LINGUIST List 13.3171

Tue Dec 3 2002

Review: Pragmatics: Hardin (2001)

Editor for this issue: Naomi Ogasawara <>

What follows is a review or discussion note contributed to our Book Discussion Forum. We expect discussions to be informal and interactive; and the author of the book discussed is cordially invited to join in. If you are interested in leading a book discussion, look for books announced on LINGUIST as "available for review." Then contact Simin Karimi at


  1. Francisco Yus, Hardin (2001) Pragmatics of Persuasion in Spanish Advertising

Message 1: Hardin (2001) Pragmatics of Persuasion in Spanish Advertising

Date: Tue, 03 Dec 2002 01:17:24 +0000
From: Francisco Yus <>
Subject: Hardin (2001) Pragmatics of Persuasion in Spanish Advertising

Hardin, Karol J. (2001)
Pragmatics of Persuasive Discourse in Spanish Television Advertising.
SIL International, xi+234pp, paperback ISBN 1-55671-150-6.

Book Announcement on Linguist: 

Francisco Yus, University of Alicante, Spain.


Hardin's book is about a pragmatic analysis of advertisements. In my
opinion, a pragmatics-oriented approach to the discourse of
advertising should focus basically on two possible research

(1) to trace the makers' intentions underlying the (verbal and/or
visual) discourse, pinning down their persuasive strategies using the
ad as evidence of these intentions;

(2) to focus on the interpretive steps and inferences that the
receiver of the ad is supposed to go through in order to reach its
optimal interpretation, and the possible reasons why the ultimate goal
of the advertiser -- to buy the product -- is or is not achieved
through the processing of the ad.

Hardin seems to prefer the former, since for her ''it seems vital to
examine not only the ideology and manipulative intent of advertising
but also how advertising reflects the pragmatic strategies by which
persuasion is effected in that culture... [and] how pragmatic
strategies found in Spanish advertising contribute to persuasion''
(p. 2). She explicitly rejects the latter pragmatic approach when she
states that she does not intend to ''describe how individuals in an
audience actually react to TV commercials and which ads are most
successful in changing buyers' product preferences'' (p. 4). Instead,
she focuses on the general beliefs and intents of advertisers, the
plans with regard to pragmalinguistic strategies, and the acts insofar
as they may be generally understood (ibid.). For this strategy-centred
analysis, she chooses a specific type of discourse, Spanish TV
advertising found in three countries (Spain, Chile and the U.S.), and
different pragmatic approaches in order to describe these strategies.
However, I personally find more stimulating a pragmatic analysis of
how viewers process and react to the ads, and why the advertisers'
intentions are (un)successful when made explicit in a specific
advertising discourse.

Her preliminary research questions to be addressed in the book are
(p. 5):

[1] Which pragmatic devices occur most frequently in Spanish television
[2] How are these pragmatic devices linguistically encoded in the data?
[3] Are any pragmatic differences evident between dialects of Spanish?
[4] How are pragmalinguistic features of television advertising used to
 effect persuasion?


In the introduction, Hardin tries to define such slippery terms as
'persuasion', and even 'pragmatics', which Levinson (1983) also
attempted to define in the first chapter of his now classical
book. General definitions are provided (p. 4), none of them truly
satisfactory (but which is?).

Chapter 2 is about ''Procedure and method''. The author provides the
sources for the data analysed. Specific aspects of the data are sought
for, including samples of implicature, deixis, politeness, speech
acts, illocutionary force, use of humour, violation of Grice's maxims,
appropriate phonological features, lexical choices, and
sociolinguistic features. These are then analysed quantitatively in
order to determine the relative frequency of these pragmatic
features. The examples provided (in the source language -Spanish- and
with a translation into English) are good in general, although there
are some examples of translations which I find unfortunate. For
instance, the author suggests (1) and (2) as examples of conventional
and conversational implicature (p. 28-29), which are far from clear,
in my opinion ((1) is a presupposition, and (2) doesn't seem to imply

(1) El �nico remedio que necesita es Pepto Bismol que cubre suavemente su
 The only remedy that you need is Pepto Bismol, which gently coats your
 (presupposes -- not conventionally implies -- that the viewer needs the

(2) [advertisement for an astrologer]. La primera vez gan� quince mil d�lares 
 y la segunda veinticuatro mil.
 The first time, I won fifteen thousand dollars and the second,
 twenty-four thousand.
 (does it imply -conversationally- that the viewer can win this too?)

In chapter 3 some 'Analysis and results' are provided. Basically,
questions [1], [2], and [3] as cited in the introduction are
addressed. The following variables of analysis are taken into

Context (pragma-)linguistic Pragmatic
- -----------------------------------------------------------------
Country Phonology Speech acts
Product Lexicon Indexicals
Audience Syntax Politeness
 Grice's maxims
 Speaker considerations

The first variable shows a rather static view of context, as if the
different contextual features surrounding product and audience in
Spanish advertising could always be delimited. In my opinion, context
should always be analysed dynamically and from the viewer's point of
view, and only as far as it is accessed and processed as part of the
interpretation of the ad, and never pre-theoretically.

The chapter is full of statistical data, showing percentages of
appearance of the different variables addressed. This quantitative
account is, no doubt, useful, and the extensive illustrations with
numerous ads and their translations are indeed valuable. Most of the
translations are good, but sometimes the reader finds suggested
translations which fall short of the force of the source-language
version, as in (3) (p. 58), or even translations which are patently
bad, as the one in (4) (p. 62):

(3) Hay que disfrutar.
 It's necessary to enjoy. (Yoplait, SP)
 Better translation: You've got to enjoy yourself.

