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Where to stay in the UK and in Italy: a comparative study of the language of holiday accommodation advertisements

di Beatrice Stellin
Università degli Studi di Padova
Facoltà di Lettere e Filosofia
Facoltà di Scienze Politiche
Dipartimento di Lingue e Letterature anglo-germaniche e slave

Relatore: Prof. Erik Castello
Tesi di laurea di: Beatrice Stellin (Matr. N. 614513 MZL)

3.2 - A further analysis using Corpora: qualifying adjectives

Qualifying adjectives play a crucial role in the verbal representation of tourist destinations, as they often create the promotional message itself. For this reason, the owners of tourist accommodation usually adopt some particular qualifying adjectives to promote their facilities, as these adjectives can "seduce" the tourist, capture his/her attention and give a connotation of exclusivity to the holiday. This analysis starts with a comparison between the frequency of occurrence of qualifying adjectives in English and Italian promotional texts.
Table 3.7 below summarizes the results obtained from the analysis of the adjectives used in all the texts of the corpus:

Where to stay in the UK and in Italy - Foto 10

Table 3.7: The most frequent qualifying adjectives in English and Italian promotional texts.

What is interesting here is that adjectives are more frequent in English than in Italian original promotional texts. The following are some hypothetical reasons for this discrepancy:

  1. in Italian, the characteristics and features of hotels may be expressed by means of other linguistic elements. For example, the English adjective "elegant" in "elegant guestrooms" can be expressed with the noun "eleganza" in a phrase such as camere di grande eleganza;
  2. the beauty of Italian accommodation may be expressed through the use of implications, which can stimulate the tourist's imagination. For example, in the sentence: "particolare attenzione è stata dedicata alla ricerca dei materiali".
  3. Italian texts may contain a number of adjectives, but they do not appear as keywords, as an excessive use of repetitions of the same words would not be acceptable in Italian. For instance, the English adjective "beautiful" can be rendered in Italian with bellissimo, splendido, magnifico, incantevole, piacevole, elegante;
  4. English syntactic rules allow adjectival uses of different phrasal elements and the exploit of right-to-left construction. For example, "this comfortable non-smoking farmhouse".

In order to verify these four different hypotheses, I decided to conduct further investigations on my multilingual comparable corpus of promotional texts and the resulting data seem to confirm all of them.
As a first step, I checked up the frequency wordlists, searching for Italian nouns (instead of qualifying adjectives) expressing some characteristics and features of the resorts. At the very beginning of the wordlist some interesting terms can indeed be found: atmosfera, gusto, stile, comodità, cura, eleganza, fascino, attenzione, bellezza. This frequent use of abstractions in Italian, represented by a quantitative as well as qualitative preference for nouns deriving from adjectives, suggests that the process of nominalization in the specialized language of tourism is used as an attractive device, as it creates a dream-like atmosphere through descriptions which involve abstract nouns representing emotions rather than simple facts. This is, however, a feature of general Italian also. As Ulrych (2001 in de Stasio / Palusci, 2007: 117) observes, such "an excessive use of abstract nouns and Latin derivates would not be acceptable in [...] English where long sentences, tortuous and convoluted syntax should be avoided."
These implications can be referred to the second hypothesis, too. As previously mentioned, a kind of poetic language is often adopted in Italian tourist promotional texts, in that Italian owners prefer focusing on emotions and feelings, rather than on what they offer, and they do so through the use of implications. The crucial point here is that, with reference to the work of Katan (2004) and also within the systemic functional approach (e.g. Halliday, 1983, 1989, 1990), "Italian culture is a high context culture (HCC) that is to say in order to convey the meaning of a text a high amount of linguistic/contextual information is needed. Conversely, the British culture is a low context culture (LCC) where meaning may be easily identified in the text itself. The features of these two types of culture in transactional communication are different: whereas LCC seem to prefer explicitness, facts and small chunks of information, HCC show tendency towards implicitness, feelings and opinions, and high information loads" (Manca 2007: 126).
For instance, Italian promotional texts says "le sue suntuose camere sono ricche di dettagli, decori sfarzosi, delicate fragranze e fastosi mobili rigorosamente d'epoca che rievocano il tipico salotto toscano", adopting an implicit style in that the room are just qualified and described by the use of descriptors. English texts advertising accommodation, such as "our private rooms have mahogany furniture", for example tend instead to use explicit and objective descriptions.
In order to verify of reject the third hypothesis, I decided to pay more attention to words featuring as the least frequent ones on the frequency wordlist of Italian promotional texts. The resulting data show the presence of a huge number of Italian adjectives, which occure only once in the corpus. Adjectives such as suggestiva, stupendo, stravagante, straordinaria, squisita, splendidi, speciale, sofisticato, significativa, sfarzoso, seducente etc. show that Italian texts tend to express the beauty of the place adopting a number of different qualifying adjectives, whose aim is to give prestige and a sense of exclusivity and also to avoid repetitions.
As for the fourth hypothesis, I searched for some examples of right-to-left constructions to confirm it. Instances in my comparable corpus include: "seven large comfortable guest rooms", "beautiful convenient location", "perfect luxury accommodation", "warm friendly welcome", "large communal areas", "superb Cumbrian breakfast", "famous tourist attractions", "fine dining restaurant", "local shopping complex", "luxurious tea experience". It is worth noting that underlined words are noun used as adjectives. As Gotti (2008: 72) points out, the phenomenon of nominal adjectivation makes the message exposition denser and attaches great semantic weight to the compound. Sentences including these noun compounds become conceptually richer, syntactically shorter and more compact by means of two important devices: firstly through the omission of relative clauses and then through the transition from a subordinate clause to a nominal compound which functions more easily.
Another important advantage of premodification is its potential for concept formation. The combination of two or more terms produces not only a union of existing concepts but also give birth to a new concept, adding new meanings and uses (Gotti, 2008: 74).