The Linguistics of Consumerism - LAN00049H

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  • Department: Language and Linguistic Science
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Peter Sells
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2019-20

Module summary

This module investigates the design of advertising, the naming of products, and the marketing of products, with a focus on magazine advertisements and product packaging, using concepts of analysis from linguistics. Almost all research on advertising has been conducted without such a linguistic foundation and/or is entirely quantitative social science research. This module applies knowledge of linguistics (in particular pragmatics, but also phonetics and sound symbolism, syntax and ellipsis) and concepts in linguistics (e.g., signifier and signified, given and new information, presupposition, relevance) to the study of advertising design and advertising language, and of naming and marketing.

Related modules

Co-requisite modules

  • None

Prohibited combinations

  • None

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2019-20

Module aims

This module investigates the design of advertising, the naming of products, and the marketing of products, with a focus on magazine advertisements and product packaging, using concepts of analysis from linguistics. Almost all research on advertising has been conducted without such a linguistic foundation and/or is entirely quantitative social science research. This module applies knowledge of linguistics (in particular pragmatics, but also phonetics and sound symbolism, syntax and ellipsis) and concepts in linguistics (e.g., signifier and signified, given and new information, presupposition, relevance) to the study of advertising design and advertising language, and of naming and marketing.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, you will:

  • have a good understanding of how knowledge of linguistics and concepts in linguistics can inform the study of advertising, in terms of advertising and marketing materials, advertising images, and the relations between them;
  • be able to critically evaluate non-specialist writing on a cultural topic (advertising) and consider its value from an informed perspective;
  • have an understanding of the principles of product naming and marketing, and of design (text, images) of magazine advertising, and be able to apply these to novel cases;
  • have further developed expository writing skills.

Module content

The format of the module will be a combination of lectures and seminars. Lectures will deliver the core linguistic, analytical, and historical content. The main themes will be: an overview of the different linguistic concepts involved, the design of advertising, the intent of advertising, product naming, and product marketing. In seminars, students will work on the practical details of analysis. Seminars will focus on formative work around the concepts of analysis, and the various kinds of reasoning which go into the analysis.

Assessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
2 X 1500 word essays
N/A 60
Essay/coursework
Mini-report
N/A 10
Essay/coursework
Mini-report
N/A 10
Essay/coursework
Mini-report
N/A 20

Special assessment rules

None

Reassessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
2 X 1500 word essays
N/A 60
Essay/coursework
Mini-report
N/A 10
Essay/coursework
Mini-report
N/A 10
Essay/coursework
Mini-report
N/A 20

Module feedback

Written feedback on the first 2 summative assignments will be provided for the students before the following summative is due. Comments on formative work throughout term, including dedicated seminar discussion of the 3 formatives and the 1st summative.

Indicative reading

  • Leech, G.N. (1966) English in Advertising: A Linguistic Study of Advertising in Great Britain. London: Longmans.
  • Sells, Peter. 2009. Pragmatics of Advertising. In Louise Cummings (ed.), The Pragmatics Encyclopedia. London: Routledge, 5-7.
  • Vestergaard, T. and Schrøder, K. (1986) The Language of Advertising. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Important additional texts:

  • Colapinto, J. 2011. Famous Names. New Yorker, 3/10/11.
  • Freedman, J. and D. Jurafsky. 2012. Authenticity in America: Class Distinctions in Potato Chip Advertising. Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture 11, 46-54.
  • Grice, H.P. 1975 Logic and conversation. In P. Cole & J. Morgan (eds) Syntax and Semantics 3: Speech Acts. New York: Academic Press.
  • Johnson, Chris. 2012. Microstyle: The Art of Writing Little. Norton.
  • Klink, R. 2009. Gender differences in new brand name response. Marketing Letters 20, 313–326.
  • Koteyko, I. 2015. The Language of Press Advertising in the UK: A Multi-dimensional Study. Journal of English Linguistics 43, 259-283.
  • Kress, Gunther and Theo van Leeuwen. 2006. Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design. Abingdon: Routledge. Ch. 6, 179-193.
  • Leiss, W. et al. 2005. Social Communication in Advertising. Nelson.
  • Lowrey, L.J. and T. Shrum. 2007. Phonetic Symbolism and Brand Name Preference. Journal of Consumer Research 34, 406-414.
  • Phillips, B. and E. McQuarrie. 2002. The Development, Change, and Transformation of Rhetorical Style in Magazine Advertisements 1954-1999. Journal of Advertising 31, 1-13.
  • Scott, L. 1994. Images in Advertising: The Need for a Theory of Visual Rhetoric. Journal of Consumer Research 21, 252-273.
  • Shimp, Terence A. 2007. Advertising, Promotion, and other aspects of Integrated Marketing Communications. Thomson Higher Education.
  • Sperber, D. and Wilson, D. 1986. Relevance: Communication and Cognition. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.



The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.