized world, issues regarding advertising are becoming more

and more important. Companies that wish to reach out to potential consumers have to expand to other countries and need to use strategies that are successful for any one market. The effectiveness of advertisements has led to the spread of advertising all over the world and a significant amount of this advertising uses English in some form. Indeed, advertising in just about every city and town can be considered ‘one of the most noticeable global manifestations of English language use’ (Graddol 1997: 86). As language is often used to sell products along with the visuals used to support the words, the choice of words, phrases or sentences is therefore crucial. Language is used to capture the attention of the readers/listeners and persuade them to purchase a product. Phonology, lexis and grammar can all play a role. In countries where English is not the

first language, English use in advertising is still very noticeable. According to Duncan and Ramaprasad (1995: 55), ‘advertising for multinational products uses standardisation most often in strategy (the creative selling proposition), less often in execution (actual elements and their structure in an ad), and least often in language.’ Since advertising offers insights into the cultures that make up a country or a region, a study of the types of languages used can be extremely informative. Unlike naturally occurring data, advertising data responds to market forces or aims to

influence attitudes and perceptions. In outer circle countries, local varieties of English and the vitality of localized forms are often emphasized in advertisements. Standard English is also commonly used in radio advertisements, often representing the ‘master’s voice’. Given the current multiplicity of English, researchers are interested in finding a coherent picture of English in the world today. Approaches to English have included: the World Englishes approach, which looks at different national varieties of English; the lingua franca approach, which argues that English is a language that is primarily used between nonnative speakers and is thus one which no one owns; the dynamic approach, which explores the historical, social and ecological factors that have shaped Englishes; and the habitat approach, which sees English embedded inside complex language habitats within which its form, functions and status vis-à-vis other languages are determined (Kachru 1982/ 1992; Leitner 1992, 2004; Schneider 2003, 2007; Jenkins 2007; Kirkpatrick 2007). Many countries have bilingual or multilingual populations creating additional complexity

when it comes to advertising in these countries. Advertisers have to take into account the languages that are spoken by the people in any particular country and the choice of language or languages for advertising. Many of these advertisements opt for either one of the main languages spoken or use a mixture of two languages, and in some cases three or more. Advertisers use the ‘think and act both global and local at the same time approach’ (Bhatia 2000: 161), and integrate languages in advertisements for various reasons. English is commonly used to suggest sophistication and modernity and a cosmopolitan identity, as will be shown in the review of literature below. In Asia, English is widely used in the mass media, in print, radio and television. Many

Asian countries also see a high amount of code-switching and code-mixing, especially in informal domains. The role of English in advertising is extremely common, especially in the countries which can be considered outer circle countries, but increasingly so in expanding circle countries. For example, outer circle countries like Malaysia and Singapore have many advertisements in English and they often mix standard and localized varieties of English with the local languages. Expanding circle countries like Japan and Thailand now increasingly use English as an additional language in advertising. The growth of the consumer culture (and also other parts of the world) has had a great impact on the development of advertising strategies and language. According to Graddol (2006), much of the development of an urban, middle-class population throughout the world has made English an important symbol of its growth.