Dissertation > Language, writing > Chinese > Writing,rhetoric > Of Stylistics

A Comparative Study of Politeness Strategies in the Cosmetic Advertising Discourse of Chinese and American Fashion Magazines

Author RenLeiLei
Tutor JinZuo
School Northwest Normal University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords discourse strategies politeness strategies cosmetic advertising discourses macro-structure micro-structure comparative study
CLC H152
Type Master's thesis
Year 2011
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Advertising has long been a hot point of research both at home and abroad, especially in this global-economic time and information age. It has been explored from different perspectives, such as from the linguistic, semiotic, and pragmatic aspects. However, as a specific advertising, the cosmetic advertising still has much room to explore. Therefore, the purpose of the present study is to make clear the discourse and politeness strategies employed in the Chinese and English magazine cosmetic advertisements (CEMCAds). We hope that this comparative analysis of the cosmetic advertisements(CAds) can not only provide a new field to explore the politeness strategy research, but also do helps in a better understanding to the intercultural communication.Based on Brown and Levinson’s politeness model (Brown and Levinson 1978,1987) and van Dijk’s macro-structure view of discourse(van Dijk 1977), this thesis clarifies the similarities and differences of discourse strategies applied in CEMCAds discourses, and then describes the linguistic politeness employed in them. At macro-structure level, our study focuses on the move structures and text patterns in semantics and“reason and tickle”in pragmatic constructs. While from the micro-structure perspective, the reference system is the key of study. The study corpora is 224 cosmetic advertising discourses, collected from 4 kinds of fashion magazines-COSMOPOLITAN, Vogue in America, and the equivalent Chinese editions Vogue服饰与美容,时尚·Cosmopolitan.The thesis has 6 chapters. Chapter 1 makes a general introduction to the research background, purpose and significance of the study. A brief review of literature on advertising discourse and politeness both at home and abroad are presented in Chapter 2. Chapter 3 is the theoretical foundations of our study. In Chapter 4, the methodology is conducted from four aspects. Chapter 5 answers the research questions and makes a discussion on the results. Chapter 6 summaries the findings on the whole research and points out the limitations and implications for the further study.We get the following conclusions from our comparative study:1. At the macro-structure level, both Chinese and English ads take a similar schema of move structures, text patterns and pragmatic constructs, which show that to some extent, the cosmetic advertisers of different cultures share conventional knowledge or belief about participants and expectation of their potential consumers.In two corpora, the similarities of move structure are that“Headline”move and“Detailing the offer”move are conventional moves, with high frequency of occurrences, whereas the“Establishing credential”and“Offering incentives”are optional moves, with less frequency. The differences lie in that the number of Chinese ads is over twice as many as English ones in the use of“Indicating the offer”move, but the frequencies of English corpus in the rest three moves are much higher than in Chinese cosmetic advertisements.From the semantic level, both positive and negative politeness strategies are applied in CEMCAds, but the emphasis is different. On the whole, Chinese magazine cosmetic advertisements (CMCAds) have the tendency of realizing negative politeness strategies, whereas English magazine cosmetic advertisements (EMCAds) are just the reverse. Pragmatically, the ultimate purpose of advertising is persuasion, and most of CEMCAds achieve this aim with explicit reasons, which apply the positive strategy. The number of tickle ads in Chinese ads is twice as many as those in English ones, so the use of negative politeness strategies is prevalent in Chinese culture. In the further research to tickle ads, it was found that, the higher price the cosmetic is, the more indirect and vaguer the statements are in advertising discourse.2. At the micro-structure level, both impersonal and personal pronouns are used by advertisers in CEMCAds. The gradation of closeness is from“I”and inclusive-we through“you”to impersonal pronouns and the third person pronouns, and eventually to exclusive-we and honorific reference.The positive politeness strategies are related with“I”,“you”and its relevant form“your...”, while the negative politeness with impersonal pronouns, the third person pronouns and exclusive-we in our study. Our finding is that Chinese and English advertisers have the same preference to address readers in an informal and intimate way, which realizes the positive politeness strategies.3. The universality of the politeness strategies conveyed in CEMCAds displays itself in two aspects. One is that politeness is a universal phenomenon in both CEMCAds. The other shows that, in terms of reference system, advertisers all strive to find more things in common with potential consumers, both socially and emotionally, to establish a close cooperative relationship and the positive politeness strategies are used.However, the particularities are also reflected in our comparative study. (1) the Chinese writers prefer starting the text with negative politeness, while the American writers tend to use positive politeness at the very beginning; (2) the use of negative politeness strategies in“tickle”ads is more prevalent in Chinese advertising than in English CAds; (3) Chinese ads prefer to promote products with authorities’ opinions and recommendations, and the negative politeness strategy is applied. However, English ads tend to express belief with the experimental data and factual proofs, realizing the positive politeness.

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