Intertextuality and Prestige Advertising: A discursive-semiotic analysis of Australian TV advertisements

Thesis (M.A.), 2001

108 Pages, Grade: 1.7 (A-)


Table of contents

1. Introduction
1.1. Foreword
1.2. Structure and objectives

2. Aspects of Australian TV advertising
2.1. Principles of TV advertising
2.1.1. Frequently bought products
2.1.2. Open or hidden message
2.2. Australia’s cultural image
2.2.1. Multiculturalism and the incorporation of ethnic groups
2.2.2. The role of Sydney 2000 as prestige marker

3. The concept of intertextuality
3.1. The development of intertextuality
3.2. Dimensions and structures of intertextuality
3.2.1. Vertical intertextuality Text and intertext The pre-text The concept of pre-texts The reproduction of pre-texts Individual pre-texts Referential systems
3.2.2. Horizontal intertextuality The text genre Intra-textuality and intra-semioticity

4. Semiotic structures in TV advertisements
4.1. Communication processes
4.1.1. The bi-directional communication process
4.1.2. The one-way communication process
4.2. Semiotic language
4.2.1. Visual language Semantic properties of an image Iconicity and cultural responsiveness Indexicality and photographic evidence Syntactic properties of an image
4.2.2. Interaction of semiotic modes Text - image interaction Text - image - sound interaction
4.3. The concept of intersemioticity in advertising

5. Functions of intertextuality
5.1. Quotation
5.1.1. The authenticity of quotations
5.1.2. The transmission of quotations
5.1.3. The effects of quotation
5.2. Reference
5.3. Allusion
5.3.1. The mechanics of allusions
5.3.2. Differentiation of allusions Marked and unmarked allusions Quotational, titular and onomastic allusions Comparative and assimilative allusions

6. Analysis of the corpus
6.1. Corpus coverage
6.2. Analytical approach
6.3. Levels of intertextuality in Australian beer ads
6.3.1. The VB spots
6.3.2. The Cascade spot
6.3.3. The Hahn spot
6.3.4. The Foster’s spot
6.3.5. Evaluation
6.4. Semiotic interaction in competitive airline advertising
6.4.1. The Ansett spots
6.4.2. The Qantas spots
6.4.3. Evaluation
6.5. Celebrity endorsements as intertextuality markers
6.5.1. The Telstra celebrity campaign
6.5.2. The Ansett celebrity campaign
6.5.3. Evaluation

7. Summary and conclusion



1. Introduction

1.1. Foreword

Intertextuality is a term that has often been discussed in the linguistic analysis of literature texts. More recently it has become a popular term in media research, especially the analysis of advertisements. But what about Intersemioticity? Intersemioticity is a term that was coined only recently by Lipka (personal note). Like intertextuality, it deals with the relationship of texts to each other but refers not only to textual and verbal messages but also to non-verbal information such as pictures or sounds. It can simply be seen as a web of references that link the textual, visual and aural elements of a primary message with textual, visual and aural elements from other messages. Even the interaction of semiotic modes within a message marks a form of intertextuality which can be referred to as intra-semioticity. In modern TV advertising, both intra- and intersemioticity play an important role as visual and verbal information continually overlap each other and consequently can no longer be defined as independent referential systems.

Prestige is a relatively broad term that, according to the Cambridge Online Dictionary (, is used to refer to the "respect and admiration given to someone or something, usually because of a reputation for high quality, success or social influence". In advertising, it is often associated with luxurious goods or prestige items such as expensive cars or watches but also with personal prestige. Celebrated public characters often advertise for a product, which enhances the value of both the product and sometimes the celebrity. In a more cultural context, prestige refers to the respect and admiration that is given to a cultural group because of its posi­tive values and qualities.

In the opinion of most Australians, Australian culture stands for: friendliness, liberal thinking, personal independence, naturalness, openness, good humour, sportsmanship, nature loving and national pride. Advertisers who wish to boost the sales of an Australian product to Australian consumers often address their target group by making references to these highly estimated "national characteristics". In brief, prestige advertising seeks to use or even to enhance the Australian’s positive self-esteem, their pride of belonging to the Australian community with its specific cultural and social values in order to finally create a positive feeling towards Australian products and to persuade customers to buy them.

