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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 - A preliminary text-based analysis: sociocultural differences in the two different contexts of english and italian accomodation

It could be argued that language is an expression of the cultural identity of a certain group of people. Therefore, when analysing the meaning of a text, it is essential to take both the cultural elements in it. This study aims to show the importance of a qualitative approach as well as a quantitative one to the study of textual meaning. The analysis conducted has shown that the countries, their culture and their language are closely linked between them.
From a preliminary text-based analysis of the texts of my comparable corpus, some interesting features have emerged, which are summarized in Table 3.1:

  UK IT common features
-the figure of the backpacker emerges
-special rules for under 18s
-the text addresses young people
-the bar offers: entertainment, fun, live music, cocktails, parties, the opportunity to meet new people
-the text addresses young people, but also families and business men
-the bar offers: low cost food and drink, the opportunity to stay together with other people
-each hostel claims to be the best at something
-rooms and dorms described with 3 main adjectives: spacious, clean and safe
-every hostel offers: good location, low prices, Wi-Fi, lockers, no curfew, common TV, luggage storage, bed linen and blankets, vending machines, bar.
Guest House
(Lake District-Lago di Garda)
-the B&B/guest house offers: panoramic view, good location ("is a * base for…") to reach different towns and the National Park,
-well-behaved pets are welcome
-the B&B/guest house offers: good location to reach the lake, different towns and attractions, panoramic terrace, garden and bike hire
-small pets are welcome
-B&B ≠ Guest House
-a number of activities promoted (walking, biking, excursions, attractions, exploring, visiting), but also relax
-owners are generally mentioned (name)
-farmhouse: family run (name mentioned)
-situated in the countryside, but good location to reach the main cities and towns
-a number of activities promoted: exploring, angling, sailing, horse riding, walking, experimenting life on a working farm, fishing, touring, golf
+ relax, peace, quiet
-kind of accommodation offered: ROOMS
-agriturismo: in Italy is fashionable
-text full of info about history, (rustic Tuscan) furniture and style
-no activities promoted, only: relax, nature, tasting tours (traditional dishes, good wine) and art
-kind of accommodation offered: APARTMENTS (old houses (renovated))
-facilities and services: ensuite fireplace, panoramic swimming pool, garden, wine shop (+ other home-made products)
-Farmhouse ≠ Agriturismo
Luxury Hotels/
Hotel di Lusso
-the text contains a large number of formal and elegant terms and expressions, detailed descriptions about furniture, (modern) style and design
-the hotel offers a lot of high technological devices
-the hotel offers afternoon tea
-the text is full of info about the palace history and art, its furniture and style (some artists are mentioned)
-poetic language employed in the text
-the hotel offers: swimming pool, terrace, golf and tennis, concierge
-more attention paid to the menu and its description (traditional dishes, wine, aperitivo)
-the text contains a large number of French words
-the hotel can organize weddings and meetings -the chef (+ name) is generally mentioned
-historical Figures and international stars are mentioned (exclusivity)

Table 3.1 attempts to sketch out the main features which were noticed.

Common features
A hostel is considered to be a supervised, inexpensive lodging place for travellers, especially young travellers. Owners tend to promote their own hostel claiming that it is the best at something, for example at providing a good location, top services, exceptional good value, style, comfort etc. All rooms and dorms are described as spacious, clean and safe accommodation, probably in order to go against the stereotype of the hostels, which are often seen by tourists as overcrowded, dirty and dangerous places. Every hostel provides: a good location (i.e. near the city centre), low prices, free Wi-Fi, safety lockers, no curfew or lock-out time, common TV, luggage storage, free bed linen and blankets, vending machines with drink and snacks, and a bar.

When referring to budget-minded travellers, English promotional texts talk about backpackers, that is to say someone who is travelling for pleasure, usually without much money and who walks or uses public transport and carries a backpack. As a matter of fact, backpacking is a form of low-cost, independent international travel. It includes the use of a backpack (or other luggage that is easily carried for long distances or long periods of time), the use of public transport, inexpensive lodging (such as youth hostels), a longer duration of the trip compared with conventional vacations and an interest in meeting the locals as well as seeing the sights. It is typically associated with young people, who generally have fewer commitments and thus more time to travel.
The English language used in these promotional texts addresses young people with exhortative expressions showing a friendly attitude towards travellers. Here are a few examples taken from my corpus of comparable texts:

  1. "chat with your friends, meet people in our common room, you may end up with them for a drink!"
  2. "meet lots of people from all over the world and make new friends staying in our mixed dorms…"
  3. "with our friendly atmosphere there is always fun and interesting people to meet and exchange travel stories with."
  4. "if you want to meet loads of people from all over the world and party the night away whenever you want, come and fall into the *** Hostel trap!"

In English hostels there are special rules guests under 18s, who must be accompanied by an adult booked into the same private room. Despite that, hostel bars usually offer their customers "7-nights-a-week of pure entertainment, fun and frivolity", cool cocktails, games, dance, great DJs performances, events and themed parties every night. A hostel even claims that "its party night every night! And the hangover is included!"

By contrast, Italian promotional texts address young people but also families and business-men. Instances of the language used in these texts include:

  1. "è il luogo ideale per la vostra vacanza romana, nonché per i vostri viaggi di lavoro."
  2. "L'ostello è aperto a tutti, a giovani, famiglie, single, professionisti, gruppi organizzati, scout, ecc."
    The hostel bar too is presented in a completely different way and as a different type of place than in London. As a matter of fact, it is promoted as the perfect place to sit down, relax and maybe meet new people drinking a cold beer or watching TV.

