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The Noun Phrase in Ads English

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j01trl~lffELSEVIER Journal of Pragmatics 29 (1998) 155-171

The noun phrase in advertising English*Susan RushFonds Gustave Guillaume, Ddpartement de langues et linguistique, Facult~ des Lettres, Pavillon Charles-de Koni.~ck, Universit~ Laval, Quebec G1K 7P4, CanadaReceived 17 August 1995; revised version 7 April 1997

AbstractThe purpose of this paper is to give a formal description of two unusual features of the noun phrase in English print advertising: its ability to operate as an independent clause in all areas of an ad - headline, subhead, signature line and text - and its complex premodifying structures. Premodification in the noun phrase is characterized by the abundant use of comparative and superlative adjectives and of colourful compounds, and by the tendency to place the product (or trade) name in first or early position in lengthy designations. This last, unusual feature disrupts the traditional word-order of premodifying adjectives in the noun phrase. Examples selected for analysis are chiefly from current (1993-1996) Canadian and American newspapers and magazines.

1. IntroductionThis paper examines various features of the noun phrase in English print advertising, more specifically, the noun phrase's ability to operate as an independent construction in the headline, signature line and body copy (i.e. text) of an ad, and its complex and often bizarre premodification structures. I am primarily interested in presenting a formal description of advertising language, rather than a semantic description, although an overlap of the two is somewhat unavoidable at times. I will first investigate the noun phrase'!; status as an independent clause in advertising English, and will then analyse its unusual structural features - more specifically, the complexity of the pre-modifying part. Though some theories on the word-order of adjectives are touched upon, the aim of the present paper is not to incorporate my observations in the framework of a specific or general linguistic theory. This study attempts chiefly to bring to ligh,E specific 'disjunctive '~ uses of the noun phrase in* I am grateful to Walter Hirtle, Patr:ick Duffley and two anonymous reviewers for the Journal of Pragmatics for their ideas and insightful comments. Any errors are my own responsibility. The terms 'disjunctive' and 'discursive' are from Leech (1966). 'Discursive style' designates the type of English prescribed by traditional grammars, and 'disjunctive style' is characterized as one displaying the unusual features typical to contemporary advertising English, e.g. the use of phrases as independent clauses. 0378-2166/98/$19.00 1998 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved PH S037 8 - 2 1 6 6 ( 9 7 ) 0 0 0 5 3-2


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Canadian and American print advertising. Thus the main purpose of the syntactic analyses in the present paper is to highlight peculiarities of structure encountered in advertising English. Examples selected for analysis are mainly from current (1993-1996) Canadian and American newspapers and magazines. I have also supplemented my data, when necessary, with examples listed in Advertising slogans of America (Sharp, 1984). Finally, though the focus of Leech's 1966 study, English in advertising, is mainly British television advertising, it has nonetheless proved to be an invaluable source for my research.

2. The noun phrase with independent statusA major difference observed between traditional English grammar and advertising English is the frequent use of the noun phrase as an independent clause in advertising English. This grammatical divergence is particularly noticeable when used in advertising headlines 2 (though it is not restricted to headlines as we shall see below) as the following examples illustrate: (1) The Art of Writing. (Mont Blanc pens) (2) The after dinner Bar-Be-Que. (Cool Whip whipping cream) (3) Every face. Every day. (Clinique cosmetics) By traditional standards, none of the above noun phrases are considered a grammatically complete sentence, yet in context they clearly express a complete thought. What constitutes, then, a 'grammatically complete sentence'? Webster (s.v. sentence) defines the sentence as a "conventional unit of connected speech or writing, usually [my emphasis] containing a subject and predicate, beginning with a capital letter and ending with an end mark". Moore et al. (1989: 22) specify that "a sentence is made complete either by its grammatical form and meaning or - in special circumstances [my emphasis] by the context in which it appears". 3 These definitions indicate that the noun phrase can function as an independent clause in standard English, although its use (in texts) is infrequent. Advertising English, on the other hand, makes such frequent use of this construction that it has become one of its most distinguishing characteristics: Ghadessy (1988: 57) states, in effect, that advertising English exhibits "pervasive trends", one of them being the "frequent use of 'disjunctive' syntax and incomplete sentences, with noun phrases ... represented orthographically as independent sentences". Like-

2 The use of independentnoun phrases in headlines is not a feature unique to advertising English. Disjunctiveness in headlines is a feature typical of other print media, like newspaper and magazine headlines, book titles, and public notices. I shall limit this investigationsolely to advertising headlines, since an analysis of these other genres goes beyond the scope of the present paper. For an analysis of sentence structure in newspaper headlines, cf. Brisau (1969); Straumann (1935). I do not intend to solve the thorny issue of what constitutes a 'complete grammatical sentence'; I merely wish to point out the problem since it bears upon the issue discussed here.

