LINGUIST List 13.3356

Wed Dec 18 2002

Disc: Linguists and Advertising

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <karenlinguistlist.org>


Directory

  1. Rich Alderson, Re: 13.3309, Disc: New: Linguists and Advertising
  2. Charley Rowe, Re: linguists and advertising
  3. Annie Ferreira, linguists and advertising
  4. Martha McGinnis, Re: Lingusts and Advertising

Message 1: Re: 13.3309, Disc: New: Linguists and Advertising

Date: Tue, 17 Dec 2002 21:33:41 -0500 (EST)
From: Rich Alderson <linguistalderson.users.panix.com>
Subject: Re: 13.3309, Disc: New: Linguists and Advertising

In forwarding notes from Elgin and Tauber regarding a distasteful
commercial, our colleagues at the LinguistList asked two questions,
which I will address in reverse order.

> Do people take what they see in commercials as truth, or do they
> expect a certain amount of 'manipulation of the facts' in all
> advertising and therefore take such commercials with a grain of
> salt?

While people generally take the claims made for particular products or
classes of products in commercials with the proverbial grain of salt,
it appears that they accept any background information imparted in
those same commercials as unvarnished truth. I think that this is
because the background information is not seen as relevant to their
purchasing decision, and therefore is not subject to critical thought;
this leads to a dichotomy of acceptance: If the background information
happens to mesh with their preconceptions, it reinforces them, while
if it disagrees in some way with those preconceptions, it is ignored
(if mildly contravening) or rejectly more or less firmly (if more
directly contradictory).

> Is it our responsibilty as memebers [sic] of the linguistic
> community to 'educate' companies when they do something like this?

Given the difficulty of convincing the general public of the need to
preserve endangered languages, anything which makes them appear less
valuable as objects of study (and of wonder) is to be fought in all
arenas. Thus, I think we must accept a responsibility to educate any
individual or body who, however inadvertently, makes less of any
language, and to educate them in a public as well as a private forum
so that the public is once again made aware of the issues.

Rich Alderson
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Message 2: Re: linguists and advertising

Date: Wed, 18 Dec 2002 13:15:42 -0000
From: Charley Rowe <Charley.Rowenewcastle.ac.uk>
Subject: Re: linguists and advertising

To the recent discussion on the commercial with phonemic clicks,
LINGUIST posed the question of whether people accept advertising
content as truth or whether manipulation of the facts is seen as part
and parcel of advertising (i.e., the wilder the better to promote the
product). I believe that when an advertisement is not of a humorous
nature, people do place stock in the message of the ad. This is
precisely the reason why political campaign ads can be quite
effective, regardless to what extent many of them may distort the
truth.

Charley Rowe
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Message 3: linguists and advertising

Date: Wed, 18 Dec 2002 10:50:57 -0500
From: Annie Ferreira <aferreirahtivs.com>
Subject: linguists and advertising

Dear Listers - Thank goodness I am not the only person who noticed and
was offended by this television ad!
My first thought was "Where are the vowels?" Having studied Zulu and
Xhosa clicks as an undergrad, as well as American English speakers'
perception of those clicks, I know that Zulu and Xhosa contain clicks,
stops, fricatives, vowels - you name it!
This commercial seems to perpetrate a language which is all clicks! No
other consonants and no vowels. I'd love for a native speaker to tell
us what the heck the "chieftan" is saying.
Furthermore, "simple" clicks?!? Has anyone out there tried to make a
click? Such as an alveolar click? Well, I can sort of approximate
lateral clicks, but the rest of them are completely lost to me! I am
in awe of people who can produce them.
And, in agreement with the earlier notes, I feel that this ad is
portraying this language as primative and simple. We (the linguistic
community) all know that there is no such thing as a primative and
simple language. I bet these ad makers think ASL and creoles are
primative and simple too. Far from being cute, I thought the ad was
offensive and portrayed an ignorant company.
Should we draft a letter to Ricoh stating our impressions, and
recommending they apologize or risk a boycott of Ricoh products? This
is a good arena, let's take some action. 

Thanks for your time!


Annie C. Ferreira
Project Manager/Linguist
HTI Voice Solutions, Inc.
www.htivs.com
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Message 4: Re: Lingusts and Advertising

Date: Wed, 18 Dec 2002 09:24:51 -0700
From: Martha McGinnis <mcginnisucalgary.ca>
Subject: Re: Lingusts and Advertising


>What can or should linguists do about such distortions and
>misrepresentations?

I suggest that individual linguists who want to respond should send
letters of complaint to the company
(http://www.ricoh-usa.com/contact/index.pl?eform). Perhaps the
Linguist List editors, the Linguistic Society of America, and other
organizations could send letters as well.

>Is it our responsibilty as memebers of the linguistic community to
>'educate' companies when they do something like this?

If we don't, who will?

>Do people take what they see in commercials as truth, or do they
>expect a certain amount of 'manipulation of the facts' in all
>advertising and therefore take such commercials with a grain of salt?

I think people are skeptical about companies' claims about their own
products, but they're not necessarily skeptical about the background
assumptions that advertisements make about the world, especially if
they have no personal knowledge that contradicts those assumptions.
Obviously, a world in which elves dance around the teapot is not going
to be taken seriously, since people have enough experience of teapots
to know this is highly improbable. But a world in which there are
primitive languages is already taken seriously by many people -- the
Ricoh ad only reinforces their ignorance.

Best regards,
Martha
- 
_____________________________________________
Dr. Martha McGinnis, Assistant Professor
Linguistics Department, University of Calgary
2500 University Drive NW, Calgary AB T2N 1N4
http://www.ling.ucalgary.ca/~mcginnis/
_____________________________________________
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