A Linguistic Analysis of Strategies of Argumentation in English Print Ads

Term Paper, 2012

20 Pages, Grade: 1,3



1. Introduction

2. Argumentation Theories
2.1 Formal Argumentation Strategies (Ottmers)
2.1.1. Enthymematic Argumentation
2.1.2. Argumentation Through Exemplification Inductive Example Illustrative Example
2.1.3. Topos
2.2. Content Based Strategies (Janich)
2.2.1. Reference to Product
2.2.2. Reference to Sender
2.2.3. Reference to Recipient

3. Analyses of Strategies of Argumentation in Print Ads
3.1. Method of Analysing
3.2. Analyses
3.2.1. Print Ad 1
3.2.2. Print Ad 2
3.2.3. Print Ad 3

4. Conclusion

Bibliography Appendices

1. Introduction

No matter where we are advertisements are everywhere, but how do people decide which product to buy? Today consumers may choose which toothpaste or shampoo they want to purchase because there is a huge range of brands that offer the same goods, therefore companies have to persuade consumers to buy their product. As a student of linguistics I asked myself how argumentative per- suasion in advertising functions and how it contributes to its effectiveness. I found two very inter- esting approaches by Clemens Ottmers and Nina Janich who determined different argumentation strategies for analysing advertisements.

Although there is a lot of literature dealing with language and advertising, there are only few works concerned with strategies of argumentation in advertising. Since 1945, and especially during the economic miracle, there has been a steady increase of research in the field of language and adver- tising. First works dealing with argumentation and advertising were published in the 1960s (a. i. Haseloff’s classification of structures of argumentations). In the course of years linguists concen- trated more on specific linguistic aspects of advertising and presented first analysing methods. Fur- thermore, they focused on rhetoric figures, strategies of advertising, and on the effects of images. Nowadays, linguistic research concentrates on semiotics and image-text-relations, as well as on intentions, persuasion in advertisements, and TV spots. However, the main problem of linguistic research of advertising is the lack of a fundamental work dealing with language of advertising and its versatility with reference to images and advertising media (cf. Janich 2005: 16).

The aim of this research paper is to prove that Ottmers’ Formal Strategies of Argumentation and Janich’s “Content Based Strategies of Argumentation” provide a comprehensive theoretical basis for analysing strategies of argumentation in advertisements.

To begin with, my thesis will be proved by providing a general overview of Formal and Content Based Strategies of Argumentation in advertising. The chapter “Argumentation Theories” provides an overview of classical Argumentation Theories which serves as theoretical basis for the subse- quent analysis. It is divided into two sub-chapters namely, “Formal Argumentation Strategies” and “Content Based Strategies”. The first sub-chapter comments on different “Formal Argumentation Strategies” and deals with the relation and application to advertisements, whereas the second sub- chapter especially refers to advertising and deals with specific “Content Based Argumentation Strategies” in advertising.

Then, my thesis will be proved by applying the Argumentation Theory to an analysis which will show how Formal Strategies of Argumentation (according to Ottmers’ approach) and Content Based Strategies of Argumentation (according to Janich’s approach) can be applied to analyse print ads.

2. Argumentation Theories

2.1. Formal Argumentation Strategies (Ottmers)

Formal argumentation strategies that are used in advertising can be classified into two types: enthymematic argumentation and exemplary argumentation, which is subdivided into inductive and illustrative examples.

2.1.1. Enthymematic Argumentation

The term enthymeme refers to a pattern of argumentation which consists of three elements: argument, conclusion, and1 generic premise. It is a three-step argumentation procedure “where one can deductively infer from the indisputably general to plausibility of a singular case” (Ottmers 1996: 74). According to Ottmers (cf. Ottmers 1996: 74), in an argumentation the argument is used to make a disputed claim probable and plausible. The argument transfers the contentious statement to a conclusion. This works by using a general principle that Ottmers describes as generic premise. It provides a connector between an argument and a conclusion. This three-step argumentation procedure represents the basic prototype of an enthymeme.