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wise, Cook (1992: 109) describes these constructions as "orthographic sentences" and Leech calls this independent use of the noun phrase a "minor clause",4 pointing out (1966: 16) that it constitutes a "break with traditional grammar," being equivalent to a clause in "function and meaning". Leech further notes that the minor clause displays the phonological and orthographic signs of complete sentence status, and that it is essentially equivalent in function and meaning to a complete sentence (and so to a complete thought). Indeed, stress patterns (like a rise-fall pattern) and the predominance of punctuation marks, such as periods, dashes and sequences of dots, point to the noun phrase's independent status in advertising English. The following examples bear this out: (4) The art of being unique. (CaJtier jewellers) (5) Escudo - a marvellous tobacco blended from just two kinds of leaf. (Leech, 1966:114) (6) Masters of detail ... (Sedgefield Furniture) Leech (ibid.: 17 lff.) claims that this distinct use of the noun phrase as an independent clause originates in part in the "block language" of outdoor display advertising and in the desire on the part of ;advertisers to save space and money. On the other hand, the noun phrase with independent status in standard English (i.e. in texts) has an entirely different motivation: Moore et al. (1988: 34) state that it is generally used to create a special effect, like emphasis and informality, as the following excerpt from Grahame Greene's The Shipwrecked illustrates:"And so on to Bangkok. Spit and hiss of water, the gramophone quiet. The lights out along the deck, nobody about."

Advertising English makes frequent use of the brand (or trade) name in a noun phrase acting as an independent clause within the headline: (7) Crown Jewel of the Far East The Hyperion Asian Trust. (Hyperion CIBC Securites) (8) The Art Shoppe A World Without Boundarie:~ (The Art Shoppe furniture store) (9) Zino. The Fragrance of Desire. (Zino Davidoff eau de toilette for men)

4 In addition to the two clause systems, independent/dependent and finite/non-finite, Leech distinguishes a third clause system, major/minor. A major clause has a finite verb, or "predicator", whereas a minor clause does not. The use of the term "minor clause" thus includes independent constructions like When still warm; Once a thief, always a thief (1966: 15). Prepositional phrases and nominal phrases used independently also form part of the minor system.


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Thus in (7) the company name Hyperion Asian Trust, a noun phrase with independent status, relates to the preceding noun phrase Crown Jewel of the Far East as a subject to a 'subject predicative') We find the reverse relationship in (8) and (9): the company names the Art Shoppe and Zino relate to the following noun phrases A Worm Without Boundaries and The Fragrance of Desire as a subject to a subject predicative. One has only to add the linking verb in these examples 6 to form the traditional subject/predicate sentence typical of discursive style: The Hyperion Asian Trust is the crown jewel of the Far East; The Art Shoppe is a worm without boundaries; Zino is the fragrance of desire. Leech (1963: 262) specifies though that "the correspondence of referential meaning on which this 'translation' is based should not be equated in any sense with grammatical equivalence". That is to say, in disjunctive style Zino and The Fragrance of Desire constitute different sentences since they are not grammatically related (but they are semantically related); they are therefore separated by a period. In (8) there are no periods to delimit the two noun phrases, but the capital letters at the beginning of each phrase (The and A) and the graphic disposition (on two separate lines) indicate that we are dealing with two separate sentences. The frequent use of the independent noun phrase in advertising English is not restricted solely to the headline; it is found frequently in all areas of the ad, such as the subhead, the signature line and even the body copy as the following ad shows:

(~o) headline:Cover Girl. The most natural kind of beauty. For every kind of skin.

subhead: 147 naturally true shades. 7 skin-specific formulas. body copy: Make-up so perfect, so natural, it doesn't look like make-up. The Cover Girl collection of made-for-each-other foundations and powders. Specifically created to match your skin tone, your skin type. Beautifully. And, made to be so good to your skin. Cover Girl make-up. The natural choice for beautiful. The perfect choice for you. signature: Cover Girl. Redefining beautiful.The striking feature of this ad is the predominance of the noun phrase used as an independent clause throughout the entire ad: the headline has two, Cover Girl~The most natural kind of beauty (and one prepositional phrase For every kind of skin); the subhead, two; the signature line, one, Cover Girl (and one verbal phrase Redefining beautiful). The most remarkable feature in this ad however is the use of the independent noun phrase in the body copy: Make-up so perfect, so natural, it doesn't

look like make-up; The Cover Girl collection of made-for-each-other foundations5 Thisterm is from an anonymousreviewer for the Journal of Pragmatics. 6 Some of these examples could, of course, have slightly different 'translations': for example, Zino

produces thefragrance of desire.

S. Rush / Journal of Pragmatics 29 (1998) 155-171


and powders; Cover Girl make-up; The natural choice for beautiful; The perfect choice for you. Of particular interest is the absence of independent clauses with a subject and a verb in the entire text. This ad is illustrative of the tendency of advertising English to use the noun phrase (and other types of phrases like prepositional and verbal phrases) as an independent clause. Worth mentioning is the difference in the structural relations between the phrases in the above headline and those observed in (7), (8) and (9): for example, we cannot insert the linking verb to be between the two noun phrases in apposition in the headline, for this produces an illogical sentence *Cover Girl is the most natural kind of beauty. 7 Though apposition of two noun phrases - one of which names the product often implies "referential equivalence" (Leech, 1966: 149), this is obviously not the case here. Possible readings might be Cover Girl gives you the most natural kind of beauty or, You can get the most natural kind of beauty with Cover Girl. Since there is no way of deciding exactly what elements are not found in disjunctive sentences, 'translations' into discursive style, while still maintaining the implied meaning of the disjunctive expression, can vary considerably. It follows that the presupposed structural relations will also vary. Any comparison of the relations between independent noun phrases and other elements in the text must obviously take into account these possible variations in 'translation'. To illustrate, in the first reading above the most natural kind of beauty functions as the direct object and Cover Girl, as the subject. In the second reading both phrases are adjuncts of the verb can get: the most natural kind of beauty functioning as direct object, and with Cover Girl, as a prepositional phrase. Apposition of independent pllxases is not limited to noun phrases. For example, the prepositional phrase For every kind of skin is in apposition to the noun phrase The most natural kind of beauty. This sequence might be translated into discursive English as follows: Cover Girl gives you the most natural kind of beauty and is suitable for every kind of skin. The signature line is also composed of two different types of phrases: the noun phrase Cover Girl is in apposition to the verbal phrase Redefining beautiful, and might be trans]Lated into discursive English by simply changing the status of the non-finite verb defining to that of a finite verb: Cover Girl redefines beauty. Of particular interest is the use of the adjective beautiful as a substantive. This uncommon use also occur:s in the body copy, The natural kind of beautiful. These observations of the possible semantic and structural relations between the noun phrase and other constructions in the text are, admittedly, brief. A thorough investigation, which is impossible to do here, would need to be undertaken to shed further light on this particular aspect of disjunctive English. The text in the following striking L.L. Bean ad illustrates an extreme use where the noun phrase practically makes up the entire body copy:-