In order to characterise the influence and effects of cultural prestige in Australian TV advertising, a selection of particular TV spots will be analysed. Australian TV spots tend to put an emphasis on Australia’s status as a multicultural and inde­pendent nation. Consequently there are numerous references to historical and cul­tural events as well as allusions to celebrated public and Australian cultural peculi­arities and characters. Many advertise­ments borrow from and refer to other sources of information. In these cases, the advertisers anticipate a distinct range of cultural experience and awareness of those media texts as a precondition for the ad’s intertextual, if not overall, effec­tiveness. If the message reaches the wrong target group or if the individual viewer is unable to decipher the intertextual part of the message, its intended effect may be drastically reduced, perhaps the whole message will make no sense at all. This semiotic connection between target group, message and reference can be best described through intertextuality or intersemioticity if pictorial or aural information is included.

1.2. Structure and objectives

The purpose of this paper is to outline a concept of intertextuality and inter­semi­oticity in media texts and to use this concept in the analysis of Australian TV advertisements and prestige advertising. At first, various aspects of advertising in general and Australian TV advertisement in particular will be discussed. This in­cludes a chart of Australia’s cultural image and a brief description of the Austra­lian consumer’s behaviour.

In the further process of this paper some theoretical foundations of the term inter­textuality are discussed. This part of the paper deals with the meaning of text and intertext, and it establishes a connection between the classical term, as intro­duced by French semiotician Julia Kristeva, and the notion of intertextuality as it is reflected in linguistic studies. It will also explain the difference between vertical and horizontal intertextuality and take a look at the various reproduction tech­niques of pre-texts in the target text.

The following chapter deals with the semiotic structures in Australian TV adver­tising. In this context, a model of intertextual and intersemiotic relationships in TV advertising will be established. First of all, it will discuss communication processes and their applicability in TV advertising. Furthermore, it will examine various forms of visual language. The interaction of the semiotic modes is also an issue in this chapter.

One of the major issues of intertextuality and intersemioticity is their wide range of functionalities. Therefore, distinct intertextual or intersemiotic functions that apply to the advertisements in question need to be defined. Each element in the adver­tisements, whether textual, visual or aural, has a distinct intertextual or intersemi­otic function. However, the effect of these functions may change accord­ing to the interdependencies of these elements. Hence this chapter will deal with the general functionality of intertextuality in Australian TV advertisements and discuss its impact and its effects on the reader/viewer.

The analysis of the corpus focuses on some particular advertisements and investi­gates both the functions and effects of the intertextual references made. Particular attention will be paid to the characteristics and peculiarities of Australian adver­tisements broadcast during the Sydney Olympics.

One of the first steps in the analysis was to observe specific features in Australian TV advertisements. These were compared with each other and evaluated with respect to differences and similarities. The intertextual and intersemiotic references in these spots seemed to have the same objective, namely to emphasise the Austra­lianess. The allusions were obviously intended to emphasise a partly already exist­ing image, but also to contribute to a new Australian image. One of the primary objectives was the investigation of this cultural image in advertisements, in which the following questions were raised:

- Is there a typical Australian image?
- What is the significance of this image for Australia?
- How was this image conveyed during the Sydney Olympics?
- Which role does intertextuality play in the creation of such an image?
- What’s the role played by images and sound and/or music?

These are the main questions to be discussed in this paper, predominantly in the corpus analysis. The linguistic, the visual and aural trans­mission of the advertise­ments' messages and also the origins of its content will be taken into account.

2. Aspects of Australian TV advertising

2.1 Principles of TV advertising

The media landscape has dramatically changed during the last 10 years, mainly due to the appearance and immense spread of commercial television channels. Public television is sustained by public funds whereas commercial television is fully dependent on the revenues earned through advertising. As a result, the commercial channels need to broadcast advertisements 24 hours a day, which means that virtu­ally everybody who watches television will eventually come across these TV spots. Television advertising has the advantage over other media, that it approaches its target group through the visual and the aural channels of perception. (cf.: Buss 1994: 11) Even though some people claim to be resistant to this form of manipula­tion, the general message finds its way to the subconscious of the viewers. That is why it has become especially important for marketing analysts to research the conditions and circumstances under which a product is being advertised. Indi­vidual characteristics of the target group play an important role as well as the time and the programme in which the ad has been placed. Beer advertising, for example, is often shown during sport events, when the viewers actually drink beer whereas adverts for cosmetics is more often found during soap-operas or talk-shows which mostly attract women.

