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Lecture 8 Language, Public Discourse And Critical Thinking.

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1 Lecture 8 Language, Public Discourse And Critical Thinking

2 Previously, we have looked at... Fallacies of Relevance and Fallacies of Insufficient Evidence This week we will look at these fallacies as they appear in our everyday lives – Particularly in advertising

3 For starters... Language and Public Discourse: Advertising and Implicature

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15 Advertising A business in which language is used to persuade people to do things – Buy a product or service – Vote for someone – Believe things, e.g., that some corporation is trustworthy That some political philosophy will lead to prosperity That some religious denomination will lead to happiness Etc.

16 In the case of advertisements, The consumer might reasonably require that the claims be true. What are the standards of truth in advertising? What should the standards of truth in advertising be?

17 To answer these questions, Some linguistic concepts are necessary – Entailment – Implicature – Conversational maxims

18 Entailment: a.John fried some fish. [a entails b] b.John cooked some fish. [b does not entail a]

19 Entailment: A logically valid inference If sentence X entails another sentence Y, then whenever X is true, Y must also be true. There is no situation where X is true and Y is false. Another example: a) Ian drives a Corvette. b) Ian drives a car. a) entails b); but b) does not entail a)

20 Implicature: A. "Is that the phone?" "I'm in the tub." B. "Uncle Charlie is coming over for dinner." "Better lock up the liquor." C. "Do you know where Bill moved?" "Somewhere on the east coast." D."How was your blind date?" "He had a nice pair of shoes." E. "Professor Smith is sure he'll get tenure." "And my pet turtle is sure it will win the Kentucky Derby."

21 Implicature: A sentence X implicates a sentence Y if – X does not entail Y; and – The speaker is warranted in believing Y is true based on the meaning of X Grice’s Cooperative Principle

22 To describe in a systematic and consistent way how implicature works in conversation, Grice proposed the cooperative principle: In conversations, participants cooperate with each other. They do this by observing the conversational maxims.

23 Grice’s Four Conversational Maxims Quantity - contribution should be as informative as required Quality - contribution should not be false Relation - contribution should be relevant Manner - contribution should be direct

24 Assumptions: 1. We don't adhere to them strictly. 2. We interpret what we hear as if what we hear conforms to them. 3. Where maxim is violated, we draw implicatures.

25 Violations Quantity - Letter of reference for a job in the high tech industry: Bob speaks perfect English; he doesn't smoke in the office; and I have never heard him use foul language. Quality - "Reno is the capital of Nevada, isn't it?" "Yeah, and London is the capital of New Jersey." Relation - "What time is it?" "Well, the paper's already come." Manner - "Let's stop and get something to eat." "OK, but not at M-c-D-o-n-a-l-d-s."

26 Practice What maxim is violated? What is the implicature raised? 1. "How did Jeff do on the test?" "Well, he wrote something down for every question.“ 2. "Do you know where Bill is?" "Well, he didn't meet me for lunch like he was supposed to."

27 Back to Implicature a)Not everyone is going to come. b)Someone is going to come. Sentence a) implicates b) because: -Sentence a) does not entail sentence b). -Sentence a) would still be true for the possible situation in which no one is going to come. -Upon hearing a), the hearer is warranted in believing sentence b): -Maxim of quantity – make your contribution as informative as is required: The speaker didn’t say, “No one is going to come.”

28 Practice Do the a) sentences entail the b) sentences? 1a) ABC filters remove bacteria from your drinking water. 1b) If you use ABC filters, your drinking water will be free of bacteria. 2a) I left because I wanted to. 2b) If I hadn’t wanted to, I wouldn’t have left.

29 Answers No, though many people believe they do, i.e., that sentences b) are true because sentences a) are true. Sentences a) DO implicate sentences b).

30 Sentences 1a and 1b 1a) ABC filters remove bacteria from your drinking water. 1b) If you use ABC filters, your drinking water will be free of bacteria. Sentence 1a is a generic sentence. Generic sentences are generally taken to be very strong claims, since they are often used to express significant inductive generalizations. e.g., Gold is heavier than water. Dogs bark. etc. ‘Bacteria’ can mean ‘some bacteria’ (literal reading) or ‘all bacteria’ (generic reading). Maxim of Relevance – if the claim is to be relevant to your healthier drinking water enough to make you want to buy the filters, then only the generic reading is relevant.