? In order to create a logical discursive sentence with a similar structure to that observed in (7), (8) and (9), the noun beauty, which is the head of the prepositional phrase in the second independent noun phrase, must be added to the first noun phrase Cover Girl, thus functioning as the subject of the 'translated' discursive version: Cover Girl beauty is the most natural kind of beauty.


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(11) No traffic. No crowds. No hassles. 276 pages to browse through. 848 gift ideas. Turtlenecks and toboggans. Christmas trees. Christmas tweeds. All time classics and one-of-a-kinds. Toys for kids. Toys for kids at heart. Old favorites. New colors. Unparalleled Bean quality. For over 80 years. 100% guaranteed. One simple phone call. Anytime. FedEx delivery. Now, no extra charge. Everything's taken care of. The impression of a clipped 'no-nonsense' style is achieved through the abundance of short sentences devoid of adjectival hype, which call to mind all the advantages of shopping by catalogue, and suggest in a simple, direct manner the wide range of products available through Bean's catologue. Ghadessy (1988: 58) describes this type of ad as "the no-frills advertisement", a style, he claims, that is increasingly common in British newspapers. As Ghadessy notes, these no-nonsense ads avoid the flamboyance, the visual and verbal cleverness, and the linguistic innovations typical of luxury product advertisements, yet they still make use of common advertising features, like disjunctive syntax. Particular to the above L.L. Bean ad is the marked absence of laudatory adjectives (save for unparalleled) normally prevalent in advertising copy, and of finite verbs (save for the last sentence Everything's taken care of). The copy is also characterized by a prolific use of word play and phonological schemes: for instance, the frequent use of parallelism (No traffic~No crowds~No hassles; Old favorites~New colors; Turtle-necks and toboggans~All time classics and one-of-a-kinds), alliteration (Turtlenecks and toboggans. Christmas trees. Christmas tweeds.), repetition (No ... No ... No ...; Christmas ... Christmas ...; Toys for kids. Toys for kids at heart.), and rhyme (trees~tweeds). The overall effect of the terse 'staccato' sentences is to give the ad a rhythmic quality reminiscent of certain kinds of popular music, like 'rap'.

3. Premodification in the noun phrase

3.1. Classifying premodifiersWhile Ghadessy notes (1988: 57) that advertising English tends to use "lengthy and complex noun phrases, with superlative and compound adjectives, and nouns functioning as modifiers", Leech specifies (1966: 127) that the most interesting part of the noun phrase is unquestionably the premodifying part, for it displays very unusual features of structure. According to Leech, the noun phrase has basically two forms of premodification which can be summarized as follows: the premodifier either imparts specific information about the product, hence it has a classifying function (like political, minor, solar, criminal, three, wooden, etc.), or else it is used for an evocative, subjective effect and has a descriptive function (like good, excellent, big, soft, wonderful, interesting, etc.). This categorization follows grammarians' traditional binary classification of adjectives (e.g. Curme (1977) designates adjectives as "limiting" and "descriptive", Coates (1971) uses the terms "peripheral" and "central", Marchand (1966), "transpositional" and "copula", etc.).

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Specialty magazines, noted for their technical and scientific writing styles, make frequent use of classifying premc~lifiers; however, this use is not limited exclusively to technical magazines as the fi~llowing body copy excerpts from ads in US and Good Housekeeping magazines show (classifying premodifiers are italicized): (12) ... Sport-tuned suspension and a 1.5 liter turbocharged Alpha engine. (Hyundai Scoupe Turbo) (13) ... the new Resistal porcelain enamel tri-layer base ... The new Resistal concept of non-stick cookware from T-Fal. (T-Fal Resistal) (14) ... New instant-response surface elements and a unique Dual-Radiant baking system ... our sealed, almost indestructible, smooth CERAN surface ... our exclusive, gently rounded UltraStyle design. (Frigidaire) (15) The 6000 series. 18-karat gold and fine brushed steel ... Scratch-resistant sapphire crystal with magnified date indicator. (TagHeuer Swiss watches) Thus in (12) the premodifiers sport-tuned, 1.5 liter, turbocharged, and Alpha give 'semi-technical' information about the Hyundai Scoupe Turbo. Similarly for the premodifiers (italicized) in (13), (14) and (15): all have a classifying role. Leech (1966: 127) points out that the use of "technical premodifiers" is particularly frequent in the copy of scientific and technological communications, and Quirk (1976: 172) notes that the use of this form of premodification has been subjected to much criticism: critics of this style "would ... prefer to see more 'postmodified nominal groups' and fewer of the heavily 'premodified' ones". Quirk illustrates the complexity of premodification with the example the Company's eightfixed open hearth steel melting furnaces, claiming ~that "many critics of this style would prefer to see something like 'eight furnaces, of a fixed type with open hearth, for the melting of steel" '. Leech (1966: 128) argues, however, that the 'translation' of premodifiers into postmodifiers causes a semantic change: thus, in the above example the premodified noun denotes a specif~ic category of furnace, whereas the postmodified noun describes furnaces with certain similar characteristics.

