Discourse analysis


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Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) is a linguistic academic field thatemerged in the 1980s as an attempt to synthesize language studies andthe social theory (Hart, 2011). It has since grown into a moderndiscipline of social sciences with an eclectic range of innumerablesociolinguistic approaches. CDA proffers the use of a discourse inthree major ways. These are language beyond the level of a sentence,language as a system of thought and language behaviors linked tosocial practices (Tahmasbi &amp Kalkhajeh, 2013). According tosocial linguists, analysis of discourse looks at the basic level ofwhat people have said and takes into consideration the contiguoushistorical and social contexts.

This paper is concerned with a discourse analysis of two motifs ofadvertisement. These are advertisement in magazines and visualadvertisement in television. The research will pursue to make senseof the advertisements and to view them from a semantic point of view.In this regards, the connotation of the investigation is that theimplication will be expedient for the readers in that they will havean enhanced inkling about those commercials as well as manage toadvance the development of a mammon of meanings from the audience’part. Additionally, the research will compare the usefulness of thetwo forms of advertisement. Explicitly, the discourse will look atSprite’s advertisement using Myer’s analysis and America Airlineadvertisement in magazines.

Backgroundof the study: Literature review

In this discourse, there is a critical study of grammar analysis withorientation to themes within the texts themselves. Most analystsregard Starks and Trinidad’s research on discourse analysis as agood fit for the formation of a strong “theoretical lens” for thesubject. They reason that it is quite often to interrogate theutilized parsing to engender concepts as well as the way theirdenotations ultimately create the underpinning of the text. Bednarek&amp Caple (2014) studied the meaning of words and locutions used intelevision shows and how they are equally embodied in otherfragments. On the other hand, Delu (2009) did research on the sociallanguages that are used in television adverts and how they might beused to carry essence for a particular setting, for instance aworkplace. These social languages are the subject for an evenprofounder analysis of the adverts themselves.

Additionally,this paper does a syntactic analysis of configurations used intelevision advertisements. Bhatia (2004) argues that innumerablestructural features may hang together to form an unfathomable meaningin the advertisement. Johnstone (2008) gives a simple argument aboutgrammatical patterns in advertisements. He argues that thegrammatical features, such as verb tenses and complex tenses, may beused to help the researcher to determine the involvedness of thediscourse, which the audience may encounter. Richgels (n.d) didresearch on text analysis at different levels, whereby he used theSchema theory to review discourse analysis. He said that thestructural relationship between clauses is equal to a sentence.Additionally, the nature of complex clauses is that they have acombination to clauses, which are almost related within written text.This forms what he refers to as a cohesion. People have used thebasics of this in grammatical construction on televisionadvertisements.

Televisionadvisements use both formal and informal social language. Accordingto Mooji &amp Hofstede (2010), the degree of formality in theseadvertisements and their discourse is left to the creator of theadvertisement and the target audience. According to CDA proponents,the manner in which a person would speak to their mates at school orat home would be different from the manner in which that person willspeak in public or official places (Fairclough, 2014). Such adifference results heedlessly of whether or not they recognize suchdifferences in discourse. The research by Komberger and Brown (2007)can be used to show how change on television can be seen where thesituation is either formal or informal.

Wodak(2007) says that CDA analyzes the structural relationship of powerand the way they are manifested through language. Therefore, at thecenter of CDA is a complex use of power, which may be taken to be aninevitable effect of the manner in which a certain discursiveconfiguration has priority over the position of others. For this, themain aim of the advertisements is to make the certain product appearmore superior to the rest. Lazar (2007) asserts that discourse in thepublic realm, for instance advertisement in magazines, helps tosustain the social status quo. A network of power and influenceconstructs this. Therefore, an analysis of discursive strategies ofadvertisement is important to help the researchers to understand thecongruency of communication in the society. This is becausediscursive advertisements can be used to reveal dominance in thesociety. Faircolough, Mulderrig &amp Wodak (2011) argue thatdiscursive practices can be vital in contributing to the developmentof unequal power relations between social actors. This is through thepromotion of practices, such as gender and class constructs.Therefore, these discursive acts contribute to the normalization ofsocial constructs, which benefit those who are in the limelight ofpower.

Small,Harris &amp Wilson (2008) did a research on a critical discourseanalysis of in-flight magazine advertisements to assess the socialsorting of airline travelers. Small et al. (2008) recognize that theinflight magazines are one of many industrialized print media towhich the travelers are exposed to, and thus have a significantsociolinguistic impact. These in-flight magazines are very powerfulin shaping the traveler’s opinions. Therefore, Small et al (2008)built their arguments on lack of enough research to show how theairline magazines’ advertisements produced and mediated the messageto the travelers. The context analysis of the study was todemonstrate how the magazine advertisements spoke to a certain groupof the society who had a passion of travelling by means of air. Inconclusion, Smalls et al said that airline magazines were some of themost powerful advertisement platforms that had the ability of shapingthe public opinion about air travel and the experiences that comewith it. This additionally implies that airline magazineadvertisements could be used by the airlines to attract a certainclass of customers and to gain a competitive edge over the industryrivals.


To scrutinize the Sprite’s advertisement, the discourse uses Myer’sanalysis of the use of language in advertisements. Myer’s analysisfocuses on the social context of written academic texts, treatingissues with cohesion the narrative structure, illustrations andpopular media. In discourse analysis, Myer notes the importance ofthe connotation of words that are used in advertisements. These maybe used as brand names to given certain meaning to the products thatare being advertised (Kohli, Harich &amp Leuthesser, 2005). He alsoargues that there is need to analyze the use of figurative languagein all advertisements that are being analyzed. This includes the useof similes and metaphors in popular advertisements. Myers alsoasserts that there are certain pronouns that are used inadvertisements with the motive of attempting to build personalrelationships between the audience and that products beingadvertised. These include the use of “you” and “we” to createcloser relationships. Additionally, he examines the use of everydayconversations in advertisements. These dialogues are used to createmini-dramas to progress the story of the advertisement in acategorical manner.

The second method used for discourse analysis of the adverts isLabov’s narrative model. Labov &amp Waletzky were among the firstdiscourse analysts to show analytically that voiced stories inconversations could be imperiled to formal analysis (Rogers, 2011).Their central approach involved getting stories from the subjects inthe conversation by asking an interviewer to ask them using informaltechniques. The respondents would give feedback on any“life-threatening” experiences they had faced. Labov then wentahead to analyze the narratives as having structures which had sixelements. However, not all these elements would be present in thenarrative given by the respondent. The elements were an abstract,orientation, complication, evaluation, resolution and coda.Evaluation is an element that weaves throughout the story. Theabstract and coda are optional elements in the story, while bothorientation and evaluation may be part of the complication andresolution (Shenhav, 2005). Labov insisted that the stages have tooccur in a definite sequence so as the story to be qualified assuccessful.

Challengesand limitations of the methods

While using these techniques, there is need to have a grammaranalysis review. This means that the researcher must have access to alarge database, which is usually known as corpora (Baker, 2006).Despite the fact that having access to such a database gives theresearcher a sense of language overall, there is one limitation whichthe researcher may be faced with. The limitation is that there lacksmany sources from which the researcher may have access to theselists. This means that the researcher has to rely on unwieldy sourcessuch as cable television. Alternatively, the researcher can look forthe pertinent information from TV shows.

Labov also highlights some limitations with using Labov’s narrativemodel. He says that there are two limits of in the model. They areboth associated with the abdication of the experiences from narratorto audience. First, there is implication of the theorem on transferof experience. He says that the transfer of information to theaudience is limited, given that the verbal account for a littleinformation, which the narrator received from, senses such as soundand vision (Shenhav, 2005). The second limitation is the extent towhich the narrators add subjective reports of their emotions. Theseare supposed to help the listeners to gain awareness about the event,as if it were the narrator’s own experience. These two implicationspresent interpretive challenges to conducting the discourse analysisof the advertisements under study.


Like other CDAs, this study has a concern with exemplification ofsocietal issues and texts, which unswervingly influence some people’slives. The study involves analyzing the behavior of members of acertain social group, who may be offended by the way, theinterpretations are made. In addition, as revealed earlier, CDAinvolves assessing power imbalances in the society. As such, thestudy takes an ethical stance in addressing these imbalances and thesocial justice agenda. Secondly, some ethical issues may arise aroundgaining permission to using of certain copyrighted texts. Thecompanies under study are multinational corporations, who take everylegal step in ensuring that there brands, including the texts theyuse to advertise them, are fully protected. This ethical issue ispredominantly of significance if the analysis may reveal some aspectsof manipulation or blinkered use of the language. As such, there isneed for distinction between confidentiality and anonymity.


Televisionadvertisement: Sprite advertisement

The television advert under research is Spire’s “Low-rideradvertisement”. The advertisement was made to help boostSprite’s campaign to increase the market share in the wake of thenew millennium. The advert, also known as “Merchants of Cool”,gained fame as it indicated that the label had launched a campaign tocreate in ironic yet “hippy and cool” feel about the product. Asthe producers set to create the advertisement, they decided to use astrong inter-textual link with the product, especially targeting theyouth with the trademark “low-rider” bikes. This particularadvertisement is an indication that advertisement is a discourse,which includes the meaning of text and the context in which thepeople in the advert are reacting to the surroundings. This is thedriver of the message from the producers, through the models andactors, to the audience. Therefore, it is mandatory to examine themeaning of the message being relayed by the producers to know how theaudience constructs these meanings. These meanings are created basedon the audience’ semiotic knowledge of signs, needs, and overalldesires.

Figure1: Sprite &quotLow-rider&quot advertisement.

