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Review of  The Discourse of Tourism and National Heritage

Reviewer: Richard W. Hallett
Book Title: The Discourse of Tourism and National Heritage
Book Author: Claudia Elena Stoian
Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Publishing
Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
Linguistic Theories
Issue Number: 28.381

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Reviews Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry


A revised version of the author’s Ph.D. thesis, “The discourse of tourism and national heritage” by Claudia Elena Stoian, presents a Systemic Functional analysis of online national tourism promotion in Romania, Spain, and Great Britain, in order to examine how these ‘different countries promote their national World Heritage Sites online for an international audience’ (71). The chapters in this volume are organized in four parts: Introduction, Theoretical background, Study, and Conclusions. In Ch 1, ‘Introduction’ (3-16), which comprises the whole of Part I, Stoian claims that the research presented in this text ‘studies the way each country presents its national landmarks and combines various modes to create a virtual brochure containing a promotional message’ (14).

Part II is comprised of four chapters, a summary, and statement of the research questions. In Ch 2, ‘Tourism’ (19-29), S gives a brief overview of some of the linguistic research on the study of cultural tourism, destination branding, and tourism websites. In Ch 3, ‘Promotional tourism discourse’ (31-42), S discusses online tourism promotion, including the language and images used in such promotion, and presents the three main functions of the tourist message, i.e. to inform, to persuade, and to direct (36). In Ch 4, ‘Multimodal discourse analysis’ (43-59) S briefly discusses Systemic Functional Theory (Halliday 1985, Halliday and Matthiessen 2004) and its theoretical metafunctions, i.e. ideational, logical, experiential, interpersonal, and textual; as well as the functions found in Visual Design Theory (Kress and van Leeuwen 1996), i.e. representational, interactive, and compositional. In Ch 5, ‘Culture’ (61-69), S discusses the differences between Hall’s (1976) notions of ‘High-context’ and ‘Low-context’ cultures; in essence, High-context cultures assume in-group knowledge of various things whereas Low-context cultures do not. Accordingly, much more information is explicitly given in a Low-context culture. S’s study assumes that the Romanian and Spanish cultures are High-context cultures, British culture a Low-context culture. Part II ends with the presentation of S’s general research question and the three specific research questions related to her study.

Part III contains the bulk of the book. Ch 6, ‘Methodology’ (75-81), provides the research design, the choice of sets of websites (one ‘institutional’ and one ‘commercial’ for each of the three countries), the choice of English as the only promotional language to be investigated, and a description of the corpora for each national heritage site. Ch 7, ‘Institutional corpus: Results and discussion’ (83-181), offers linguistic and visual analyses of the websites for the Monastery of Horezu, the Dacian Fortresses of the Orastie Mountains, and the Sighisoara heritage sites in Romania; the Monastery of El Escorial, the Alhambra, and the Santiago de Compostela heritage sites in Spain; and Canterbury Cathedral, the Tower of London, and Edinburgh heritage sites in Great Britain. In Ch 8, ‘Commercial corpus: Results and discussion’ (183-246), S provides the same linguistic and visual analyses of websites for the same heritage sites, including twenty-two summary tables. In Ch 9, ‘Comparison and interpretation of results’ (247-292), S summarizes her findings, stating ‘The institutional set is more multimodal than the commercial ones, especially in its home pages’ (259).

Part IV is comprised of Ch 10, ‘Conclusions’ (295-299), Appendix A: Linguistic analyses (301-380), Bibliography (381-405), and Index (407). At the end of Ch 10, S offers practical implications for the field of online tourism.

Critical Evaluation

This book is detailed and yet incomplete. On the one hand, this book contains excellent examples of how sophisticated Systemic Functional and Visual Design analyses should be conducted. Scholars conducting similar studies will find S’s templates for the experiential, interpersonal, and textual analyses, complete with cells for the subject, mood, residue, predicator, complement, adjunct, theme, and rheme, very handy tools for future Systemic Functional analyses. On the other hand, there are glaring omissions in the review of literature, especially in the sources that specifically examine online tourism websites. There is no reference to Dann’s (1996) seminal work on the sociolinguistics of tourism. There is no reference to Hallett and Kaplan-Weinger’s (2010) text that contains a chapter solely on the multimodal discourse analysis of the official tourism website for Santiago de Compostela. Even worse, S makes odd, unsubstantiated/ unreferenced claims, e.g. ‘Blue is considered the most universally favoured colour and, therefore, the safest to use in business. It helps building customer loyalty, as it relates to trust, honesty and dependability’ (183) and ‘The background colour plays an important role in the way information is presented; the institutional prefers the usual and traditional white, while the commercial goes for more connotative colours that convey reliability and trustworthiness and differentiate the company from its competitors’ (259). Such claims are disappointing; a better analysis would reference existing statements about the significance of various colors in Visual Design Theory.

In her writing S also makes lackluster claims, e.g. ‘To summarise, the institutional and commercial sets of websites share a number of similarities and differ in particular ways, as expected considering their types’ (263). Moreover, S has included several blurred screenshots of websites that did not grant permission for use in this publication. This fact is annoying given that their inclusion adds nothing to her analysis or illustration of her claims. By comparison, Dann’s (1996) book offers several detailed descriptions of images in tourism materials without including any of them. Dann was able to describe images in detail, which is preferable to the inclusion of blurred pictures that do not necessarily add much to the analysis. In all, this work reads more like a hastily-published dissertation than a condensed, focused book.


Dann, Graham M.S. 1996. The language of tourism: A sociolinguistic perspective. Wallingford: CAB International.

Hallett, Richard W. and Judith Kaplan-Weinger. 2010. Official tourism websites: A discourse analysis perspective. Bristol: Channel View.

Hall, Edward T. 1976. Beyond culture. New York: Doubleday.

Halliday, M.A.K. 1985. An introduction to functional grammar. London: Edward Arnold.

Halliday, M.A.K. and Christian Matthiessen. 2004. An introduction to functional grammar, 3rd ed. London: Edward Arnold.

Kress, Gunther and Theo van Leewuen. 1996. Reading images: The grammar of visual design. London: Routledge.
Richard W. Hallett is Professor of Linguistics at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. His research interests include world Englishes, second language acquisition, sociolinguistics, and the discourse of tourism. He is currently on sabbatical working on a linguistic analysis of the Incredible India tourism campaign.

Format: Hardback
ISBN-13: 9781443882194
Pages: 435
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U.S. $ 98.95