3.2. Descriptive premodifiersWhile the classifying premodifier in advertising copy usually gives information about the product, the descriptive premodifier (and postmodifier) is mainly used to give colourful and attractive descriptions of the product or service, and so communicates more on an emotive level. The following body copy from a Hyatt Resorts advertisement giving a glowing description of the resort's Hawaiian location illustrates this use: (16) On one of the world's most seductive islands ... The atmosphere is quietly elegant, the service extraordinary. And every effort is made to offer an unforgettable escape. The modifiers most seductive, and unforgettable give little specific information about the island, such as its size, location, amenities etc., but rather create a special


s. Rush /Journal of Pragmatics29 (1998) 155-171

mood by their evocative content. The same applies to the following excerpts of ads from Henckels cutlery, Redken hair coloring and Carnival Cruises: (17) Henckels has been universally recognized for unsurpassed quality and craftmanship ... Developers of the unique ice hardener process ... gives Henckel knives exceptional performance ... the dominant choice ... great values ... highquality gift items ... the world's most desirable cutlery. (18) Imagine super natural color ... For brilliant body and sensational shine in a host of fetching shades. (19) 8 lavish meals ... dazzling discotheque, fabulous ports of call ... famous 'Fun Ship' pampered service. A common feature of the noun phrase in advertising English is the abundance of premodifying comparative and superlative adjectives (highlighted in bold): this

huge, better-educated, better-able-to-buy group; a healthier way to bake; dramatically clearer, smoother, healthier skin; the most desired fine china; the softest leathers and most beautiful exotic skins; the smoothest, silkiest shave. Moreover,we note that the comparative adjectives used in the above examples share an unusual feature: the absence of a basis for comparison. Another typical characteristic is the frequent use of vivid premodifying adverbs: noisily crisp celery (Leech, 1966:129); meltingly sheer in texture (Lancrme Nutriforce creme); deliciously unpredictable (Harlequin Romance novels); astonishingly quiet (Whirlpool dishwashers); touchingly fresh and healthy (Jergens soap); 8 charles jourdan bis. fabulously fresh french footwear. The last example shows the effective use of alliteration, which gives the slogan a rythmic 'playful' tone, and the imaginative combination of the descriptive adjective fresh, suggesting food products, with notions totally unrelated to food,

french and footwear.Occasionally the same adjective is repeated in the noun phrase, a technique which evokes an emotive response in the reader. The series of long-running Virginia Slims cigarette ads targeted specifically at women illustrate this use: (20) We've come a long, long way. The ad shows a black and white picture of a woman dressed in turn-of-the-century clothing alongside a much larger colour picture of a woman in modem clothing; the obvious intent is to stimulate feminist feelings in potential female cigarette smokers. Likewise, though the following Coach Bag ad repeatedly uses a classifying adjective in the noun phrase, the same evocative quality arises, due in part to the accompanying visual: (21) George Washington's great great great great great great grandniece, Joanne Washington Blodgett, with her Coach Court Bag. 8 Though the last four examples are adjectival phrases, and not noun phrases, they nonetheless show the originalityof premodifyingadverbs.

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The ad, showing a black and white photo of a young woman in a museum-like setting, plays on family ancestry ~Lies; the emphasis on ancestry ties and traditional values is further enhanced by the signature line An American Legacy. In these ads both the visual and the repeated use of the adjective play an essential role in creating an emotional atmosphere. The use of repetition in the noun phrase to evoke an emotive response in the reader is not, however, as frequent as the more common practice of combining a laudatory adjective (i.e. descriptive) with one or more adjectives with a concrete meaning (i.e. classifying): gentle, hypoallergenic, waterproof protection (Coppertone suntan lotion for children), a visionary new makeup collection (Est6e Lauder cosmetics), exceptional hydrating benefits (Clarins cosmetics). In these three exampies, the descriptive adjectives gentle, visionary and exceptional say less about the products than about the writer's impression of them. They also precede the classifying adjectives: in this respect, the word order does not differ from that of traditional discursive English. However, we., shall see below that this is not always the case.

3.3. Compound premodifiersAnother distinctive feature of the noun phrase in advertising English is the high frequency and variety of compound premodifiers. Leech (1966: 137) states that "in

advertising English, lexical restraints on compound formation are less stringent than elsewhere" (author's italics). The following examples illustrate this:(22) Its unique, sure-grip handle ... those hard-to-reach places ... Spring-mounted twin blades ... Plus the exclusive Lubra-smooth T M strip ... (Gillette) (23) ... a deep down clean with a skin-caring difference .... New clearly different deep cleansing face wash ... From the new Cover Girl Clean SkinCare Collection. (24) ... In one fragrance-free, oil-free and ophthalmologist-tested formula ... (Lanc6me cosmetics) (25) ... presenting terracotta pearls hydro-tinting emulsion. The new dual-purpose beauty treatment ... (Guerlain cosmetics) The possibilities of creating new and unusual compounds in advertising copywriting are unlimited. Beauty ads are notorious for their abundant use of premodifying compounds, many of which are nonce compounds: a deep down clean with a skincaring difference; Clinique-blended Face Powder and Brush; stay-true wear ... fashion-right shades; fashion fresh color; heat-activated proteins; ultra-nourishing Olay fluid; Airspun's 14 complexion-matched shades; line-diminishing coverage; agedefying formula. The following formations are more exotic: this patented, ours-only formula; LipoEquilibrium Complex; a patent-pending Carecils Excellence brush. For obvious reasons, words suggesting water or moisture, like hydration and its derivatives, are prevalent in beauty ads: the unique progressive alpha-hydroxy system; Hydration-Plus Moisture Lotion; hydro-tinting emulsion.


