Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

English Used in Japanese Advertisements

English Used in Japanese Advertisements
Caitlin Richardson

The use of English in Japanese advertisements is pervasive. English is used on shop signs, packaging, clothing, print billboards and television commercials. This paper examines how English is used in print advertisements, brand names and shop signs. This paper fits into the study of the linguistic landscape in Japan by researchers like Peter Backhaus and Laura MacGregor. This paper is a literature review with an analysis of Japanese advertisements. Japanized English, a term used by Miranda Kendrick, is the use of English by Japanese people and is also pejoratively called Engrish and Japlish. Japanized English is not what a native English speaker would consider grammatical or pragmatically appropriate in a similar setting in an English-speaking country. Borrowing English words and syntax on advertisements is a common practice in Japan. English brings attention and adds a level of creativity to advertisements.

Advertising involves overt and covert communication: Wordplay found in Japanese advertisements is a form of covert communication. The English used in advertisements is primarily for Japanese speakers, not for outsiders, which contrasts with the English used in official public informational signs like maps and street signs. These different kinds of signs show differences in the intended audiences for official vs. non-official signs. Japanized English in ads and non-official signs is a special-effects-giver. The English words do not necessarily need to mean anything. By virtue of using English words in non-official signs, they draw attention to the sign and mark the store or product as high quality. Japanized English is associated with positive attributes like ‘new’ and ‘cool’ for Japanese speakers. The English is used as covert communication to say the advertiser’s product is cool without explicitly saying this in Japanese.

April 17, 2009 - Posted by | abstract

1 Comment »

  1. I wonder if the use of English is more common for products targeted at a specific age or social group, or if the use of English in adds might change in different contexts?

    Comment by Elanya | April 20, 2009 | Reply

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