Reconstructing Multimodal Arguments in Advertisements: Combining Pragmatics and Argumentation Theory

Abstract

The analysis of multimodal argumentation in advertising is a crucial and problematic area of research. While its importance is growing in a time characterized by images and pictorial messages, the methods used for interpreting and reconstructing the structure of arguments expressed through verbal and visual means capture only isolated dimensions of this complex phenomenon. This paper intends to propose and illustrate a methodology for the reconstruction and analysis of “double-mode” arguments in advertisements, combining the instruments developed in social semiotics, pragmatics, and argumentation theory. An advertisement is processed through a five-step path. The analysis of its context, text genre, and images leads to a first representation of the messages that it encodes both pictorially and verbally (step 1). These first semantic representations are further enriched by including their polyphonic articulations and presuppositions (step 2), their explicatures (step 3), and their dialogical functions and illocutionary forces (step 4). These pragmatic steps retrieve the commitment structure of the ad, which allows a further argument analysis conducted through argumentation schemes (step 5).

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Notes

  1. 1.

    According to Adam (2001), there are five prototypical sequences: narrative, descriptive, argumentative, expositional, and dialogical, each with its own characteristics.

  2. 2.

    Halliday (1985) argues that linguistic and functional choices are a result of social and cultural circumstances and developed a theory of the fundamental functions of language. He pointed out three different metafunctions: ideational, interpersonal and textual.

  3. 3.

    The video of the ad can be consulted at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iyyP6IDkWbk (last accessed on 15 March 2020).

  4. 4.

     « Je signalerai enfin une perspective particulièrement prometteuse qui s’ouvre dès qu’on considère le sens comme un représentation de l’énonciation, représentation consistant notamment à y faire entendre la voix de divers énonciateurs s’adressant à divers destinataires et à identifier ces rôles illocutionnaires avec des personnages qui peuvent être, entre autres, ceux de l’énonciation. Il s’agit de la construction, dans le discours, du locuteur et de l’allocutaire. Psycho- et socio-linguistes ont quelquefois noté […] que l’on peut, en parlant, constituer une image de soi et de la personne à qui l’on parle, image que l’interlocuteur tantôt accepte et tantôt rejette. Un des principaux moyens de cette constitution est justement la possibilité, inscrite selon nous dans la langue, c'est-à-dire dans la signification des mots et des phrases, de faire s’exprimer différentes voix, en donnant l’instruction de les identifier à des êtres de la réalité –et en spécifiant même certaines contraintes à observer dans cette identification » (Ducrot 1980, 56).

  5. 5.

    We will use “global communicative/dialogical intention” or “dialogue goal” interchangeably to refer to a “we-intention” that characterizes the interaction, to which the individual utterances need to be relevant. The term “dialogical intention” will refer to the higher order intention expressed by the individual move (negotiating; obtaining information, etc.) which in turn embed the communicative intention (the specific intention of performing a specific action through one’s utterance) (Haugh and Jaszczolt 2012, 102).

  6. 6.

    In most advertising documents in which the goal is to convince people to buy a product, the idea depicted is always associated to hedonic and pragmatic values (the individual's well-being, pleasure, performance) (Pinto and Teixeira, 2013; see also Pollaroli, 2013; Ripley, 2008; Kjeldsen 2012, 2015 for studies on multimodal argumentation in advertisments).

  7. 7.

    There are many visual techniques that may be considered for the study of argumentative communication of these texts such as contrast, regularity, repetition, symmetry, among others. Moreover, he points out other elements, such as line, shape, color, tone, texture, orientation, arrangement, movement and framing (Tseronis 2013, 8).

  8. 8.

    Authorization to use this advertisement for research and for publishing it on scientific journals was granted on 12 January 2018 by the CEO of the TAP.

  9. 9.

    The corpus is formed of different types of corporate communication documents produced in the period May–June 2008. The specific corpus of the ads of the company TAP Portugal amounted to 18 advertisements collected from newspapers; magazines (external or internal—in circulation in the company), folders, and banners. The example that has been chosen illustrates the TAP Air Portugal campaign “Liberdade de Escolha – um Voo, Cinco Formas de Viajar” (“Freedom of Choice - one Flight, Five Ways to Travel”), launched on 9 May 9 2008.

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Acknowledgments

Rosalice Pinto would like to thank Jens Kjeldsen, whose relevant comments and suggestions helped improve the multimodal argumentative analysis of these case studies. The authors would like to thank the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia for the research Grants Nos. SFRH/BPD/38024/2007 and PTDC/FER‐FIL/28278/2017.

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Macagno, F., Botelho Wakim Souza Pinto, R. Reconstructing Multimodal Arguments in Advertisements: Combining Pragmatics and Argumentation Theory. Argumentation (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10503-020-09525-z

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Keywords

  • Argumentative communication
  • Multimodal argumentation
  • Pragmatics
  • Argumentation schemes
  • Text genre