Idioms with a viable literal interpretation in German advertisements
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An idiom is a set phrase which is relatively syntactically and semantically fixed, and which produces striking stylistic and rhetorical effects. Advertising is a discourse type which is particularly rich in idioms: around half of all the German advertisements examined from Stern magazine and the RTL television channel contain at least one idiom. The idioms tend to occur in prominent, emphatic textual positions, and approximately half of the idioms which appear are modified in some way. The modifications typically produce deliberately creative effects, suggesting that idioms are not as invariable as has previously been thought. The most common type of idiom incorporated into German advertisements are idioms with not only the definitive figurative interpretation, but also a lexically, syntactically, and semantically feasible literal interpretation. These idioms are consequently referred to in this dissertation as "idioms with a viable literal interpretation" (abbreviated to "VLI idioms" in the text). Their literal sense tends to evoke strong mental imagery, which makes them a useful device for the visually restricted print medium in particular: approximately 42% of all the idioms in the magazine advertisements examined (as opposed to around 16% of all the idioms in the television advertisements) are VLI idioms. It is the uniformity of the mental imagery evoked by VLI idioms which highlights the fact that, contrary to traditional thinking, idioms are conceptual rather than linguistic in nature. Indeed, an idiom may be defined as the linguistic expression of general conceptual metaphors. The viable literal meaning of VLI idioms also makes them ideally suited to modification: around 70% of the VLI idioms in the magazine advertisements, and just over 88% of the VLI idioms in the television advertisements, are modified in some way. Nearly all of these modifications involve punning on the idiom's literal sense by means of the idiom's co-text and/or the advertisement's visual element. In short, linguists have hitherto underestimated the ubiquity and significance of idioms, especially with regard to the frequency with which they are modified. VLI idioms in particular are an important - but thus far overlooked - feature of German magazine and television advertisements.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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