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Review of  Persuasion in Tourism Discourse

Reviewer: Richard W. Hallett
Book Title: Persuasion in Tourism Discourse
Book Author: Elena Manca
Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Publishing
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Text/Corpus Linguistics
Issue Number: 29.1971

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In the ‘Introduction’ (1-4) to “Persuasion in tourism discourse”, Elena Manca claims that tourism represents the cultural identity of a country. Her aim ‘of the different analyses described in this volume is to understand what the many modes of communication used in tourism discourse tell us about Italy, Great Britain and Australia from a linguistic and socio-cultural perspective’ (2). In Chapter 1, ‘Systemic functional linguistics, visual grammar and tourist promotion’ (5-63), she employs Halliday’s (1978, 1985) Systemic Functional Grammar to analyze how ‘language, images and sounds are strategically combined together to inform, attract and persuade the potential tourist at the pre-trip stage’ (7) in tourist discourse. Accordingly, she explains and exemplifies the material, mental, behavioral, verbal, existential, relational, attributive, and identifying processes of the ideational metafunction. Likewise, she discusses the interpersonal metafunction where ‘language is not seen as a way of reflecting reality but as a way of acting’ (12), as well as the themes, rhemes, and information structures (both given and new) of the textual metafunction. She then discusses three components of Kress and van Leeuwen’s (2006) visual grammar: representational meaning, interactive meaning, and compositional meaning. Near the end of this chapter she presents the three tourist websites that provide the corpora for her present study:,, and She finds that the Italian homepage offers predominantly declaratives, while the Australian homepage is the ‘essence of interactivity and of visual meanings’ (61), and the British homepage is a ‘balanced alternation of demand and offer’ (61).

In Chapter 2, ‘The AIDA Model, corpus linguistics and tourist promotion’ (64-103), M employs the Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action (AIDA) Model (Lewis 1899, Strong 1925) to analyze the (cultural) promotional language used to promote Italy, Great Britain, and Australia as tourist destinations. Using corpus linguistics, M presents the most frequent nouns, verbs, and adjectives, along with their semantic fields, in the British corpus (VisBrit), the Italian corpus (VisIt), and the Australian corpus (VisAus). In the following chapter, ‘Concordances, cultural dimensions and tourist promotion’ (104-141), she provides further analysis of nine words (three nouns, three verbs, and three adjectives) from each corpus: ‘park’, ‘home’, ‘city’, ‘find’, ‘see’, ‘take’, ‘great’, ‘top’ and ‘national’ from VisBrit; ‘provincia’ (province), ‘città’ (city/cities), ‘territorio’ (territory), ‘offre’ (third person singular offers), ‘(si) tova’ (is set), ‘perdere’ (miss/lose), ‘grande’ (great/big), ‘storico’ (historic), and ‘tipici’ (typical/local) from VisIt; and ‘park’, ‘beach’, ‘island’, ‘see’, take’, ‘visit’, ‘national’, ‘aboriginal’, and ‘great’ from VisAus. M then analyzes the modal operators, but – as she notes – not the mood adjuncts, prepositional phrases, or interpersonal metaphors: ‘can’, ‘could’, ‘may’, ‘might’, ‘should’, ‘will’, and ‘would’ in VisBrit; ‘can’, ‘could’, ‘may’, ‘might’, ‘must’, ‘should’, ‘will’, and ‘would’ in VisAus; and ‘dovere’ (must/should/have to), ‘potere’ (can/be able to), and ‘volere’ (want/would like) in VisIt. Following this presentation, she analyzes the each corpus according to the five manifestations of culture proposed by Hofstede (1980, 2001) and Hofstede and Mooij (2010): power distance, individualism/collectivism, masculinity/femininity, uncertainty avoidance, and long-/short-term orientation.

Chapter 4, ‘Translation and tourist promotion across languages and cultures’ (142-174), introduces some consequences and implications for translators of tourism websites. Pym’s (2010) three main paradigms in the translation process, i.e. natural equivalence, directional equivalence, and purpose, inform this chapter. M compares the translated and non-translated corpora aforementioned and focuses her analysis on the twenty most frequent content words in each corpus. She concludes, ‘Translated texts are… only partially adapted to the new target language and audience and this lack of adaptation in terms of promotional strategies (Attention and Interest vs. Desire and Action) leads to the creation of tourist products which have lost part of their persuasive power and, for this reason, they will probably be less successful among the new audience’ (173).