In everyday speech the enthymeme has five characteristics: first of all an enthymeme is not defi- nite in its formal structure. In other words: the element’s order may vary. Secondly, the three elements should not necessarily be made explicit. An enthymeme may be abridged in a way that one or even two elements are not mentioned. In this case the recipient has to fill this gap. Ottmers points out that there are three abridged variations of enthymemes: a variation without a generic premise, a variation with the lack of a conclusion, and a version with the absence of an argument (cf. Ottmers 1996: 75). He also highlights that there can also be an absence of the generic premise and the conclusion at the same time (cf. Ottmers 1996: 75). This variation is typically used in ad- vertising to assure conciseness and briefness. Furthermore, the degree of popularity of a topic de- pends on the degree of abbreviation. Ottmers found that advertisements which deal with an unfa- miliar and complex topic tend to describe argumentation steps in detail, whereas advisements deal- ing with non-contentious statements tend to describe argumentation steps less detailed (cf. Ottmers 1996: 75).

Thirdly, enthymeme argumentation aims plausibility and not at the ultimate truth. Ottmers concludes that an enthymeme is not used in cases of ultimate knowledge but in situations where decisions have to be made. This is why enthymeme argumentation centres on the person to whom an argumentation is addressed to, on his or her educational background as well as on intellectual skills, specific knowledge, and his or her emotional condition (cf. Ottmers 1996: 76). Fourthly, the argument must not be contentious itself because it has to support a contentious statement. Final- ly, enthymeme conclusions are partly based on specific, everyday-logic conclusion procedures and partly on conventionalised procedures that are discussed in rhetorical theory under the notion Topoi. Topoi play an important role concerning plausibility of an enthymeme argumenta- tion. For Ottmers (cf. Ottmers 1996: 78), the inference from an argument to a conclusion must not be chosen arbitrarily. In fact there must be a plausible relation between both constituents.

2.1.2. Argumentation through exemplification

As I already mentioned above, there are two basic forms of argumentation. Among enthymeme Argumentation there is a second formal argumentation strategy namely, argumentation through exemplification. The example was already known by Aristotle as par á deigma and served as a second basic procedure of persuasion. Without mentioning explicitly, Aristotle used two types of examples: the inductive and illustrative example (cf. Ottmers 1996: 81). Since argumentation through exemplification has less persuasive power than enthymeme argumentation, Aristotle recommends using the inductive example only if it is impossible to apply enthymeme argumentation. In contrast, the illustrative example serves as closing words for every enthymeme. Inductive example

With respect to their structure inductive examples and enthymemes share similar features but differ in complexity. The inductive example is often used in situations of contentious generic premises. They do not prove the validity of generic premises but increase plausibility through inductive generalisation (cf. Ottmers 1996: 83). Illustrative example

Although the illustrative example constitutes one of the two types of argumentation through exem- plification strategies it cannot be seen as an independent argumentation procedure. The illustrative example simply serves the purpose of further supporting the claim. Furthermore, it is difficult to differentiate inductive and illustrative examples because it is not always clarified if an example explicitly supports a generic premise or an argument. According to Ottmers investigation (cf. Ottmers 1996: 84), illustrative examples may be identified by expressions like “for example” or “for instance”. If these expressions are not used it is very difficult to distinguish illustrative exam- ples from inductive example. Additionally, it is complicated to differ between enthymeme argu- mentation and argumentation through exemplification as illustrative examples originate from en- thymeme argumentation. However, inductive examples are applied infrequently since it is prob- lematic to create a plausible argumentation with this type of generic premise.

2.1.3. Topoi

As mentioned above Topoi provide a plausible relation between arguments and conclusions. They are crucial for a successful enthymeme argumentation. Furthermore, the quality of a generic prem- ise is of great importance. Ottmers classifies Topoi into two broad types: Topoi based on everyday- logic generic premises and Topoi with conventionalised conclusions. In addition to that, he defines some characteristic features that I will introduce before dealing with the different categories of Topoi (Ottmers 1996: 87).