(4) Ponte Hanes y ya ver�s.
 Put on Hanes and you'll already see. (Hanes, US).
 Better translation: Put on Hanes and you'll see.

On p. 67 Hardin analyses ads which are ambiguous in their
illocutionary force, for instance the assertion/order duality in
examples (5) and (6):

(5) Agua ligera Font Vella [pause] cuida tu cuerpo.
 Light Font Vella water [pause] take care [or 'it takes care'] of your

(6) Nintendo 64 [pause] entra en juego.
 Nintendo 64 [pause] get in [or it gets in] the game.

This is a good section but, again, it makes me long for a more
viewer-centred pragmatic approach. Instead of just pinning down the
sources of ambiguity, it would have been much better to see how actual
viewers (informants) react to the ambiguity and provide an opinion
about it. As Keiko Tanaka (1994) has successfully demonstrated within
a relevance-theoretic approach, viewers are normally willing to devote
some extra mental effort devoted to disambiguating the ads in exchange
for the pleasure in finding the resolution to the clash, and in doing
that they also pay attention to the ad, the advertisers' ultimate goal
nowadays, the age of television zapping.

The conclusions of this chapter answer questions [1-3] provided in the
introduction and also allows the author to compare the cross-cultural
validity of these results in the three Spanish TVs, one in U.S., one
in Spain and one Chile:

[1] Which pragmatic devices occur most frequently in Spanish
television advertising? speech acts (especially representatives and
directives), novelty (esp. syntactic and explicit), indexicals
(esp. deictic items and personal reference), politeness (esp. positive
face and solidarity), implicature, violation of Grice's maxims,
speaker considerations and lexicon.

[2] How are these pragmatic devices linguistically encoded in the
data? Among the examples provided, representatives are typically
encoded as assertions of real or supposed fact, while directives are
encoded -quite predictably- in orders devoid of an inherent sense of
authority. Deixis (spatial and temporal) is normally encoded with
''here'' and ''now'', while personal reference to the viewer is
encoded by the second person pronoun.

[3] Are any pragmatic differences evident between dialects of Spanish?
The pragmatic strategies seem to be common across the different
dialects of Spanish, although when analysed in detail some minor
differences do appear.

The fourth chapter is called 'Pragmatics and persuasion'. In this
chapter question four in the introduction ('How are pragmalinguistic
features of television advertising used to effect persuasion?') is
addressed. According to the author, ''pragmalinguistics in this study
(information structure, phonological highlighting, and lexical
selection) consists of linguistic categories that are linked with
pragmatic strategies in order to achieve the goal of persuasion''
(p. 133). The theoretical model is depicted as follows (p. 134):

A. Macro context
Television advertising in Spain, Chile, the United States

B. Pragmatic strategies
Politeness/indexicals Speech acts Implicatures
(degree of distance) (direct/indirect) (conventional/conversational)

C. Linguistic realization
Syntax Phonology Lexicon

Now, specifically on how pragmalinguistic features effect persuasion,
the parameters mentioned include ''being nonreciprocal, unilateral,
scripted, fragmented, and containing a formal/informal mix and a
natural/unnatural mix of style'' (p. 134), with the explicit
advertiser's intention that the ad be remembered and have an
appropriate forceful message. That is, the main components of
persuasion found in Hardin's study are memorability, force and

The book ends with a chapter in which the main conclusions of the
study are summarised.


Karol Hardin offers the reader a valuable piece of research in which
advertisements are dissected and the underlying persuasive strategies
are uncovered as the analysis of different pragmatic phenomena is
carried out in the book. Personally, I am more interested in the
inferential steps and procedures that the receivers of the ads go
through while processing them. Hardin's effort to address the four
questions issued at the beginning of the book (and reproduced at the
beginning of this review) gives the reader the feeling that the author
has preferred a taxonomical and quantitative approach to the pragmatic
strategies in TV advertising instead of a qualitative and
processing-centred one. In my opinion, it would have been a good idea
to provide informants with samples of ads, and then checked the
quality of their interpretation by giving them questionnaires, in
order to test the validity of the pragmatic (persuasive) strategies
addressed in the book.

Of course, this personal preference is only a matter of personal
choice and should not deprive Hardin's book of its value as
source-material tool for the analysis of Spanish TV advertising. In
short, an interesting book to read and a good contribution to the
topic of Spanish advertising and its cross-cultural implications.


Levinson, S. (1983) Pragmatics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Tanaka, K. (1994) Advertising language. A pragmatic approach to
advertisements in Britain and Japan. London: Routledge.


Francisco Yus teaches pragmatics at the University of Alicante,
Spain. He has a PhD in linguistics and has specialised in the
application of pragmatics (especially relevance theory) to media
discourses and conversational issues. For instance, he has made two
applications of pragmatics to characters in alternative comics
(Conversational cooperation in alternative comics, 1995; El discurso
femenino en el c�mic alternativo ingl�s, 1998), proposed a pragmatic
verbal-visual model of communication in media discourses (La
interpretaci�n y la imagen de masas, 1997), studied the written-oral
interface (La preeminencia de la voz, 1998) and developed a pragmatic
approach to Internet-mediated communication (Ciberpragm�tica,
2001). His latest research has to do with the application of relevance
theory to the analysis of misunderstandings and irony in conversation,
as well as to the production and interpretation of humorous
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue