The Effect of Sociolinguism on Advertising Slogans: Language as a Conveyor of Cultural Characteristics

The Effect of Sociolinguism on Advertising Slogans: Language as a Conveyor of Cultural Characteristics

Juan Miguel Alcántara-Pilar, Ivan Manuel Sánchez-Duarte, Mª Eugenia Rodríguez-López, Álvaro J. Rojas-Lamorena
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5778-4.ch007
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The present research intends to check if foreign languages, as cultural conveyors, moderate the characteristics associated with advertising slogans. To understand better how the use of foreign languages can improve the persuasive capacity of ads, three research questions have been established: (1) with what sector of production is the use of foreign languages associated; (2) which characteristics are associated with the foreign language used in advertisements; and (3) what is the relationship between the foreign language used and the image of the firm. In order to answer these questions, the authors have designed an audio slogan translated into three languages: Italian, Turkish, and Russian. The total sample exposed to the slogan is composed of 184 subjects. The conclusions have shown that those firms that seek to communicate a symbolic meaning should select a language that conveys the desired cultural values, thus improving the persuasion already derived from the country of origin.
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The phenomenon of market globalization, coupled with the economic integration processes which take place worldwide, highlights the importance of foreign languages as a source of competitive advantage in intercultural trading communications (Cuervo-Cuzarra & Ramamurti, 2017). The use of foreign languages is particularly important for those enterprises and organizations with a global vision of the market. In a global competitive environment, people and organizations that can master relevant languages will enjoy an advantage in matters of trade and exchange at worldwide level (Li & Kalynaraman, 2012; Molinsky, 2007).

The significance of language in professional and businesses relations has been heightened by the development of new information and communication technologies, growth in internet use and the global phenomenon of social networking (Luna, Peracchio, & De Juan, 2003). All of these offer multiple platforms and communication channels, providing access to a worldwide audience.

There has also been an increase in foreign language learning because of the advances made in the education systems of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. Nevertheless, just 10 languages are spoken by 50% of the world’s population, out of a total of 7,106 living languages that are spoken by 6,200 million people (see Table 1).

Table 1.
Distribution of top 10 world languages by number of first-language speakers
RankingLanguagePrimary countryTotal CountriesSpeakers (millions)
3EnglishUnited Kingdom99335
5ArabicSaudi Arabia60237
8RussianRussian Federation16167

Source: Lewis, Gary and Fennig (2014)

Key Terms in this Chapter

Linguistic Relativity: This comprises a series of hypotheses, including the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, regarding the psychological and cognitive effect of the mother tongue on cultural variation. According to relativist theories, two speakers of very different languages will conceptualize the same phenomena differently due to the cognitive effects associated with the vocabulary and grammatical peculiarities of their respective languages.

Language Framework: Language is associated with cultural values, hence communicating in a given language can increase a person’s cognitive access to the cultural values associated with that language.

Country-of-Origin Effect: The fact that, by mentioning the country a product originates from, will influence the consumers’ evaluation of the product.

Sociolinguistics: The discipline concerned with the different aspects of society that influence how language is used, such as cultural norms and the context in which speakers operate. This perspective is concerned with language as a system of signs in a social context. It differs from the sociology of language in that it examines how language influences society.

Globalization: An international phenomenon defined as the rapidly developing process of complex interconnectedness between societies, cultures, institutions, and individuals worldwide. It is a social process which involves the compression of time and space, shrinking distances through a dramatic reduction in time taken – either physically or representationally – to cross them, so that the world seems smaller, and, in a certain sense, brings human beings ‘closer’ to one another.

Consumer Behavior Online: The way in which consumers searches for, purchases, uses and evaluates products, services that they believe will satisfy their needs, and that are sold over the Internet.

Cultural Frame-Switching: A concept which addresses how an individual switches between cultural frames or systems in response to his environment. The presence of culture-specific peers can elicit culture-specific values. Cultural frame-switching (CFS) can be used to describe the switching of different language use depending on the context. Thus, CFS can be connected to cultural accommodation, which occurs when bilinguals respond to situations with the language that applies best to the situation they find themselves in. It is evident that language can have an effect on an individual’s thought process; this is because the language itself primes the individual’s cultural values, attitudes and memory, which, in turn, affect behavior. Thus, language has a powerful effect on how an individual responds to change.

The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis: A hypothesis which holds that there is a relationship between the grammatical categories of the language a person speaks and how that person understands and conceptualizes the world. This hypothesis is also known as the Linguistic Relativity Principle (LRP).

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