One important feature of Topoi is dualism:

“On the one hand, they can be defined as formal, context-abstract argumentation schemes, on the other hand, they can be defined as structures which are context-relevant and binding in concrete situations of argumentation” (Ottmers 1996: 88).

Hence, topical dualism can be used for general situations and for concrete situations of argumenta- tion. This means that the effectiveness of Topoi always depends on the “filled” content. On the ba- sis of topical dualism, Ottmers points out (cf. Ottmers 1996: 89) that every Topos is “open” for var- ious argumentation contents and directions. However, he also mentions that different argumenta- tions which are based on the same Topos are not equally adequate for their respective argumenta- tion steps based on the fact of dualism; Argumentation Theory aims to classify Topoi with refer- ence to their formal and content character. In the following two chapters I will outline the sub-types for each group. Topoi based on everyday-logic generic premises

Ottmers classifies the first type as Topoi based on rules of logic (Ottmers 1996: 93). They are not conditioned by knowledge of opinion or experience and have a number of fixed generic premises. Five sub-types can be classified: Topoi from the consequence (cause and effect, reason and con- sequence and means and goal), Topoi from the comparison (different quantities are compared and related to each other: identity or similarity, difference or low degree of similarity and “more or less”, Topoi from the contrast also known as Topoi of non-contradiction (absolute contrast, rela- tive contrast, alternative contrast and semantically incompatible oppositions.), Topoi from the di- vision ( part and whole and species and genus), Topoi from the example (infers from an example to generalities). Topoi with conventionalised conclusions

The second type of Topoi is not based on rules of logic but they function like Topoi that are based on everyday-logic generic premises and rely on conventions. In contrast to everyday-logic generic premises Topoi with conventionalised conclusions are more “open” and depend on knowledge of experience and opinion. This type of Topos is vaguely defined and because of its broadness a clas- sification is very difficult (cf. Janich 2005: 91). Nevertheless, Ottmers sub-divides them into three representative categories: Topoi from the analogy “interrelate contentious statements with similar cases in order to prove validity” (Ottmers 1996: 112); Topoi from the person strengthen credibil- ity of a statement. If a person has certain characteristics, behaviours or ways of dealing with a mat- ter it is possible to deduce other characteristics, behaviours or ways of dealing with a matter (cf. Ottmers 1996: 115), Topoi from the authority are commonly used in advertising (cf. Janich 2005: 92).They refer to a non-contentious accepted authority. In other words, this Topos supports a con- tentious statement by referring to foreign knowledge or to an opinion of an authority. That is, “if a person who is accepted as an authority represents an opinion, this opinion is considered plausible” (Ottmers 1996: 110).

2.2. Content based Strategies (Janich)

This chapter deals with possible contents used in argumentations in advertisements. Furthermore, this section will give an overview of aspects which are used in developing and investigating adver- tising strategies. Janich suggests (cf. Janich 2005: 95), an advertisement’s content can be classified into three argumentation patterns: reference to a product, reference to a sender and reference to a recipient. However, she points out that this classification should be seen as an attempt to organise the variety of content based strategies of advertisements and patterns of argumentation.

2.2.1. Reference to a Product

This strategy works by referring to different characteristics of a product. Janich subdivides them into: reference to the origin of the product (commonly used in food ads), reference to features (au- tomotive and cosmetics), description or demonstration of effectiveness (pharmaceuticals, cosmet- ics), description or demonstration of appliance in typical or special situations, evidence by product tests, arguments referring to market situation and comparative advertising (cf. Janich 2005: 95, 96)

2.2.2. Reference to a Sender

The advertisement refers to a sender which is represented by the owner of a company. He or she suggests tradition and experience, and hence there is an impression of a long existing company whose products have been proved good (cf. Janich 2005: 97).


1 Correlating to Ottmers „Schlussregel“.

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A Linguistic Analysis of Strategies of Argumentation in English Print Ads
University of Kassel
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Linguistik, Advertising, Semiotics, Werbung, Argumentationsstrategie, Print Ads
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Julia Trede (Author), 2012, A Linguistic Analysis of Strategies of Argumentation in English Print Ads, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/194130


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