There is a danger in the analysis of advertising of assuming that it is in the interests of advertisers to create one 'preferred' reading of the advertisement's message. Intention­ality suggests conscious manipulation and organization of texts and images, and im­plies that the visual, technical and linguistic strategies work together to secure one preferred reading of an advertisement to the exclusion of others... The openness of connotative codes may mean that we have to replace the notion of 'preferred reading' with another which admits a range of possible alternatives open to the audience.

(Myers 1983, 214-16)

2.1.1. Frequently bought products

Most products that are advertised on television are so called "frequently bought products" (Joy 1998: 221) and refer to products such as food, cigarettes, cosmet­ics, toiletries, liquor etc. but also cars, furniture and household equipments. Fre­quently bought means that "the same consumers make repeated purchases of the same products monthly, weekly and even daily" (Joy 1998: 222). The advertising of these products makes up more than 90% of the whole advertising market in Australia, which means that the advertisers need to change their concepts quite frequently in order to keep up the consumers' interest in the same product. 20 years ago, when the consumer market was not as competitive as today, it was possible to advertise a product by showing a few nice pictures and pointing out the qualities and advantages of the product. Nowadays where there are dozens of clones of one products, marketing strategists have to work harder in order to establish a particu­lar product on the market. Once established, these products or at least their adverts need to undergo regular modifications or face-lifts in order to continue to be competitive (cf.: Buss: 23). Coca Cola, for example, is a well-established product. However, it is necessary to regularly remind the Cola drinking community that Coke still is the best choice on the market.

2.1.2. Open or hidden message

In modern TV advertising a particular trend is noticeable. Instead of advertising the product as such, advertisers tend to sell a lifestyle or an image. Adverts often create an emotional atmosphere that makes people feel good and causes them to identify with the message of the ad. The Australian Coca Cola commercials broad­cast during the Sydney Olympics, for instance, showed the Coke generation, happy people from different ethnic groups, cheering for the Australian athletes. Some older Telstra ads show a perfect father‑daughter relationship etc. Music and sound also have a positive effect on the mood of the viewers, especially jingles which are used to associate the music with the images shown on the screen and finally with the product. (cf.: Buss 1994: 284). Colours, lighting, focus, camera angle or background etc., which are often absorbed unconsciously by the viewers, also play an important role in the creation of atmosphere. Kress (1996: 110) speaks of "Symbolic Sug­gestive Processes" that establish meaning through symbols. Bright colours, as used in adverts for detergent and cosmetics, symbolise purity and cleanliness, whereas brown or muddy colours are often used to create a cosy or nostalgic mood. A German advertisement for mobile phone tariffs only uses the colours blue red and white in its TV spots, referring to the red, the white and the blue tariffs respec­tively. These colours trigger the viewer's memories so that when­ever they see the ad they will be reminded of these tariffs. All these associations and connections are evoked in the mind of the viewers by numerous advertising tech­niques that depend on the peculiarities of the individual target groups. Adult viewers will cer­tainly respond to different techniques than children or teenagers, since they are more experienced in decoding hidden messages, whereas small children still have to learn it. "Deciphering such texts involves uncovering their connotations. Semiotic theorists call these subtextual and intertextual meanings" (Danesi 1999: 182).

In order to decode the hidden message of an advertisement, it is necessary to be familiar with the references made. Consequently, the target group of a particular advertisement is determined by the ability of a particular viewer to read the inter­text, or in other words the text that turns the hidden message into a comprehen­sible text. That is why intertextuality plays such an important role in modern TV advertising.

2.2. Australia’s cultural image

The cultural image of a country plays an important role in the creation of adver­tisements. It is the reflection of the cultural values and qualities of a society. A unique cultural image does not only help to unite the individual members within a society, it also is a means of marking off from other cultural images. According to Smith (1991: 14) the fundamental features of national identity include a "historic territory or homeland, common myths and historical memories, a common, mass public culture, common legal rights and duties and a common economy." Australia does have a historic territory, common legal rights, common historical myths etc. However, it still shares some of these features with England and the Common­wealth. That is why many Australians are striving for their own national identity and for the complete cultural dissociation from England. No matter how many similarities to the former colonial master are still existing, Australians always stress their status as an independent nation with its own customs and traditions.