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Compound premodifiers, like simple noun and adjective pre-modifiers, can be used either designatively or descriptively: thus, in the above examples skin-caring, fashion-right, fashion fresh, ultra-nourishing, age-defying give an emotive slant to the expression, while Clinique-blended, heat-activated, complexion-matched, linediminishing give specific information about the product's composition or benefits. Some compound premodifiers have more than two elements. These complex compounds can be: noun phrases, e.g. a natural, lash-by-lash look; Cup-at-a-Time Drip Coffeemaker; state-of-the-art features; our prompt service-by-mail address; the Mom-and-Pop food market; (ii) adjectival phrases, e.g. sweet-to-drink Pink Lady (Leech, 1966: 135); new, ready-to-spread Pillsbury Frosting Supreme; those hard-to-reach places; World's easiest-to-use dictating machine; (iii) prepositional phrases, e.g. around-the-clock cavity protection; (iv) adverbial phrases, e.g. For now-and-forever-after loveliness; Once-A-Year Specials; or (v) verbal phrases, e.g. the rich colour looking just-applied-new, made-for-eachother foundations; the wiped-clean wall covering; Brown-and-serve baked goods, the send-off breakfast. Finally, Leech (1966: 138) mentions the interesting formations farmhouse-fresh, coffee-pot-fresh, brand-new-clean which are basically 'compounds within compounds', that is, compounds which have another compound as first element. Advertising compounds thus differ from the more traditional forms of linguistic expression in their unusually high level of productivity and nonce formations; their vivid, colourful and often quasi-comical constructions add dynamism and impact to an advertising message that has to compete with countless other advertising messages. This, of course, does not mean that similar constructions cannnot be coined in discursive English, but since the objective of advertising is to sell a product or promote a service, copywriters are encouraged to use more unusual and bizarre formations to attract the consumer's attention. Luxury product advertising, as opposed to other forms (e.g. industrial, institutional, goods and services), lends itself more to exotic compounding: for instance, by their very subject matter, the abovementioned retail ads promoting beauty tend to utilize audacious forms of compounding, as opposed to ads promoting a service like investment or insurance. Ghadessy claims (1988: 58) that this is due to the consumer's and advertiser's perception of goods and services as material necessities of life, thus lending themselves to a less glamourized advertising style than luxury products. (i)

3.4. Number of premodifiersAnother feature of advertising English worth mentioning is the relatively high number of premodifiers within a single noun phrase. Bache (1978: 11) claims that the maximum number of premodifying adjectives likely to occur in "poly-adjectival nominal phrases" is limited to an upper range of six or seven, the average number

S. Rush / Journal of Pragmatics 29 (1998) 155-171


being two or three. He attributes this limitation in length to "psychological" and "semantic collocational restrictions". 9 When there is heavy premodification in the noun phrase in advertising English, the number of elements usually stays within Bache's established norm, i.e. between six to seven premodifiers. However, advertising English differs from discursive English in the unusual word-order of certain collocations.

3.5. Word-orderAn unusual characteristic of advertising language is the tendency to place the product (or trade) name in first or early position in lengthy designations. A case in point is the Gillette Sensor for Women refillable razor: the noun phrase Gillette Sensor for Women operates as a premodifier within another noun phrase. More explicitely, the trade name Gillette and product name Sensor for Women - which is itself a noun phrase composed of a noun and a prepositional phrase - function together as a single unit premodifying the head noun razor. Another uncommon feature is the unusual position of the adjective refillable in relation to the complex proper name, Gillette Sensor for Women, which can be categorized as a noun modifier. Indeed, traditional grammars specify (Quirk et al., 1985: 1340) that "premodifying nouns ... are normally placed immediately before the head of the noun phrase", which is not the case here. The same phenomenon applies to the following examples: in New Dualit~ Perfectly Flawless Compact Makeup the product name Dualit~ precedes the descriptive adjective Flawless, and in Jergens Refreshing Body Shampoo the descriptive adjective Refreshing follows the trade name Jergens. By placing the brand name in first (or early) position in the noun phrase, the copywriter gives prominence to the identity of the company rather than to the product's benefits or qualities. Leech mentions (1966: 131) that the brand name and some of its modifying components often show a "readiness to shift their syntactic function". For example, the product name MARROBONE TM alters its status as noun modifier in PEDIGREE MARROBONE TM Snack Food fi~r Dogs to head in PEDIGREE ~ MARROBONE TM. The noun snack also alters it,,', status as noun modifier in PEDIGREE MARROBONE TM Snack Food for Dogs to head in PEDIGREE MARROBONE TM dog snack. Similarly, in The Clairo,! ColorHold System, the product name ColorHold, acting as a noun modifier, becomes the head in Clairol ColorHold ~. And in the9 The following remarkable excerpt from James Joyce's Ulysses (1961), though not an example of advertising English, shows nonetheless the possibility, under special circumstances, of stringing an even greater number of premodifying adjectives: "The figure seated on a large bould,~r at the foot of a round tower was that of a broadshouldered deepchested stronglimbed frank-eyed redhaired freely freckled shaggybearded widemouthed largenosed longheaded deepvoiced barekneed brawnyhanded hairylegged ruddyfaced sinewyarmed hero." It is interesting to note that the sixteen adjectives in this string are all compound denominal -ed adjectives denoting parts of the body. This similarity in the adjectives' structure explains perhaps the absence of any 'semantic collocational restrictions' one would expect from such a lengthy construction.


