1. Conceptual Blending
2.1 Starbucks Coffee
2.2 Australia Post
That humans try to understand their environment by studying the available information is common knowledge, but how these processes of analyzing and understanding function within our brain is still a field that has not been entirely investigated, yet. Within the last years the interest of cognitive processes has grown enormously and has led to a whole new field of research. Inside this research field of cognitive grammar the theory of conceptual blending is the most interesting one for me.
In my opinion, blending is an elegant way for creative processes. It illustrates the strong relationship between language and cognition. Furthermore, blends are an effective way to spread a message and to attract attention and curiosity towards an idea or a product. Examples of blends can be found in many sorts of situations, for instance, in cartoons, jokes, poetry or advertisements and there are many more situations which demonstrate the ubiquity of conceptual blending. Within this term paper, however, I want to concentrate on the field of advertisements. I will shortly present important information on conceptual blending and analyze two different ads according to the CB Theory developed by Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner.
While studying and reading books about the topic I realized the crucial role of the recipients. Therefore, I started a survey with four test persons, wondering if all were able to decode the messages. I was also interested in their reaction towards the advertisements. I believe that this information is important when considering the effectiveness of the advertisements. That is why I have included their views and opinions below each analysis.
1. Conceptual Blending
The theory of conceptual blending is described as a general and basic cognitive process which operates in a wide variety of conceptual activities. It was originally devised by Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner and built on the notion of mental spaces. Typically, there are four mental spaces involved in a blend: a generic space, two inputs and a blended space. (cf. Figure 1)The generic space links two or more input spaces by providing abstract information that is common to both inputs. Then the input spaces give rise to selective projection. In other words, the blended space combines elements from both inputs but projects only the information that is required for purpose of understanding. However, it does not simply mix both inputs; it rather sets up a middle space that contains an additional emergent structure which distinguishes the blend from its inputs. One might say that the blended space is more than just the sum of its parts. (cf. Lundmark: 1-3)
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Figure 1. Basic integration network ( Fauconnier and Turner 2002:46)
The process of generating a blend can be summarized according to three general steps: Composition, where elements from both input spaces are combined and new relations are established; Completion, when the generic knowledge is projected into the blend and provides the necessary background frames; and Elaboration, in which the unique structure of the blend is produced. Furthermore, it is interesting to note, that any space in the integration network can undergo modification. In a backward projection the blend alters the input spaces by being projected back into them. However, blends can also become conventionalized within a speech or cultural community. (cf. Evans & Green: 409f)
Blending is not restricted to language. It is very common in all kinds of visual representation as cartoons and advertisements. That’s why I want to turn to visual blends first before dealing with more complex blendings in language. The following example is an advertisement for Starbucks taken from the internet. (cf. appendix 1)
2.1 Starbucks coffee
The dominating part of the advertisement is a huge infusion bag or an IV bag filled with a dark brownish liquid. It is still unused and almost filled to the top. On the upper part of the bag the Starbucks logo can be noticed. Right under it an inscription saying “100% French Roast” is to be seen. Furthermore, there is more information in light print as on the right as on left side of the logo. One can see the “ml” sign and a few numbers. However this writing is hard to decipher and seems to carry no further important information. The background of the advertisement is mainly kept dark. The only visible light-source comes from an artificial light in the back. It evokes a circular light spot and enlightens the bag from behind. As already said a conceptual blend inherits partial structures from input spaces and creates a new meaning. In order to interpret the message one has to know about those input spaces.
The filled, huge bag elicits the idea of the infusion of blood or an intravenous saline solution within a hospital frame. Our common knowledge tells us that an infusion is done by inserting a needle into a patient’s vein and injecting a solution. Furthermore we know that this is usually done when essential body systems are not functioning sufficiently. Due to the fact that the intravenous route is the fastest way to deliver fluids and medications this therapy is therefore a way not only to support or stimulate the bodily functions but even a technique for preserving a patient’s life. While the first input space, the hospital space, deals with medical treatments the second input space refers to drinking coffee and therefore opens up a coffee space.
Starbucks is a multinational coffee company with 3000 stores all around the world. It sells all kinds of drip brewed coffee, espresso-based hot drinks and other potables. The advertisement states that the liquid in the bag is 100% French Roast. If one is familiar with the company one might know that the term French Roast describes the darkest roasted coffee Starbucks offers. It has an intense, blunt and smoky flavor and is said to be Starbucks most popular coffee. (http://www.starbucks.com)
But even people that don’t know about Starbucks might guess that the liquid within the bag contains coffee. The dark brownish color looks just like the popular widely consumed beverage that has such a revitalizing and stimulating effect.
There are quite a few clues that turn the attention of the consumer towards the connections between the input spaces: The infusion or IV bag is neither filled with fresh blood nor with the usual lucent intravenous saline solution but with a dark brownish liquid stated as coffee. However, one does still recognize the shape of the infusion bag and the way it is presented. When comparing the input spaces it is obvious that they have similarities. Within the generic space we find the information about some kind of liquid. Furthermore this liquid has a positive effect on the body. In addition to this, there has to be an agent that is in need for something and an agent that can solve the need by offering the liquid. In the blend we find a possible customer of Starbucks. He appears exhausted, sick and in terms for need. Starbucks takes over the helping part and offers its coffee as a life-saving medicine. The 100% turn into a guaranteed effect. This leads us to construct the following message. When you feel sick or when you are in need of help, Starbucks coffee ensures help and serves as a guarantee life-saver. (cf. Figure 2)