Australia is a huge country with a relative small population. Most of the 18 million people live in or near the big cities, along Australia’s eastern or south-eastern coastal parts. Only few Australians live in remote areas, commonly known as the Outback. As an immigrant society Australia has a large number of people coming from different cultural and social backgrounds. Australia is a western civilisation but it is also constantly being influenced by its multicultural inhabitants and conse­quently continues to go its own way. A consequent multicultural policy has created a national feeling of togetherness and common thinking.

It is probably a mixture of Australia’s historical heritage and cultural diversity, and a "sense of security, pride and identity in the ordinary Australian’s conviction, that he has got it right," (Sharp 1998: 16) that has led to the development of a separate Australian advertising culture. Australian marketing analysts are well aware of the cultural and social characteristics and peculiarities of Australia’s society and devel­oped a feeling for the individual needs and preferences of the con­sumers. A country-wide attempt to promote the notion of Australianess was the introduction of so-called Australia-made products. Big green labels in the form of triangles bearing golden kangaroos were indicated that these products had been manufac­tured and produced in Australia. The campaign was a full success and showed the willingness of the Australian people to support the country’s economy. As Smith (cf.: 1991: 14) pointed out, a common economy is necessary for establishing a national identity and consequently forms a part of a culture’s image.

2.2.1. Multiculturalism and the incorporation of ethnic groups

Multiculturalism is a term "often applied in the past to describe those countries in which different religious, cultural, racial and linguistic groups lived together with­out becoming like each other or abandoning their special character to merge into a more inclusive culture" (Jupp 1996: 1). Australia hosts many different ethnic groups and in the colonial times has had trouble integrating those groups. How­ever, with the official ending and denunciation of White Australia by the Whitlam Labour Government in 1973, multiculturalism has adopted a different meaning in Australia. The report Multiculturalism for All Australians pointed out the rights and duties within a democratic society and for the first time explicitly included the Aborigines as a part of the Australian society. It was the call for:

A society in which people of non-Anglo-Australian origin are given the opportunity, as individuals or groups, to choose to preserve and develop their culture, their languages, traditions and arts…while at the same time they enjoy effective and respected places within one Australian society, with equal access to the rights and opportunities that society provides and accepting responsibilities towards it.

(Jupp 1996: 8)

If we take a look at the many different ethnic groups in Australia today, we still find that each of them shows and responds to different values and qualities. This makes it difficult for advertisers to identify and approach a common target group, par­ticularly in cities with a high percentage of immigrants such as Melbourne or Brisbane.

Consequently, the main objective is to "present the message in a culturally appro­priate manner" (Condie: 22). That means that the values and characteristics of all viewers have to be included in the message so that they can identify themselves with the message. Australian advertisements have the advantage over international adver­tisements that they are designed especially for the Australian market and conse­quently have the power to create this feeling of national togetherness in all Australians irrespective of their origin. In the previous chapter the im­portance of culture dependent advertising techniques was mentioned. In Australia, patriotism is such an advertising technique suggesting to the viewers that the use of domestic products shows their affection towards Australia.

"Multiculturalism not only targets the Australian, but also the ethnicities them­selves to be more inclusive, transformed, and their existing definitions decentred" (O’Regan: 109). Therefore, it is necessary to create an image in TV adverts which does not cover ethnicity in a stereotypical way, for example by adapting TV adver­tisements to the customary national standards of the respective ethnic groups. This can be best observed on SBS television which broadcasts in more than 20 different languages and has a language/cultural specific advertising concept. It provides for advertisements written in Chinese to be generally shown during Chinese lan­guage programs such as Chinese news, movies or documentaries. Similarly, ads for the Italian community are broadcast during Italia News, European soccer matches as well as Italian movies and documentaries.

2.2.2. The role of Sydney 2000 as prestige marker

Being the host of the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympics, meant an enormous oppor­tunity for Australia to strengthen its cultural image and world-wide prestige. For the advertising industry this was a unique chance to boost Australia’s consumer busi­ness.