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SurgeXpress from Black and Decker, the product name SurgeXpress, which is the head noun, becomes a noun modifier in the new Black and Decker SurgeXpress Iron. The following examples illustrate an extraordinary use of the product name Dog Chow (all five examples are found within the same Purina ad):TM

(26) (27) (28) (29) (30)

Dog Chow Senior Formula Dog Chow Senior Formula from Purina New Dog Chow Senior Formula for older dogs New Purina Dog Chow Brand Dog Food Senior Formula the Dog Chow family from Purina

In (26) to (28) the product name Dog Chow premodifies the compound head Senior Formula; both Dog Chow and Senior Formula are noun phrases with a noun and adjective premodifier, respectively. However, the most interesting combination is undoubtedly (29): the components Brand Dog Food are inserted between Dog Chow and Senior Formula, creating a complex sequence that is so bizarre it confuses the reader as to the actual name of the 'new' product. Indeed, the reader wonders whether Dog Chow Brand Dog Food is the new product name modifying the head Senior Formula. Or perhaps the whole complex Dog Chow Brand Dog Food Senior Formula is the new product name? Furthermore, what are the syntactic relationships in this complex formation? Does the compound Dog Chow Brand modify Dog Food first, and then the whole complex notion Dog Chow Brand Dog Food modify Senior Formula? Or does Dog Chow Brand and Dog Food modify the head separately? In order to shed light on these questions, it is necessary to look into some studies on adjectival word-order. Grammarians and linguists have attempted to explain the word-order of premodifying adjectives in noun phrases from various points of view: semantic (Whorf, 1945), formal (Teyssier, 1968; Bache, 1978), generative (Lord, 1970; Sussex, 1971), and psycholinguistic (Martin, 1969; Danks and Glucksberg, 1971). Bache's extensive corpus-based study, which divides premodifying adjectives into distinct semantic and syntactic zones according to their function, can perhaps help clarify the structural ambiguity observed in (29). He proposes (1978: 20) "two possible structural patterns in the arrangement of adjectives in a noun phrase: parataxis and hypotaxis ''1 and notes that it is generally agreed that in "unbroken" noun phrase constructions - i.e. constructions where there is no comma or connector - there tends to be a hypotactical relationship between the adjectives, as opposed to "broken" constructions, which tend to have a paratactical relationship (Bache, though, attempts to disprove this last assertion). Thus in magnified date indicator (15), theto Bache (1978: 20) defines a paratactical relationship as one where the adjectives separately modify the head: for example, this great, splendid capital = this great capital and this splendid capital, i.e. {(great) (splendid) capital]. On the other hand, in a hypotactical relationship, the adjectives do not modify the head separately, for example, the English medical student ~ *the English and medical student, i.e. {English [medical (student)]].

S. Rush / Journal of Pragmatics 29 (1998) 155-171


adjectives magnified and date do not modify the head noun indicator separately (we cannot, for instance, co-ordinate the two adjectives overtly by means of and). Likewise for Dual-Radiant baking ~ystem (14): baking premodifies system, and DualRadiant premodifies the combination baking system. Yet in many noun phrases, be they broken or unbroken constructions, both hypotaxis and parataxis can co-occur. In these cases Bache claims (ibid.: 20) that the co-occurrence of both patterns (hypotaxis and parataxis) creates " a tripartite division of adjectival premodification into a defining, a characterizing and a classifying zone". Thus, our exclusive, gently rounded UltraStyle design (14) has two structural pattems: exclusive and gently rounded, which are separated by a comma, have a paratactical relationship, both premodifying the combination UltraStyle design, whereas UltraStyle has a hypotactical relationship with both exclusive and gently rounded. According to Bache's division, exclusive and gently rounded occupy the "characterizing zone", and UltraStyle the "classifying zone". However, in more complex constructions like the above Purina ad, the relationship between the premodifiers in unbroken constructions is not evident at first glance. The impossibility of inserting the formal indicator of parataxis and indicates though that the relationship between the sequence of premodifiers in (29) is hypotactical. Quirk et al. (1985: 1342ff) note that in cases of multiple premodification where the relationship between adjectives is hypotactical, the premodifer either modifies the next following premodifier: income tax office furniture = {[(income tax) office] furniture}, or does not necessa:rily modify the immediate following premodifier: giant size cardboard detergent carton = {(giant size) [cardboard (detergent carton)] }. Thus in the latter example cardboard modifies detergent carton, and giant size modifies the cluster cardboard a'etergent carton. In example (29), we are faced with a similar structure, where the premodifiers do not always modify the next premodifier in the string. The linear stnicture of the sequence could now be analysed as follows: l l New Purina Dog Chow Brand Dog Food Senior Formula = New { {Purina { [(Dog Chow) Brand] (Dog Food) } } (Senior Formula) } or, possibly, New {Purina{ [(Dog Chow) Brand] [(Dog Food) (Senior Formula)[}} 1~ It is impossible here to undertake an in-depth analysis of the syntactic relationship between moditiers in the noun phrase given the objectives of this paper and the limited space. My aim is simply to point out the complexity of these constructions. Though Bache's (1978) study offers insightful comments on the word-order of premodifying adjectives, his examples are all drawn from works in discursive English, and thus do not tackle the issue of sequences of proper names in the noun phrase, nor does his study take into account the disjunctive aspect of advertising English. The syntactic relationships between premodifying (and postmodifyi~ag)elements in the noun phrase are still far from clear and constitute a challenging problem which would need to be addressed separately in another study. For an interesting meaning-based approach to this problem, cf. Valin (1981), who has addressed the problem of syntactic relationships in the noun phrase in French.


