To what extent is advertising language a ‘Sondersprache’?

Essay, 2016

17 Pages, Grade: 2,7



1. Defining Advertising

2. Linguistic characterisations of advertising
2.1. Lexis
a) Word classes and word formation
b) Foreign-language elements
c) High-quality words and keywords
2.2. Phraseology
2.3. Syntax
2.4. Grammar
2.5. Rhetoric
2.6. Varieties

3. Advertising as a ‘Sondersprache’

4. Conclusion

5. Bibliography

“Saturn: Geiz ist geil!”

Nowadays, we encounter advertising like this in the most different forms in our everyday life. Whether it is on flyers, on the radio or on the television, everywhere we look, advertising is flooding us. We hear a specific melody coming from the radio and we know what product is meant; we see a little green crocodile in the left corner of a t-shirt and we directly know what brand it is from. At this stage, these two examples show us to what extent advertising is surrounding us. What is more, we can already observe a first tendency: advertising is not only using language, but it is also playing our minds with pictures and music. Most people link this term only to commercial and product advertising, but that definition is far too tight. Advertising happens in a lot of areas of life, such as politics or charity, and it almost every time happens by means of a specific use of language. Exactly this specific use of the language in advertising will be the main focus of the following essay and we are going to ask if advertising language can be seen as a ‘Sondersprache’. After providing a general definition of advertising and analysing its different techniques to influence peoples’ behaviour, we will deal with the linguistic characteristics. Finally, after exposing the linguistic features of advertising, we shall analyse, whether advertising language could be seen as a ‘Sondersprache’.

1. Defining Advertising

As pointed out in the previous paragraph, advertising is with us at all times. A general definition could be the following by Harris and Seldon: advertising is a public notice ‘designed to spread information with a view to promoting the sales of marketable goods and services’ (Harris&Seldon 1962, p. 40). Most of them are of the commercial type, but there are also non-commercial ones like political or charity campaigns. Concerning commercial advertising, there exist three different types. One of them is the so-called prestige advertising, which aims at creating a long-term good image, rather than increasing its sales, for example all the societies publishing their reports in the Sunday newspapers. Their shareholders will receive these reports anyway so the only purpose of this will be to leave a good impression to the public. The second type of commercial advertising would be the industrial advertising, which is known for advertising products or services to other societies. Their ads can be found in specialized trade journals or business newspapers. It differs from the other types of advertising as it can be seen as advertising between equals. This leads to the fact that industrial advertising, in contrast to consumer advertising, our third type of advertising, mostly puts more effort in publishing factual information and less effort in persuading someone. This leads us to the main function of consumer advertising: Increasing the sales. The seller only wants to buy a product when it seems to be of use for him. To arrive at this point, the admen need to design their ads in a way that it at least seems as their product would be of use for the potential seller. The more attractive a product appears, the more it will be sold. This has become necessary, as a lot of firms are now able to produce similar products due to advanced technology. That’s why the firms need to promote themselves in the best possible way. Another distinction can be made between public and private communication. In private communication, all present persons know each other, as in a conversation between friends. Here, it is a two-way communication, as the people are taking turns at being speaker and listener. In a public communication, a product is advertised to a large anonymous public and it is an one-way communication as there is only the admen addressing themselves to the anonymous public (Vestergaard&Schroder 1985, p. 1- 14).

It is also often compared to political propaganda. Both advertising and political propaganda are trying to manipulate people in order to do so as they want.

In Germany, advertising is above all an economic factor in television production. In recent years, advertisings in the television have been increasing very fast. As it is very expensive, TV-ads usually are only about 30 seconds long and therefore need to deliver the message in a short time. This also has impacts on the language used in them. On the other hand, commercials need to get and keep the attention of the recipients as he risks to drown in all those advertisings. Therefore, admen need to be more creative and innovative than ever. They should present pleasure and entertainment, but at the same time not too much for that it does not seem unnatural (Holly 1997, p. 364). To achieve this, advertisers not only use special linguistic features, as we will see in the following paragraphs, but also use visual and acoustic means to intensify their messages (Glück&Sauer 1990, p. 142).

2. Linguistic characterisations of advertising

By providing a general definition of advertising and seeing how it works and how it plays our minds, I find it now useful to elaborate the most important linguistic characteristics and strategies of advertising.