The strength of Manca’s text lies in the in-depth analysis of tourism promotion through systemic functional linguistics, visual semiotics, the AIDA Model, and corpus linguistics. For instance, M offers clear definitions and examples of esoteric concepts from systemic functional grammar such as the ‘ideational metafunction’, the ‘tactic system’ (including both ‘parataxis’ and ‘hypotaxis’), the ‘interpersonal metafunction’, and the ‘textual metafunction’. In essence, this book offers a ‘how-to’ guide for analyzing tourism corpora.

Despite the thorough exemplification of concepts, however, many of the claims M makes can and should be made stronger. For example, near the end of Chapter 1, M writes, ‘Implications for this analysis are several: based on the assumption that language, images and culture are strictly interrelated, every act of cross-cultural communication… should not disregard this aspect and thus should carefully select the strategies to be adopted for a successful result’ (63). Likewise, in Chapter 3, M blandly states, ‘All analyses carried out in this chapter have consistently shown that the three websites have a different but systematic way of promoting tourism in the three countries’ (133). The claims about the importance of the AIDA Model in Chapter 2 could be fortified with a reference to Bell’s (1984) work on audience design.

Most problematic in this book are the claims regarding cultural dimensions of tourism discourse and the use of translation in tourism promotion. In Chapter 3, M presents a discussion of British, Italian, and Australian cultures in terms of low and high power distances (Hofstede, 2001; Hofstede and de Mooij, 2010). Her claims seem impressionistic; she should have critiqued the model earlier in the book. Moreover, there appears to be a conflation of nationality and culture. Near the end of this chapter, M states, ‘if some features [of cultural aspects] are very common and frequently used by a culture it means that they are effective and their presence contributes to a more positive disposition on the part of the consumers towards the products advertised’ (141). Such a statement raises the question of how stereotypical the language of tourism promotion is or may be. Furthermore, such a claim needs to be supported with empirical data showing how cultural features are taken up and by whom; her data are compelling and, as such, deserve a more critical analysis. Chapter 4 introduces a new topic to the study at hand, the use of translation in tourism across languages and cultures. One wonders why more literature review, e.g. Pym (2010), appears in the last chapter rather than in the first. M’s claims regarding the translations on the analyzed websites do not seem to have a strong basis, e.g. ‘“Ancient times” is an unusual collocation in the English language and could be replaced by the noun “past” where the emphasis conveyed by “ancient” is neutralised’ (150).

In conclusion, M’s text adds to the growing literature on tourism discourse available. Accordingly, it should be added to the bibliographies of syllabi for language and tourism courses. Likewise, it could serve as a supplemental text illustrating the use of persuasion in a rhetoric course.


Bell, Allan. 1984. Language style as audience design. Language in Society 13:2, 145-204.

Halliday, M.A.K. 1978. Language as social semiotic: The social interpretation of language and meaning. London: Edward Arnold.

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

Hofstede, Geert. 1980. Culture’s consequences: International differences in work-related values. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Hofstede, Geert. 2001. Culture’s consequences: Comparing behaviors, institutions and organizations across nations, 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Hofstede, Geert and Marieke de Mooij. 2010. Convergence and divergence in consumer behavior: Implications for international retailing. Journal of Retailing 78, 61-69.

Kress, Gunther and Theo van Leeuwen. 2006. Reading images: The grammar of visual design, 2nd ed. London: Routledge.

Lewis, E. St.Elmo. 1899. Side talks about advertising. The Western Druggist 21:2, 65-66.

Pym, Anthony. 2010. Exploring translation theories. London: Routledge.

Strong, Edward K., Jr. 1925. The psychology of selling and advertising. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Richard W. Hallett is professor of linguistics at Northeastern Illinois University. His research interests include the discourse of tourism, world Englishes, and second language acquisition.

Format: Hardback
ISBN-13: 9781443816816
Pages: 196
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