s. Rush /Journal of Pragmatics 29 (1998) 155-171

The confusing cluster here is Dog Food: indeed it is difficult to tell whether Dog Chow Brand premodifies Dog Food first, the combination Dog Chow Brand Dog Food then premodifying Senior Formula, or whether Dog Food modifies Senior Formula first, Dog Chow Brand premodifying the cluster Dog Food Senior Formula. Furthermore, the relation of the trade name Purina to the rest of the string is also unclear: does Purina premodify the entire string or only part of it? For example, in the second reading above Purina modifies the whole sequence Dog Chow Brand Dog Food Senior Formula. Yet it could also premodify the smaller cluster Dog Chow Brand Dog Food (first reading), or even the smaller cluster Dog Chow Brand. The unusual position of the trade and product names at the beginning of the noun phrase creates an ambiguity that is difficult to clarify. Quirk et al. (1985:1343) specify that "obscurity in premodification exists only for the hearer or reader who is unfamiliar with the subject concerned and who is not therefore equipped to tolerate the radical reduction in explicitness that premodification entails". This comment is particularly relevant to the many uses of the noun phrase in advertising English where the trade and/or product name appear in first or early position in the sequence. Another oddity worth mentioning in New Purina Dog Chow Brand Dog Food Senior Formula is the order of the collocations Dog Food and Senior Formula: it somehow sounds more natural for Dog Food to follow Senior Formula, thus functioning as the head of the noun phrase, rather than Senior Formula, as the next Purina ad illustrates: (31) Purina Fit and Trim brand adult dog food The oddness of the word order in the string Dog Food Senior Formula is perhaps due to the fact that Senior Formula specifies the age group to which the dog food is targeted (i.e for adult dogs); thus it would seem more natural for it to function as a premodifier rather than the head noun. Of course, premodification in these unusual cases is arranged according to the communicative intentions of the copywriter, whatever these may have been here. As in (29), the adjectives in (31) have a hypotactical relationship, yet their syntactic structure is clearer: adult premodifies dog, adult dog modifies food, Fit and Trim modifies brand; J2 Purina modifies Fit and Trim brand (it could also premodify the whole string), Purina Fit and Trim brand modifies adult dog food. The linear structure is as follows: { {Purina [(Fit and Trim) brand] } [(adult dog) food] }. The following examples further illustrate the complexity of nominal constructions with the product name (or trade name): Dr. Scholl's Women's High Heel Accessories; the new Cover Girl Clean SkinCare Collection; the Whirlpool Quiet Wash Plus dishwasher; New Nivea Visage Advanced Vitality Creme; WISH-BONE full fat 12 SinceFit and Trim is, in fact, the actual brand name, Brand logicallyrefers solely to Fit and Trim, and not to the compoundname Purina Fit and Trim.

S. Rush / Journal of Pragmatics 29 (1998) 155-171


Italian dressing; new Dermasil Pharmaceutical Dry Skin Treatment; Armstrong Floor Fashion Center retailer; Coppertone KIDS 6-Hour Waterproof Sunblock. Interestingly, Leech describes these designative expressions, whether they consist of one word or a whole string of words, as 'product names.' This suggests that complex constructions like Dog Chow Brand Dog Food Senior Formula can have a double interpretation: they can be analyzed as compound names with more than two elements, or heavily premodified noun phrases. 3.6. Unusual premodifiersFinally, the following striking uses of complex premodifiers illustrate the high degree of flexibility allowed the advertising copywriter: (32) (33) (34) (35) 'Make Him Drop The Remote Control' Red (Clairol Ultress hair color) 'Kick Down The Door And Bedazzle Him' Blonde (idem) 'Picture What Women Do' Official Participation Form (Lifetime Television) I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! Spray (Artificial butter spray, i.e. in an aerosol container)

What is normally an independent imperative clause in discursive English functions in (32) and (33) as a single adjective premodifying a head noun that is used normally as a colour adjective. Since the whole clause, which is delimited by quotation marks, is used adjectivally, it is interpreted as a single quality. Likewise for (34), the imperative clause Picture What Women, Do functions as a single adjective and premodifies the noun phrase Official Partico~ation Form. It is interesting to note that, despite these premodifiers' complexity, they still conform to the binary classification of adjectives: the exceptional 'adjectives' in (32) and (33) obviously have a descriptive function (they give an emotive slant to the phrase), whereas in (34) the 'adjective' has a classifying function (it identifies the contest). In (35) the 'adjective' I Can't Believe It's Not Butter?, which modifies the head noun Spray, is simultaneously descriptive and classifying: 1 Can't Believe coupled with the exclamation mark imparts an emotive slant to the product, and It's Not Butter gives specific information on the product's content. 4. Conclusion This investigation of two remarkable features of the noun phrase - its ability to operate as an independent clause at sentence level and its complex and unorthodox internal structure - brings to light two opposing tendencies: on the one hand, the complexity of the noun phrase's inner structure, t3 and on the other hand, its simplicity of structure across sentence boundaries.~3 Complexity of inner structure, according to Leech (1966: 120), is limited to nominal groups (i.e. structures which have nouns, pronouns, adjectives, determiners or numerals as their main elements), as opposed to verbal groups, which have extremely simple structures (often consisting of only one word, the verb).


