Monday, April 28, 2008

Given and new in Basic analytic concepts

It is commonplace in the analysis of the meaning contribution of a linguistic unit such as a sentence to split the information into Given information and New information (e.g. "Today for my breakfast I had ... waffles", in which only "waffles" is New information). It is possible for a sentence to be all-New, but all-Given sentences are (by definition) uninformative, and therefore have only specialized or restricted usages.

Each sentence has an opportunity to present New information, or at least highlighted information. A common strategy in advertising language is to use very short potential utterances as sentences, to maximize the amount of highlighted information that is being presented. (See also Leech 1966 on 'disjunctive syntax'.)

In the first example here, the prepositional phrase "Behind you" is presented at a separate unit, and in the second, the adverb "Beautifully" has the same status. Let us consider the examples as single utterances:

"Everything has its place behind you."

"Jeans that fit beautifully."

These do not have the same meanings as the original Texts. Just looking at the jeans example, the original asserts that these are jeans that fit (implying they fit well), presenting the verb "fit" as New information, then following up with the further New information that the jeans fit beautifully. In the revised version, only "beautifully" is New information. Additionally, by segmenting the first utterance in the original as "Jeans that fit", the advertisement authors create the implication that there may be jeans that do not fit (well), due to the Principle of Relevance.

We explore the Organization of 47 Dodge further in Unit 7.

In the Riders jeans example, the first "sentence" is a noun phrase (e.g., part of "These are [jeans that fit]."), and the second is an adverb. None of these usages are peculiar to advertising language; one can easily imagine the following regular conversations, where such words are phrases function as complete utterances:

A: Look out!
B: Where?
A: Behind you!

A: How do they fit?
B: Beautifully, thank you.

The given-new organization can also be found in the Image layout of advertisements.

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