"We do not have any world brands like America has Hollywood, like America has Marlboro, like America has McDonalds. We do not have any world brands like Italy has Gianni Versace, Ferrari or Pavarotti and all those things help to create an image of a country. We have Fosters and we have Qantas and that is about it and because we do not have those world brands which help to make our image, we have to work so much harder to create this image for Australia […] Let me talk briefly about the biggest con­vention of them all, the biggest exhibition of them all, the biggest meeting of them all, the 2000 Olympics, where over 200,000 people will come to Australia. Four billion people will watch the Olympics on television. The Olympics offers this country the biggest opportunity that we have had in the last hundred years and certainly the biggest opportunity we are likely to get in the next hundred years.

This is an extract from John Morse’s speech at the National Meetings Industry Conference which took place in April 1997, more than three years before the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. In his speech Morse already emphasised the impor­tance of the Games for the Australian economy and the advertising industry. He talked about Australia’s need for international recognition, but what he considered most important, was the creation of a unique Australian image.

Now that the most important sport event in the world is over, it is official, that the Sydney-Olympics attracted the biggest number of visitors and viewers ever recorded. According to Channel Seven’s TV ratings, issued by The Age web page (, its own coverage is estimated to have been watched by 16.349.000 Australians in the first week only. On average it was viewed every night by about twice the audience that normally tunes in to the AFL Grand Final, the most popular program on Australian television. Overall, Channel Seven, attracted 66.6 per cent of the national night-time TV audience over the week, more than five times the 12.3 per cent recorded by Channel Nine.

These numbers and facts indicate the importance and significance of advertising during the event. The broadcasting rights went to Channel Seven, which meant that most of the sponsors wanted to have their advertisements broadcast by this channel. Among the 29 official sponsors were AMP, Ansett, BHP, Carlton & United, Pacific Dunlop and Telstra Telecommunication. The Australian Content in Advertising Standard, provided by the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) requires that at least 80 per cent of advertising time is used for Australian pro­duced advertisements ( This prevents the Australian advertisers from being overthrown by American or European conglomerates and also assures that the turn-over made through advertising remains in the country.

3. The concept of intertextuality

3.1. The development of intertextuality

The term intertextuality was originally coined by French semiotician Julia Kristeva in the early sixties but the concept of intertextuality has existed at least as long as there has been discourse about texts. Plato, Aristotle and Socrates were among the first to establish various theories about imitation. "Aristotle holds that we learn through imitating others and that our instinct to enjoy works of imitation is an inborn instinct" (Worton 1990: 6) whereas Cicero and Quintilian have both pointed out that "imitation is not only a means of forging one’s own discourse but is a con­sciously intertextual practise" (Worton 1990: 6). This brings in the question of authorship, which has become a great issue in the discussion about intertextuality. Is imitation an act of interpretation and thus an arbitrary process or can it be seen as a systematic plan? Renaissance writers articulated their dependence on imitation of prior texts. Plett, however, is very sceptical of a historic approach which tries to point out similarities between Renaissance notions of imitatio and intertextuality. "By imitatio the author tried to position himself within an accepted order of literary works, […] an intertextual effort would not be so much an imitation of venerable precursors as, at least, a subversive use of a traditional stock of artistic means of expression" (Plett 1991: 32f).

Worton and Still (1990: 7) argue that "imitation must be seen as a theory not only of writing but also of reading as a performative act of criticism and interpretation." In fact, most post-modern approaches of intertextuality focus on the influence of the text on the reader rather than on the author’s influence. Kristeva’s concept of intertextuality is a way of evaluating the role of literary and extra-literary mate­rials without recourse to traditional notions of authorship. She refers to inter­textuality as a three dimensional textual space with three coordinates of dialogue, referring to the author, the reader, and the pre-texts. This textual space has a hori­zontal and a vertical dimension. In the horizontal dimension "the word in the text belongs to both writing subject and addressee", (Kristeva 1980: 66) in the vertical dimension "the word in the text is oriented toward an anterior or synchronic liter­ary corpus" (Kristeva 1980: 66). Kristeva’s concept focuses on the role of the text which needs to be understood in a broader sense. Text no longer presents a unified meaning, instead it "determines the very procedure of a semiotics that, by studying the text as intertextuality, considers it as such within (the text of) society and history" (Kristeva 1980: 37). Accordingly, intertextuality can be referred to as a system of textual references. In this system, a web of connections between the reader and the author of the message is established. The intensity of the connection depends on the reader’s or perceiver’s cultural knowledge and awareness.

