Parallelism in Advertising Copy

Term Paper 2001 15 Pages

English Language and Literature Studies - Linguistics


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Advertising and Parallelism

3. Repetition in Spoken Discourse

4. Parallelism and Recurrence in Written Discourse

5. The Use of Parallelism and Recurrence in Advertising

6. Conclusion

7. Bibliography

1. Introduction

Semiotic analysis is the study of language, texts and communication. It shows how meanings are constructed and what these meanings are. This seminar paper will concentrate on the analysis of parallelism and recurrences in advertising copy. To begin with, I will give a short explanation of specific terms that are central to the paper and need clarification. In chapter three and four, the document will focus on the use of parallelism in spoken as well as in written discourse including a table with the possible constellations of correspondence, while the fifth chapter deals with the use of recurrence and parallelism in advertising copy. Furthermore, I will give several examples and present a few other parallel constructions that occur in advertisements. To conclude, the term paper discusses the question of paraphrasing and repeating as being patterns of style, ending with a summary of the results.

2. Advertising and Parallelism

The expression “advertising derives from the medieval Latin verb advertere” and means ‘to direct one’s attention to’ (Danesi 1995:11). Today advertisements are understood as “any type or form of public announcement intended to promote the sale of specific commodities or services” (ibd.). They are predominately used for commercial purpose; especially for the so-called consumer advertising where the intention of the ad is the marketing of a certain product. Commercials and advertisements function by means of persuasion – the messages are designed in a manner that influences the way the consumer perceives goods, a discovery that will help later on to understand the use of parallelism in advertising.

Parallelism is a figure of style, which is of interest to rhetoric as well as literature in view of the fact that it provides means to emphasize specific aspects. The term stands for the repetition of linguistic patterns such as sentences, phrases and expressions. In case of synonymous or tautological parallelism the syntactic parallel word constructions state the same in content. Nowadays parallelism strategies are especially used in the field of advertising and the “… types that emerged are synonymic (using words or images or sounds in subtle repetitive patterns), antithetical (choosing one thing against another presented in a parallel manner), and synthetic (synthesizing a selection from the parallelism of presentation)” (Asher 1994: 2934). Besides the term “Recurrence describes all non-trivial patterns of repetition in languages. Alliteration, rhyme and prosodic patterns are examples of recurrence in classical poetry” (Nöth 1987: 65).

The following chapters will further concentrate on the explanation of parallelism and recurrence, its occurrences, the different forms (e.g. repetition and paraphrases), and study examples by means of newspaper advertisements containing parallel items.

3. Repetition in Spoken Discourse

Although the repetition of words and expressions is widely regarded as a sign of bad style it is nevertheless commonly used, either in form of total equivalence or paraphrastic substitution, meaning a different pattern of recurrence where something is repeated in other words.

Bublitz (1992: 439) summarizes the forms of repetition in language as follows:

- instances of alliteration[1], assonance[2], rhyme etc. on the level on phonetics and prosody
- anaphora[3], synonymy, homonymy[4] etc. on the lexical, syntactic and semantic level
- refrains on the text level and even
- doublets of speech act patterns on the speech act level”.

Parallelism is a form of repetition, either of sound or pattern, which constitutes an effective technique of memorizing particular statements, a method that is especially valuable in advertising. It is particularly useful since the commercials’ primary aim is the persuasion of the consumer, which can be most easily achieved when a slogan is repeated and hence memorized by the client.

When in descriptions of English discourse attention was paid to repetitions at all – usually they were ignored, or not even noticed – then they were normally “…only taken to perform one of two functions: expressing emphasis or serving as means of cohesion, i.e., creating coherence in texts” (Bublitz 1992: 440).

4. Parallelism and Recurrence in Written Discourse

According to Hiatt (1975: 17) parallelism, in this particular case the repetition or repetitions within a sentence, is either the reiteration “(1)…of two or more words of the same form class in the same functional or syntactic situation, or (2) the repetition of two or more constructions of the same grammatical classification in the same functional or syntactic situation” (quoted from Bublitz 1992: 441). Hiatt’s definition of parallelism can also be explained as a succession of two or more syntactic identical constructions that are connected with or without a conjunction. Consequently, as indicated by Hiatt (in Bublitz 1992: 442) typical signals indicating parallelism would be “… and, not only – but also; either – or; both – and; but; instead of; comma – comma and etc”.

Parallelism is not characterized by form or content but rather defined by its structure and function, a subject where hardly any research has been done on - neither in pragmatics nor in text analysis. Bublitz points out that even though literary critics and linguists indicate that in forms of parallelism a dichotomy exists between constancy and variation or between similarity and difference, it does not get quite clear what part of the phrase is kept constant and which one is varied. “Constancy and change may be regarded as defining features for the differentiation between parallel and non-parallel constructions as well as for the differentiation between kinds of parallel constructions, as for instance between repetitions and paraphrases” (ibid.).

According to the author of the paper “Parallelism in advertising copy” writers may repeat a phrase, sentence or word, etc. again for three different reasons:

- what has been written previously, i.e., keeping constant the preceding utterance’s (lexical, sentential) form;
- what has been said, in the Gricean sense, i.e., keeping constant the preceding utterance’s grammatical meaning, i.e., its prepositional content resulting from acts of predication, reference, quantification (…) and (as part of their pragmatic knowledge)
- what has been meant, i.e., keeping constant the preceding utterance’s pragmatic meaning (…) (ibid.)

By means of the following table Bublitz shows what kinds of parallelism exist, as well as the degree of variation of their form, grammatical and pragmatic meaning.

Table 1 (Bublitz 1992: 443)

illustration not visible in this excerpt

A writer may take up a preceding utterance by: (ibid.)

(I) keeping constant its form, its grammatical meaning and its pragmatic meaning;
(II) keeping constant its form and its grammatical meaning, but varying its pragmatic meaning;
(III) keeping constant its form and its pragmatic meaning, but varying its grammatical meaning;
(IV) keeping constant its form, but varying grammatical and its pragmatic meaning;
(V) varying its form, but keeping constant its grammatical and its pragmatic meaning;
(VI) varying its form and its pragmatic meaning, but keeping constant its grammatical meaning;
(VII) varying its form and its grammatical meaning, but keeping constant its pragmatic meaning.
To complete this list, one could add a further constellation, namely:
(VIII) varying its form and its grammatical and its pragmatic meaning.


[1] Alliteration characterizes successive words that begin with the same initial sound.

[2] Assonance signifies an equal sound between two or more words that is restricted to the vowels.

[3] An anaphora serves to link two utterances, two paragraphs, etc. by using a connecting term referring back to some concept already mentioned.

[4] A homonymy is typified by the corresponding sound of words with different meaning (and origin).


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University of Kassel – FB Anglistics
3 (C)
Parallelism Advertising Copy Semiotics



Title: Parallelism in Advertising Copy