2.1. Lexis

Before talking about words and their meaning(s), it must be clear how ‘Wortbedeutung’ can be understood. Therefore, we need to differentiate between denotation, connotation and association. In 1990, Karl Otto Erdmann published a well-discussed work about words and their meanings. There, he differentiated between the conceptual content, called denotation, and the auxiliary meaning, either combined under the expression connotation. Today, linguists define connotation as the emotional side of the content as well as stylistic differences in the expression (Ross, Pferd and Kleppner both stand for the same animal, but are different in style). Association is defined by a “ In-Beziehung-Setzen von Wörtern mit anderen Wörtern oder außersprachlichen Dingen und Sachverhalten” (Janich 2010, p. 101). The difference between these two expressions can be made clear best by giving the example of the word mother. Thus its connotation is the fact that the expression/the word mother stands not only in advertising for love and solicitousness, but also in real-life and is therefore positively connoted. Associations are in this example the fact that mother can be related to other expressions like father, family etc.

a) Word classes and word formation

Every study about advertising language has pointed out a clear preference of substantives, followed by adjectives and main verbs. Both Baumgart and Römer think that this dominance of substantives is due to the general tendency to the nominal style in advertising and the function of adjectives being to attribute positive values to the products. But adjectives should just be reduced to this function, but also act as modal adjectives as which they are also describing actions, procedures and conditions. As these, they often refer stronger to the recipient than to the product itself, for example in the advertising for Nivea Visage: Natürlich schön bleiben. When it comes to main verbs, Baumgart explains that they not only personate products, but also establish recipient-and producer related action possibilities. Even though there is a tendency to incomplete sentences in advertising, main verbs are needed to present values in a more dynamic way or to show a range of applications. One word class, which has not been explored yet are the particles, which are often used in the spoken language. Given that they are expressing the speaker’s emotions, Janich finds it interesting asking herself if they could be used I advertising to loosen up and to seem more subjective.

Concerning word formation, I am just going to look closer at the neologisms. A neologism is a newly build linguistic expression/word/phrase, which is know by at least a part of the society. Thus, they still have something new about them and normally aren’t yet in the dictionary, but they already possess a certain degree of popularity and their lexicalization is highly possible. In contrast to this are the ‘Augenblicksbildungen’, which only appeared once in a text and where nobody can foresee if they will develop into neologisms or if their use is fixed to just one context and thus will never find their way into a dictionary. Advertising is using those ‘Augenblicksbildungen’ a lot to get and keep originality. Therefore admen are using the method of composition, original derivations are more rare. Compositions are often used in speech strategies where the sender cannot or does not want to tell specific linguistic connections. Thus, the compositions in German advertising are not only used to express originality, creativity or speech economy, but they are also used in contrary to unclarify semantic relations. Other functions would be to get a more precise definition of a primary word (porentief for facial crèmes for instance) and to get a combination of two positive statements (herbwürzig for a product that is herb and würzig together). In the last case, it is important to know that the combination is often with two words that usually don’t work together, just to bring out the positive connotation of the product without wanting to show a logical relation (Janich, 2010, p. 108.108). Some product names are built to show their etymological origin (Nivea, Sanella) or combine two words to show what their product name means ( Sinalco à sine alcohole). Admen also often use a lot of new colours to describe or name their products (goldgelb where the first part of the word defines the second one or lavendel where substantives become adjectives).

Another characteristic would be the abbreviations that can be found for example in society names (VW) (Grosse 1966, p. 81-85).

b) Foreign-language elements

Anglicisms are the most popular foreign-language elements in advertising. But when talking about foreign-languages, we need to make a clear difference between foreign word and loan word. Normally, linguists differ between inner and outer loans. The last one is characterised by an adoption of foreign morphemes and lexemes. Inner loans are related to word formations, which, due to foreign language influences on the expression- or content side, are formed from native linguistic material. This leads us to a general definition of loan words:

Als Folge des Kontaktes zweier Sprachen werden lexikalische Einheiten von einer in die andere Sprache transferiert. Solche Wörter nennen wir unterschiedslos Lehnwörter. Die Lehnwörter werden an die entlehnende Sprache assimiliert und so in ihrem Wortschatz integriert. Je früher ein Wort entlehnt wurde, desto besser ist die Möglichkeit vollständiger Integration und desto gräßer sind seine Chancen, vom einzelnen Sprecher nicht mehr als fremd empfunden zu werden (Greule 1980, p. 270f. In: Janich 2010, p.110).


Excerpt out of 17 pages


To what extent is advertising language a ‘Sondersprache’?
University College London
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Werbesprache, Sondersprache
Quote paper
Jil Hoeser (Author), 2016, To what extent is advertising language a ‘Sondersprache’?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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