Theforemost discourse analysis of the advert is that of its substance,background music and images. The advert begins with a group ofHispanic youths riding down the street with “low-rider” bikes.The use of Hispanic youths is to supplement the general “don’tcare” attitude, which the producers use to target the youths. Asthe riders progress down the street, innocent looking kids stare atthem with blank thoughts. While this happens, there is a voice fromthe background, which says, “some people don’t get it”. Thewords “some people” are used to differentiate those with socialexpertise from those who do not have an inkling what is ensuing. Thiscompels the audience to choose the Sprite side, which is described tobe cool and powerful. The second part of the phrase, which is “don’tget it”, is used to show that there is a part of “coolness”which the people who are not on the Sprite side do not have. The useof “low-rider” bikes is to attract the younger audience, who arenot yet the age of driving or buying a car. Further discourseanalysis of the use of the “low-rider” bikes reveals that thediscourses of masculinity, low-rider bike riding and the general“coolness” are associated with drinking Sprite.

Thereis also use of paralanguage, which serves as a marketing tool for theyouths. The background voice and words that are used on the advertare a constant form of appeal to the young generation to familiarizewith the product. Additionally, the tone in which the tagline wordsare spoken shows assertiveness, which is associated with Hispanicyouths. The entire 30-second advert is associated with some form ofdefiance, which further appeals to the young generation. Theproducers have used paralanguage to create assumptions about therelationship between acts and social class in the advert.

Magazineadvert: Airline advertisement

American Airlines’ Fly the American Way” is an advertmagazine with the intent of creating a channel between the airlineand its customers. The airline uses magazine advertising to informthe current and potential customers about the importance using theirservices. The Fly the American way advertisement campaign usesa number of images to sell out the Airline to the customers. TheAirline uses selective discursive strategies, which promote a rangeof specific social practices. There is also a representation of thetarget market, which supports certain values and practices, whichthey can identify themselves with in such circumstances. Onestrategy that the designers of the Airline’s magazine adverts useis designing the text to give priority to consumers who identifythemselves with the leisure of life, such as travelling and touringplaces across the world. By doing this, the advertisers construct alifestyle which is ideal for their loyal customers. Additionally, theadvertisements in the in-flight magazines put the American Airlinesin a position that distinguishes it from the competitors in theindustry. In some adverts, there is the use of male models tohighlight the airline’s business class luxury it is, therefore,supposed that the target audience is the male professionals. Theseare the Airline’s most frequent travelers, and who have a lot ofinformation about superior air-travel services.

Atextual analysis of a full-page advert on the airline’s in-flightmagazines provides more information on the discourse. The advert is afull-page color promotional piece. It gives information about thecompany’s operations and reminds the customers about their profileand values. Additionally, the advert’s designers put emphasis onsome elements of business, which are used to make them appear uniqueand different from the other competitors. Women are also used tocreate a sense of attraction to a number of adverts for the airline.The layout of the advertisement draws the eye of the audience to aneatly dressed flight attendant. On her chest, a clear and distinctairline logo is pinned. As a strategy to avoid attention to any otherparts of the advert, there are no any brandings within it. Thewoman’s general pose is quite seductive, with her chin held to herhand and another hand going around the legs. To mute the picture andprovide a feeling of professionalism, there is a slightly visiblebuckle with the American flag’s colors on it.

Figure2: American Airlines advert

Toprovide the audience with a sense of protection, there are words thatread, “Think of her as your Mother”. In the contemporarysociety, mothers are perceived to be symbols of protection andconfidence. The advert’s designers place the text next to her eyes,in the process emphasizing the woman’s smile. There then is theutilization of non-formal conventions of syntax within the text,which are used to attract the audience’ attention. Below this,there is text written in smaller fonts, which narrates theadvertiser’s story. Part of it reads, “She only wants what isbest for you”. This emphasizes the motherly affection by use ofprose. By using this strategy, discourse created serves the interestof familiarizing the clients with the company’s services andhospitality.

Discussionand conclusion

The analysis of the two advertisements from different media platformshas revealed that each has its technique of emphasizing the message.While television adverts rely on the visual effects used to constructthe advertisements, magazine advertisements rely on the lucidity ofpicture and the elements that are portrayed. However, both use thestrategy of highlighting certain parts of the pictures to guide theaudience’ concentration. For instance, the audience’ attention isattracted to the bikes at the opening of the advert. This is theadvertiser’s strategy to link the “low-rider” bikes with theproduct. On the other hand, the audience’ attention is attracted tothe woman on the Airline’s magazine advert. She is the center ofthe message, which is the Airline’s hospitality, the main aim ofcreating the advert. The analysis has also shown that theconversations created in the advert range from simple present to pasttense. However, there is also use of progressive sentences, whichrender the idea of “let it happen right now”. There is also useof reference to pop culture and current events on many televisionadverts, which is designed to attract the youthful target market. Thesubstitution for this in magazine advertising is use of class andelegance, premeditated to fascinate the mature audience.


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