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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)

3.1 - Frequently used words in accommodation promotion

As mentioned above, in order to investigate the specialized language used to promote hostels, B&B, farmhouses and luxury hotels in both Great Britain and Italy, I have created both a multilingual comparable corpus of promotional texts and a parallel one in both English and Italian. My multilingual comparable corpus is composed of 55 original texts, whereas my multilingual parallel corpus consists in 16 original texts and their translations.
The language contained in these websites (25.410 running words for the comparable corpus and 16.748 words for the parallel one) has been analysed by means of the software called "AntConc", a freeware, multiplatform tool for carrying out corpus linguistics research and data-driven learning. It contains seven tools: Concordance Tool, Concordance Plot Tool, File View Tool, Clusters/N-Grams, Collocates, Word List, Keyword List. For this analysis I have only used the Word List and the Concordance Tool. The former tool allows a researcher to create a list of all the most frequent words contained in the texts, whereas the latter provides the linguistic co-text of a word. This keyword or node word is showed at the centre in the standard concordance lines with a certain amount of context at both its right and left.
These features have allowed me to find the most frequent keywords in the texts promoting each kind of accommodation and to compare and contrast their use in Italian and English.

Where to stay in the UK and in Italy - Foto 3

Table 3.2: Frequency lists for the English and Italian hostels promotional texts.

In Table 3.2 above, WordLister has processed all of the files in my corpus and produced a list of the different types of words ranked according to frequency of occurrence. The first number on the left shows the ranking of a given word, while the second one refers to its frequency in the corpus. At the top of the lists there were also the so called "grammatical words" or "function words". As we are interested in focusing on lexical words only, function words have been left out.
As a first step I consulted the frequency list for the English hostels and identified the word "free" as a particularly frequent one, as Table 3.2 shows. Then I faced the first difficulty in identifying a straight-forward equivalence pair, as the translation equivalent in Italian, the word "gratuito", had no comparable frequency in the Italian promotional texts. The view that should be taken is that equivalence should not, and often cannot, be established at a simple word level; when a certain type of equivalence indeed exists, this should be established at the wider level of "functionally complete units of meaning" (Tognini Bonelli / Manca, 2002: 373). The aim here is to show how a "systematic contextual and co-textual analysis of the data can help the translator to identify this 'wider' notion of equivalence built on a network of collocates rather than on single items" (Tognini Bonelli / Manca, 2002: 373). This method is thus in favour of a model of meaning and translating that sees the context as an integral part of the text.

From a further analysis of the Italian corpus, two possible equivalents of the English word "free" emerge:

  1. ... inclus (nel prezzo)
  2. l'ostello offre...

In other cases, the question of whether a particular service or facilities are free or not can simply be deduced from the text. For example,

  1. "ogni mattina vi attende una colazione a buffet, servita nella sala dedicata";
  2. "i nostri clienti troveranno a loro disposizione mappe e cartine della città";
  3. "il soggiorno consente l'utilizzo dei seguenti servizi: [...]".

Similarly, we can notice a mismatch between the frequencies in English and Italian of the words "location" (19 instances in English: 9 in London and 10 in Rome) and its Italian equivalent "posizione" (0 instances). From a further analysis of the concordances for words such as città, zona and centro we find that the concept of a hostel featuring a good location is expressed by other expressions such as:

  1. "facilmente raggiungibile qualsiasi zona della città";
  2. "situato in una zona tranquilla e centrale della città";
  3. "luogo vicino al centro della città";
  4. "situato in una zona sicura della città, situate al centro di Roma".

Another remarkable difference is that, in the English texts about hostels in London the word "facilities" is frequent, while in the English texts about hostels in Rome "service(s)" is used to describe what the accommodation offers to tourists. It can be assumed that the English texts about Rome are written by non-native speakers who did not take into account the different meanings of the words "facilities" and "services". As a matter of fact, according to the Longman English Dictionary (2006), the word "service" refers to "the help that people who work in a shop, restaurant or bar give you", whereas the word "facilities" (plural form)

indicates "rooms, equipment or services that are provided for a particular purpose". Therefore, it is worth noting that the word "facilities" has a particular connotation which seems to perfectly fit the idea of what a hostel can provide.
Table 3.3 below shows the wordlists referring to the English texts advertising B&Bs in the Lake District and Italian texts about B&Bs at the Lake Garda:

Where to stay in the UK and in Italy - Foto 4

Table 3.3: Frequency lists for English and Italian B&Bs promotional texts.