31 Sentences 2a and 2b 2a) I left because I wanted to. 2b) If I hadn’t wanted to, wouldn’t have left. The Maxim of Quantity is important here. If there were two reasons for the speaker’s leaving – he wanted to and someone forced him to – and the speaker only gave one, then he would not be as informative as required. Assuming then that he is adhering to the Maxim of Quantity, we are led to believe that his wanting to leave was the only reason for his leaving.

32 Should advertisers be responsible only for what their claims entail or should they also be responsible for what they implicate? Advertisers are usually only held responsible for what their ads entail. Many readers of ads do not distinguish implicatures from logical entailments. Much of the art of advertising then revolves around formulating claims that implicate a lot but entail little.

33 How to implicate a lot but entail little: Leave out the than clause or prepositional phrase in the comparative construction – Campbell’s Soup contains ‘one third less salt’ The Maxim of Relevance leads readers to fill out the comparative with the most likely choices: - ‘than it used to have.’ - ‘than its competitors’ soups.’

34 More Examples More people sleep on Sealy Posturpedic. Maytags are built to last longer and need fewer repairs. Do you want better food? Better service? How about better prices? Than you’d better be at Big Bear’s Carriage Place grand opening this Saturday at seven a.m. Chevrolet - the cars more Americans depend on. Get the facts. Buick is better.

35 How to implicate a lot but entail little: The use of the ‘fine print’ restriction - ‘Fly anywhere in the world Delta goes’ ‘Some restrictions apply.’ - ‘Our UPS Next Day Air Letter. Guaranteed overnight delivery to any address coast to coast.’ ‘See Air Service Guide for Guarantee Details.’ - Buick La Sabre is ‘the most trouble-free American car.’ ‘Based on a survey of owner related problems during the first 90 days of ownership.’

36 How to implicate a lot but entail little: Use of idiomatic language An idiom is ambiguous between its literal and idiomatic readings. The audience tends to lean towards the stronger of the two (the idiomatic reading). - ‘Mercedes-Benz, engineered like no other.’ - ‘In one out of two American homes you’ll find Kenmore appliances.’

37 How to implicate a lot but entail little: Qualify very strong claims with modal auxiliaries (can, could, might, may, etc.) or adverbs Dodge ‘may be one of the most powerful cars in the world.’ ‘There’s another way for new homeowners to save money: the All State New House Discount. It could save you up to 15% on All State homeowners insurance.’ ‘If you choose to finance or lease your new GMAC vehicle someplace other than GMAC, you might find yourself waiting in line instead of hugging one.’ Cling ‘leaves clothes virtually static-free.’

38 Practice What’s the problem with these ad lines? - I used to have dandruff, so I tried Head & Shoulders. Then I tried Selsun Blue. Blue is better. - STP reduced engine lifter wear up to 68% Results may vary by type of car, oil, and driving. - Isn’t it time you got your health on the right course? Now you can cut back on cholesterol, cut back on sodium, cut back on fat, and still love the food you eat because now there’s new Right Course from Stouffer’s. - People from Ford [County] prefer Chevy trucks.

39 Summary Making implicatures is a crucial part of linguistic communication Language users do not easily distinguish between the logical entailments of utterances and the implicatures drawn from these utterances. Because advertisers are usually only responsible for the logical entailments of their claims, they often craft their ads to impicate a lot but entail very little, so that their audience makes favorable, but false, implicatures.

40 Group Work Examine ads you have in terms of how advertisers use … Implicature (Lecture 8) – Generic terms (‘ABC kills bacteria on contact.’) – Comparatives without ‘than’ clause – The use of the ‘fine print’ restriction – The use of idiomatic language – Qualifying very strong claims with modal auxiliaries (can, could, might, may, etc.) or adverbs Sound symbolism (Lecture 5) Fallacies (Lectures 6 & 7) Any other devices (e.g., the use of images, color, layout, etc.) … to make you want to buy.


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