The original notion of imitation has developed into a concept of intertextuality, which focuses on the connection and relation between text and text receiver. Broadening the concept of text from the written word to its spoken form up to a "generalisation of the concept of text in the sense of a general cultural semiotic" (cf.: Pfister 1985: 7) has led to an intertextuality having expanded from its initially purely literary meaning. Today it is being employed in many fields of science such as music, literature and linguistics.

In the field of text linguistics, intertextuality is defined as the "dependencies between production and/or reception of a given text and the knowledge of the par­ticipants of the communication process about other texts" (cf.: Pfister 1985: 12). Basically this corresponds to Kristeva’s concept. However, text linguistics at Kristeva’s time, defined text as a connected, coherent sequence of sentences with a relatively self-contained textual topic (cf.: Metzler 2000: 728). While older investi­gations in text linguistics were mainly langue orientated, modern text linguistics deals with the interconnection of the surface structure and the significance of texts as well as with verbal and non-verbal communication. Consequently it is consid­erably more pragmatically orientated. Pfister (1985: 12) also argues that every object to which a specific text refers, has already been discussed or described. Each single element of this text, whether it be words, syntactical structures or specific text types, does not exclusively belong to it but also to a great variety of other texts.

Culler has been among the first to describe intertextuality in a socio-cultural linguistic context. Culler suggests some ways of limiting the scope of the term intertextuality. One way of doing this is to apply the linguistic concept of presup­position to the way a text is being produced. He speaks of intertextuality as "the relationship between a text and the various languages or signifying practices of a culture and its relation to those texts which articulate for it the possibilities of that culture" (Culler 1981: 103). What Kristeva calls the work’s intertextual space, Culler names presupposition but he further distinguishes between logical and pragmatic presuppositions. With logical presupposition he refers to the logical relations of grammatical constructions or lexical items in terms of its logical accu­racy. The pragmatic supposition refers to the individual interpretation of a text through its association by the reader or perceiver of the text. Culler describes this difference as follows:

The linguistic analogy suggests two limited approaches to intertextuality. The first is to look at the specific presuppositions of a given text, the way in which it produces a pre-text, an intertextual space whose occupants may or may not correspond to other actual texts. […] The second enterprise, the study of rhetorical or pragmatic presuppo­sition, leads to a poetics which is less interested in the occupants of that intertextual space which makes a work intelligible than in the conventions which underlie that discursive activity or space.

(Culler 1981: 118)

Accordingly, intertextuality has a double focus. On the one hand, it serves to relate sentences of a text to another set of sentences which they presuppose. On the other hand it functions to attract the reader’s attention to the importance of prior texts, assuming that a target text has the meaning it does only because certain things have previously been written. The pragmatic approach appears to be more useful for the present analysis of TV advertisements, as the associations which are evoked in the reader’s subconscious, do rather depend on his individual interpretation than on logical correlations.

3.2. Dimensions and structures of intertextuality

According to Fiske (cf.: 1987: 108) intertextual relations can be described on a horizontal and a vertical dimension. The primary text, a book, a television program or an advertisement always forms the centre. Horizontal inter­textuality thus refers to the inter-generic or intra-textual relations which are estab­lished within the primary text or within various primary texts of the same type. Vertical intertextual­ity refers to the relation between a primary text and other texts of a different type that refer explicitly to it. Within vertical intertextuality another two dimensions are established. On is the connection of the primary text and the multi­tude of pre-texts that form primary texts on their own. The other one is the relation of the primary text with the intertext or the associations that are evoked in the reader's or viewer’s mind in connection with the pre-texts. In a semiotic context, these two dimensions of intertextuality could also be referred to as the syntagmatic and the paradigmatic dimension of intersemioticity.

