Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

18th Century Advertising Language and the Shift from British Colony to New Nation

18th Century Advertising Language and the Shift from British Colony to New Nation

Hannelore Willeck

Advertising is a unique form of communication between buyers and sellers.  The specific language chosen can reflect the values and norms of a society while encouraging identity construction through material consumption.  Periods of great political change, such as the 18th century, can provide insight into how this type of discourse responded to changing public sentiments while allowing the maintenance of business interests.  The British colonies of North America that would become the United States provide significant data through advertisements printed in the many major newspapers in circulation.  This paper analyzes how advertising language reflected or manipulated identity constructions through material goods during the colonial, Revolutionary War, and early post-colonial periods in the United States.  Advertising segments from original publications now in digitized newspaper archives are analyzed for linguistic trends that indicate merchant responses to a changing sociopolitical climate.  The change in advertising language over time is shown through newspaper advertisements of the 1730s prior to a period of mass consumer demand, the 1760s at the height of colonial consumerism, and the 1790s after the foundation of a new country.  This paper explores how marketing language responded to the change from colonialism to independence and how it was used to help consumers establish identity through patterns of material consumption.

April 6, 2017 - Posted by | abstract


  1. Analyzing 18th-century advertisements would be an incredibly fascinating research topic! I am curious as to which advertisements you selected for your analysis. It might be a good idea to include the types of materials that were featured in the advertisements you examined-clothing, tableware, beauty products, etc.-particularly if you examined a certain type of material consumption (e.g. pottery). Great research idea!

    Comment by Kailey McAlpin | April 17, 2017 | Reply

  2. Never really considered that changing political identity would change even advertising discourse, but once you mention it this makes sense. It makes me wonder about other examples, such as South Africa before and after apartheid.

    Comment by Miriam Jacobs | April 18, 2017 | Reply

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