Encounters between theory and practice: Semiotic and pragmatic principles in advertising

FOSTER, Stuart (2017). Encounters between theory and practice: Semiotic and pragmatic principles in advertising. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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Link to published version:: https://doi.org/10.7190/shu-thesis-00057


Advertising has long been of interest to semiotic, linguistics and pragmatic theorists including Barthes (1957; 1977), Williamson (1978), Myers (1994), Cook (2001) and Tanaka (1994). Marketing scholars, including Brierley (2002) and Beaseley (in Beaseley & Danesi, 2002) show a reciprocal interest in the potential for semiotics to advance their discipline, but there is no apparent awareness of theories of pragmatics or its relevance to their field. While semiotics offers a tool in understanding how meaning is conveyed through linguistic and non-linguistic signs, pragmatics focuses upon language, speaker intentions and the interpretation of utterances in context. This study compares these two approaches in understanding the creative processes involved in the design of advertisements. Universities and professional bodies were contacted to ascertain whether these subjects were taught to prospective and practising advertising professionals and, if so, what was the precise content. Considerable variation is found between institutions, ranging from no input to a moderate level of input in semiotics; pragmatics is absent in the syllabus. Where semiotics is taught, it is confined to using theories to deconstruct selected advertisements rather than employing semiotic principles as a design technique. In addition, five copywriters are interviewed to ascertain their awareness of semiotics and, more generally, the creative processes they adopt. While a vague knowledge of the theories is reported, and some appreciation of their possible relevance to the industry, practitioners make no attempt to apply semiotics systematically in their design practices. There is evidence of an awareness of the effects of signification and context which aligns with the theoretical frameworks, although this alignment can be explained more through intuition and job experience than a conscious application of theories. It is recommended that further research should be conducted into the value of teaching semiotics to marketing students, that an applied semiotic method is developed specifically for students of advertising and that consideration is given to incorporating aspects of pragmatics into their training.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Jones, Peter [0000-0002-1225-0192]
Thesis advisor - Clark, Jodie
Additional Information: Director of Studies: Dr.Peter Jones. Supervisor: Dr. Jodie Clark. No PQ harvesting.
Uncontrolled Keywords: advertising, copywriter, linguistics, marketing, pragmatics, semiotic
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.7190/shu-thesis-00057
Depositing User: Jill Hazard
Date Deposited: 05 Jan 2018 17:12
Last Modified: 03 May 2023 02:05
URI: https://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/18155

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