3.2.1. Vertical intertextuality Text and intertext

Intertextuality has become a very fashionable term recently, especially in the media world, but it has also triggered confusion among those who have tried to establish a universal concept. Allen states that "intertextuality is not a transparent term and so, despite its confident utilization by many theorists and critics can not be evoked in an uncomplicated manner" (Allen: 2). And he continues to say that "such term is in danger of meaning nothing more than whatever each particular critic wishes it to mean" (Allen: 2). It may be true that intertextuality can no longer be seen as a fixed term as it has lost its original literary meaning due to the application of the term to other sciences. In fact there is not only one intertextuality but many intertextuali­ties, each of them with a different concept and with a different objective. Intra-textuality, for example, is "a specific textual technique which mirrors a content or a specific textual structure to different points in texts and thus creates different levels of textuality" (Wenz 1997: 582). However, how many intertextualities there may be, they all have one function in common: the referential function. Regardless of the intentions of the author or the effects on the reader, intertextuality always serves to establish a relationship between one text and another on which it is based. However, Frow (cited in Thibault 1991: 134) distinguishes between "weak" and "strong" forms of intertextuality, referring to "thematic allusion on the one hand and an explicit, extended, verbally and structurally close reference on the other". Basically it is not a question of functionality but a question of textuality how these types of intertextuality can be distinguished from each other. "All intertexts are texts" says Plett (1991: 5) but "the reversal of this equation does not automatically imply that all texts are intertexts" (Plett 1991: 5). The intertext is obviously a very specific text. Before I continue to talk about intertextuality I will have to clarify what is meant by text as it is understood in an intertextual context.

The word text actually derives from Latin texere meaning to weave. Traditionally a text was the actual words which made up a work of literature. Richard Lanham, in a literary context, defines text as "the term of choice today for a work under con­sideration by a critic, whether literary or not, whether prose or verse, fictional or non-fictional." According to this definition text refers to a written piece of work. In structuralist and post-structuralist theory, "text comes to stand for whatever meaning is generated by the intertextual relations between one text and another and the activation of those relations by the reader" (Allen 2000: 220). Barthes is even more explicit and differentiates the terms "text" and "work". In his essay "From Work to Text" Barthes makes the following distinctions:

The work is a fragment of substance, occupying a part of the space of books (in a library for example), the Text is a methodological field (...) the work can be seen (in bookshops, in catalogues, in exam syllabuses), the text is a process of demonstration, speaks according to certain rules (or against certain rules); the work can be held in the hand, the text is held in language, only exists in the movement of a discourse (or rather, it is a text for the very reason it knows itself as text); the text is not the decom­position of the work, it is the work that is the imaginary tail of the text; or again, the text is experienced only in an activity of production.

(Barthes 1990: 156-57)

According to Barthes’ distinction, work can be seen as a literary product viewed with reference to the author, while a text can be a literary or non-literary object viewed with reference to the reader. Apparently work has a descriptive character whereas text has an interpretative character. Barthes further points out that the "text can be approached, experienced, in reaction to the sign. The work closes on a signified" (Barthes 1990: 158). Based on Saussure’s theory of the sign (cf. Saussure: 1949), this means that work represents the expressions of the author’s ideas and thoughts whereas text includes the individual associations by the text users and consequently forms a unit of concept and meaning. Barthes’ notion of text comes very close to what is meant by text in connection with intertext.

Intertext, if taken literally, means text between other texts. Assuming that all the other texts are a conglomeration of concepts or works in the Barthesian sense, then intertext is exactly what Barthes refers to as text. It is a "methodological field" (Barthes 1990: 156) that combines various literary or non-literary concepts with the images produced by the individual readers of the message. However, in order to avoid general confusion of the terms text and intertext in further discussions, I will use the terms in accordance with Plett’s notion. Accordingly text is an "autonomous sign structure, delimited and coherent" (Plett 1991: 5) whereas intertext is "not delimited, but de-limited, for its constituents refer to constituents of one or several other texts" (Plett 1991: 5). It needs to be clarified, however, what exactly this limitation constitutes. When reading a text, there is no need for background knowledge but in order to interpret a text, information about the author may be required and it is necessary for the reader to be able to identify and derive the references made in the text. Text has its boundaries but intertext goes beyond these boundaries and establishes a diversity of relations between the text and the reader of the message. Intertextuality basically is "the web of functions that constitutes and regulates the relationship between text and intertext" (Riffaterre 1990: 57) The pre-text The concept of pre-texts

Assuming that a text’s unity, as Barthes puts it, "lies not in its origin but in its destination" (Barthes 1977: 148), then text is only constituted in the moment of its reading. The intertext marks the association of that currently-read text with the reader’s previous readings and cultural experiences. This background knowledge and these experiences comprise all the pre-texts. The current text is the target text, in which the quotation occurs whereas the pre-text is the source text from which the quotation is taken (cf.: Plett 1991: 8).