S. Rush / Journal of Pragmatics 29 (1998) 155-171

A question which comes to mind is why copywriters tend to use long strings of premodifiers in their descriptions of the product, rather than postmodifying free syntactic combinations. One of the advantages of using premodifers in the noun phrase lies in their conciseness of form as compared to the elaborateness of free syntactic combinations: for example, unique, sure-grip handle (Gillette Sensor for Women) is paraphrased 'a handle with a unique and sure grip'; seven skin-specific formulas (Cover Girl), 'formulas that are designed for seven specific skin types' or, 'formulas that are designed specifically for seven skin types'. Another advantage of using premodifiers is that the "compression of meaning" of these premodified noun phrases often produces a certain degree of vagueness, permitting a "metaphorical connection" to be established between compound formations and the head (Leech, 1966: 139ff). This is evident in the above Cover Girl phrase, where the meaning of specific as a premodifier is ambiguous. Some expressions are even impossible to paraphrase: top-of-the-stove cookery, top-of-the-tree flavour (Leech, 1966: 140). By contrast, simplicity of structure is achieved at sentence level by the abundant use of independent nominal groups. 14 Leech describes these constructions as "sublogical", that is to say, the logical relations are not overt, as in a proposition, but implied. The discoursal effect of these simplified structures is to lend an impression of informality to the ad similar to spontaneous informal speech (cf. the verbless expressions often found in everyday conversation: 'Okay', 'Ready?', 'No way! '). There are, of course, many other disjunctive tendencies in advertising English which could not be addressed in this paper: the use of the non-finite clause with independent status, the use of the genitive as modifier, the predominance of certain verbal forms like the imperative, and the use of numerous other linguistic features like neologism, orthography, inversion, etc. Investigating one particular aspect of disjunctive style, the noun phrase, shows however that disjunctive advertising English merely exploits the possibilities of construction already found in discursive English.

ReferencesBache, Carl, 1978. The order of premodifying adjectives in present-day English. Odense: Odense University Press. Brisau, A., 1969. Complex sentence structures in headlines. English Studies 50(1): 31-38. Coates, Jennifer, 1971. Denominal adjectives: A study in syntactic relationships between modifier and head. Lingua 27: 160-169. Cook, Guy, 1992. The discourse of advertising. London and New York: Routledge. Curme, George O., 1977. A grammar of the English language, Vol. 1: Parts of speech. Essex: Verbatim. Danks, J.H. and S. Glucksberg, 1971. Psychological scaling of adjective orders. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 11: 183-187. Fries, Charles Carpenter, 1952. The structure of English. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World. Ghadessy, Mohsen, 1988. Registers of written English. London and New York: Pinter. Green, Grahame, 1965. The shipwrecked. Harmondsworth: Penguin. Joyce, James, 1961. Ulysses. New York: Random House. 14 1 am using 'nominal group' in Leech's sense (see note 13).

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Leech, Geoffrey N., 1963. Disjunctive grammar in British television advertising. Studia Neophilologica 35: 256-264. Leech, Geoffrey N., 1966. English in advertising: A linguistic study of advertising in Great Britain. London: Longman. Leiss, William, Stephen Kline and Sut Jlaally, 1988. Social communication in advertising. Scarborough: Nelson. Lord, J.B., 1970. Sequence clusters of pfe-nominal adjectives and adjectivals in English. Journal of English Linguistics 4: 57-69. Marchand, Hans, 1966. On attributive and predicative derived adjectives and some problems related to the distinction. Anglia 84: 131-149. Martin, J.E., 1969. Semantic determinants of preferred adjective order. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 8: 697-704. Moore, Michael D., Jim W. Corder and John J. Ruszkiewicz, 1988. A writer's handbook of current English. Third Canadian edition. Scarborough: Gage Educational Publishing. Quirk, Randolph, 1976. The use of English. London: Longman. Quirk, Randolph, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech and Jan Svartvik, 1985. A comprehensive grammar of the English language. London: Longman. Sharp, Harold S., 1984. Advertising slogans of America. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow. Sopher, H. 1962. Sequence of adjectives. English Language Teaching 16(4): 192-198. Straumann, Heinrich, 1935. Newspaper headlines: A study in linguistic method. London: Allen and Unwin. Sussex, Roland, 1971. The deep structure of adjectives in noun phrases. Journal of Linguistics 10: 111-131. Teyssier, J., 1968. Notes on the syntax of the adjective in Modern English. Lingua 20: 225-249. Valin, Roch, 1981. Perspectives psychomEcaniques sur la syntaxe. Cahiers de Psychom6canique du langage. Qu6bec: Les Presses de l'Uniw,~rsit6 Laval. Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language: College edition, 1968. D.B. Guralnik and J.H. Friend, eds. Cleveland, NY: World. Whorl, Benjamin Lee, 1945. Grammatical categories. Language 2 1 : l - 1 1 .

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