Common features

It is important to make it clear that although B&B and guest house seem to be equivalent concepts, they may show some differences in their features.
A Bed and Breakfast (or B&B) is a small lodging establishment that offers overnight accommodation and breakfast, but usually does not offer other meals. A guest house can be similar to this definition of B&B, but it can also be an inexpensive hotel-like lodging, or a private home which has been converted for the exclusive use of guest accommodation. Among the features which distinguish a guest house from a B&B and other types of accommodation, is the lack of full-time staff. As a matter of fact, B&Bs are usually family owned, with the family living in the premises, while in a guest house the owner usually lives in an entirely separate area within the property. Hotels normally maintain staff presence 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, whereas a guest house has a more limited staff presence, so that check-in is often by appointment.

Moreover, a guest house is generally a larger establishment than a B&B with over 5 rooms and sometimes it offers common guest areas such as lounge and dining rooms. By contrast, it may not offer breakfast included in the room rental. Therefore, a guest house is basically a small hotel with limited catering service, as it does not need to have all the amenities of a hotel.
Both English and Italian B&B and guest houses include a number of different activities in their promotional texts which tourists are invited to engage in. Examples include: walking, biking, going on excursions, visit nearby attractions, exploring the surroundings, visiting the most important towns, but also relax.
The owners' name or surname is generally mentioned in the text, because it contributes to creating a homely and friendly atmosphere.
It is worth noting that limitations to the presence of pets exist for both English farmhouses and for Italian agriturismi, even though they are slightly different.

Lake District
English B&Bs or guest houses usually offer a beautiful panoramic view, a good location, which is often promoted by the expression "X is an excellent/perfect/ideal base for…" a location which allows one to reach various towns and the National Park.
Well-behaved pets are usually welcome (the behaviour is not mentioned in the Italian context).

Lake Garda
Italian B&Bs or guest houses generally offer: a good location to reach Lake Garda, nearby towns and attractions, a panoramic terrace where guests can lay in the sun, a garden and a bike hire facility. In particular, the bike hire facility is one of the most useful services provided, as almost all city centres are limited traffic areas and the surrounding car parks are far too expensive.
Small pets are usually welcome, provided that their size is small.

Common features

Both Italian agriturismi and British farmhouses offer an alternative type of holiday in the countryside, combining the rural setting with the opportunity to experiment real country life and a farm-based accommodation. However, there are some important cultural differences between these two types of accommodation:

Farmhouses are usually family run and the name of the owners is generally mentioned. They are situated in the countryside, but are specific about the fact that they are in a good location which enables one to reach the main cities and towns. In addition to this they promote a number of different activities such as exploring, angling, sailing, horse riding, walking, experimenting life on a working farm, fishing, touring, golf. They also offer the opportunity to relax and to enjoy the peace and quiet of the environment. Farmhouses provide rooms as accommodation.

Italian agriturismi are a fashionable type of accommodation. As a matter of fact, every year an increased number of people choose to spend their holidays in the countryside. Such a holiday is the exact opposite of the life in big cities: peace and quiet are the norm instead of noise and traffic, relax in opposition to hectic life and unspoilt environment instead of polluted and overcrowded cities. Old buildings are promoted by means of long texts about their history (with particular reference to the Middle Ages and Reinassance) and detailed descriptions of their rustic Tuscan furniture and internal decorative style. Owners do not promote any kind of activity, they only provide relax in a natural environment, tours involving tasting of traditional dishes (such as "pici", "panzella", "pappa al pomodoro") and good wine, and the opportunity to visit the main artistic cities. Nonetheless, a wide range of facilities and services are provided: an ensuite fireplace, a panoramic swimming pool, a garden and wine shop where guests can buy local wine (e.g. the famous Chianti), but also other home-made products such as olive oil and grappa di Morellino. Italian agriturismi provide apartments as accommodation which are situated in old yet recently renovated houses.

Common features

Both English and Italian luxury hotels are promoted by means of long texts containing a large number of French terms. Their aim is to attract and seduce the tourist using chic French words such as chef, brasserie, cuisine, soirées, liaisons, concierge, etc. Sometimes, the name of the chef or the names of famous historical Figures and international stars are mentioned who have stayed in the hotel. This is done in order to give prestige and a sense of exclusivity to the hotel. This type of hotel usually gives guests the opportunity to organize special events, such as weddings and meetings.

English promotional texts contain a large number of formal and elegant expressions and detailed descriptions about modern furniture, style and design. Sometimes, reference to the past is made, for example, by using the adjective "Victorian", which is a classifier rather than a subjective descriptor. British owners try to attract guests by giving detailed and explicit descriptions about what the hotel can offer them, so the focus is on the present rather than on the past. As a matter of fact, hotels offer a number of high technological devices and afternoon tea.

Italian promotional texts contain a large number of information about the palace history and its works of art (e. g. frescoes) and the authors who produced them are sometimes mentioned. They also contain long and detailed descriptions about antique furniture and style. Here, as in the Italian promotional texts about agriturismi, we could extrapolate that the idea of beauty is implicitly conveyed by expressed by the descriptions of the ancient furniture and style and the elegant atmosphere created by the still visible charming past. (Manca, 2004: 116) In other words, hotels are often promoted as historic buildings. Previous studies have shown that for the Italian culture the past is a safe place and, as a consequence, what is associated with it has a positive connotation. In addition to this, a kind of poetic language is employed in the text. This is due to the fact that Italian owners prefer focusing on emotions and feelings, rather than describing what they offer and they do so through the use of implications. In this case, what counts more is what remains unsaid and implicit, because it can stimulate the tourist's imagination and create a dream-like atmosphere around the holiday experience. Attention is paid to the menu and its traditional dishes, wine and aperitivi. Hotels offer various facilities and services such as a swimming pool, a panoramic terrace, and nearby golf courses and tennis courts and concierge.