The associations and references that combine the target text with the pre-texts are user-specific. Depending on the knowledge of the source, each user develops an individual relation to the target text. As can be seen at a later stage in connection with intersemioticity, this is particularly important for the research of interrelations of sign systems. Whereas some literary studies (Jenny 1976; Bloom 1976) limit the use of intertextuality to its mere application to literary texts and pre-texts, semioti­cians and linguists understand it in a more universal context:

Prätext jedes einzelnen Textes ist nicht nur das Gesamt aller Texte, sondern darüber hinaus das Gesamt aller diesen Texten zugrundeliegender Codes und Sinnsysteme.

(Pfister 1985: 13)

A literary text can be directly quoted with quotation marks or indirectly quoted by either summing-up its basic content or by adopting and rephrasing elements from the pre-text. Codes and ideas, in contrast, can not be directly adopted from the pre-texts without being modified by the reader. The process of modification is always dependent on the individual experiences of the reader. Thus, any speech, any object or anything which is langue can form a pre-text and the reader is supposed to reproduce them in the target text. The reproduction of pre-texts

Karrer (1985: 102) has summarised the different forms of the reproduction of pre-texts or the structure of pre-texts. In this connection he mentions three criteria of differentiation. First he distinguishes between single text references and system references. Single text references refer to the reproduction of a single text, whereas system references refer to the reproduction of a system of processes. Secondly it needs to be distinguished whether the relations and elements of the pre-texts are adopted to the target text completely or incompletely, that is whether single words, parts of a sentence, complete sentences or even the entire pre-text is adopted. Finally Karrer differentiates between literary intertextuality and structural inter­textuality:

Bei der wörtlichen Intertextualität wird die Elementenbeziehung artikuliert, [...] bei der strukturellen Intertextualität wird die strukturelle Analogie benannt, die elementa­ren Beziehungen zwischen Prätext und Text bleiben impliziert.

(Karrer 1985: 102)

According to these criteria, there are four possibilities to reproduce individual pre-texts and four possibilities to reproduce referential systems. The following catego­ries follow Karrer’s criteria, although they do not include his examples, as these are predominantly taken from a literary context. Instead they will be adapted to the field of advertising. Individual pre-texts

(I) A single pre-text or parts of a single pre-text can be reproduced in the target text without changing its structure or elements. The source text is framed by the target text. This includes the quoting of proverbs or the citation of the sayings of famous personalities etc. The purpose of this reproduction tech­nique is to give more importance to the target text by referring to commonly known matters and manifested contents.
(II) Another possibility to reproduce elements of a single pre-text or parts of it, is to adopt these elements in the target text, but change their structure or rela­tions. Some textual elements of the source text are transferred to the target text but are used in a different context than in the source text. These elements can be charac­ters from the source text, who appear in the target text under their authentic names, but in a different environment. This category also includes slightly altered quotations, whose origin is still apparent.
(III) It is also possible to reproduce the structure of a single pre-text or parts of it by modifying its elements. This method of reproduction focuses on the repro­duc­tion of the structure of a pre-text. This structure can be of syntactical nature, with the reproduction of the pre-text being limited to a syntactical modification. Even if some syntactical elements are being replaced, the struc­ture remains unchanged. Advertising slogans are often modified to fit their new environment but still remind the readers of its original use and conse­quently create in the reader an association with the original message. The structure can also be thematically. That is when the theme of the pre-text is projected into the theme of the target text. The textual elements are modified but used in a similar context. For example the topic of a fairy tale, such as Hansel and Gretel, can be adapted to modern-city life with different charac­ters, different names and a different environment but with the same general topic.
(IV) Finally it is possible to refer to a single pre-text without reproducing any ele­ments or structures. This type of reproduction is commonly known as allusion. Allusions are indirect and sometimes even cryptic messages which constitute an indirect relationship between target text and pre-text through meaning. Allusions can be found in literature, but also in movies, paintings, music and advertisements. This category, however, only refers to allusions reproducing a single pre-text. This means that the target text alludes to the characteristics of a particular painting or a particular advertisement, e.g. to a certain product as a form of comparative adver­tising.


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Intertextuality and Prestige Advertising: A discursive-semiotic analysis of Australian TV advertisements
LMU Munich  (Institute for English Philology)
1.7 (A-)
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Intertextuality, Prestige, Advertising, Australian
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Christian Wöller (Author), 2001, Intertextuality and Prestige Advertising: A discursive-semiotic analysis of Australian TV advertisements, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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