LINGUIST List 13.3427

Tue Dec 31 2002

Disc: Last Posting: Language & Advertising

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Tej Bhatia, Language and Advertising
  2. Jo Rubba, Linguists and advertising

Message 1: Language and Advertising

Date: Tue, 24 Dec 2002 08:45:35 -0800 (PST)
From: Tej Bhatia <>
Subject: Language and Advertising

Social evaluation of languages (good vs. bad; developed vs. primitive
languages/accents) is the darling of mass media and is not restricted
to advertising alone. I remember a couple of years ago an opening
sentence from an article published in Newsweek or Time implied that
languages from some parts of Asia and Africa were primitive. I wrote a
letter to the editor of the magazine in question, drawing attention to
the fact such distinctions are not intrinsically linguistic but rather
a reflection of social biases. I then received a letter from the
editor stating that although my point was well-taken, the article was
rather simplistic in tone in order to reach their general readers; no
negative evaluation of the languages in question was intended.

Even in the age of 'political correctness,'the sterotypicalization of
minorities or even powerless majorities is a common sight in global
advertising. About five years ago, one of my students wrote an MA
thesis on gender targeting in the sport shoe industry print
advertising. The magnitude of the sterotypicalization of both males
and females was so great that when my student sent her dissertation to
the company, the company (a global giant in the industry) withdrew
some of its ads.

In my own work, "Advertising in Rural India (2000)," what I found
surprising was that even though approximately 78-80% of India lives in
villages, and the rural market is a hot-spot for local and global
advertisers, the advertisers did not shy away from depicting rural
characters and their languages as primitive and rustic.

Tej K. Bhatia
Professor of Linguistics
Syracuse University
Syracuse, New York
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Message 2: Linguists and advertising

Date: Tue, 24 Dec 2002 14:01:55 -0800
From: Jo Rubba <>
Subject: Linguists and advertising

The most recent posting suggested that the major media be contacted. I
suggested in my previous posting that the LSA alone or together with
other professional associations put out a press release addressing
this type of advertising error.

I cannot attend LSA this year, but perhaps someone who will be there
could ask to have this agendized at the business meeting, and ask the
LSA to work on it and get the press release going.

Johanna Rubba, Associate Professor, Linguistics 
English Department, Cal Poly State University
San Luis Obispo, CA 93407
Tel. 805-756-2184 ~ Dept. phone 805-756-2596
Dept. fax: 805-756-6374 ~ E-mail:			
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