As shown by Figure 3.1, the frequency and the concordance lines for the word "welcome" in English texts promoting B&B in the Lake District are particularly interesting.

Where to stay in the UK and in Italy - Foto 5

Figure 3.1: Concordance lines for the search node "welcome".

It can be seen that the word "welcome" can be used as:

  1. interjection: in order to greet someone who has just arrived (e.g. "Welcome to Hawkrigg B&B!");
  2. verb: to say hello in a friendly way to someone who has just arrived (e.g. "Joan and Mike welcome you to Lincoln House", "Anna and Paul welcome you to WORDSWORTH"); to be glad to accept something (such as "well-behaved pets");
  3. name: the way in which you greet someone when they arrive at a place. According to the Longman English Dictionary (2006), this name is usually collocated with the adjectives warm and friendly as in the example above ("where you will find a warm and friendly welcome").

Here the Italian translation equivalent for the word "welcome" is not always "benvenuto", as this word is not very frequent in the Italian texts (see Table 3.3). From further analyses some possible Italian equivalents of the word "welcome" emerge:

  1. as an interjection: "benvenuti al B&B !";
  2. as a verb: "e sono lieti di accogliervi...";
  3. "sono ammessi cani di piccola taglia" (1 instance in my Italian texts);
  4. as a name: "dare il benvenuto".

These Italian expressions might be found in other type of texts, but in my multilingual comparable corpus there is only one instance of the expression "sono ammessi cani di piccola taglia", and we can therefore assume that such expressions are not commonly employed in this context.

Table 3.4 below displays the wordlists for English farmhouses and Italian agriturismi:

Where to stay in the UK and in Italy - Foto 6

Table 3.4: Frequency lists for English and Italian farmhouses promotional texts.

A glance at Table 3.4 suggests that in English texts promoting Tuscan agriturismi the second most frequent word is "Chianti" - i.e. the name of a famous red Italian wine produced in Tuscany. As in Italian texts, "Chianti" is ranked at the end of the list, we can make the assumption that in the English texts the repetition of this world-renowned wine is a linguistic strategy to seduce foreign tourists. Italian travellers, by contrast, are attracted by means of other interesting expressions, which emerge from the analysis of the concordance lines for the word "vini", which are particularly frequent in the Italian promotional texts.

Where to stay in the UK and in Italy - Foto 7

Figure 3.2: Concordance lines for the search node "vini".

A closer look at Figure 3.2 reveals that the owners try to attract Italian tourists by promoting the fact that their agriturismo produces its own wine or selects it.

Table 3.5 below shows the wordlists referring to luxury hotels in London and Venice:

Where to stay in the UK and in Italy - Foto 8

Table 3.5: Frequency lists for English and Italian luxury hotels promotional texts.

From the analysis of these wordlists a linguistic strategy adopted by promotional tourist texts emerges: a strategy involving the use of borrowings, which plays a crucial role in representing a certain destination and in influencing the readers' perception and their holiday choices. It basically "refers to the taking of a word or phrase from one language to another" (Francesconi, 2007: 133). However, a word constitutes a borrowing only when it progressively permeates a larger and larger speech community (McArthur, 1998 in de Stasio / Palusci 2007: 133). In the tourist sector, when a borrowing achieves semantic autonomy, it has the potential of catching the traveller's attention, who thus feels gratified and involved because of the recognition of his/her knowledge of the basics of the foreign language.
There are several reasons for using borrowings: for instance, language users may adopt a foreign expression, as it seems to them the most suitable and impressive term available, or, in some cases, the only possible one. In addition to this, McArthur (1998, in de Stasio / Palusci 2007: 135) lists the following motives:

  1. close contact in some multilingual situations, making the mix of items from different languages more or less commonplace (e.g. design, relax, buffet, menu, comfort);
  2. to make the promotional texts flow 'down' from elegant languages into 'lower' local terms and expressions (e.g. to taste risi e bisi);
  3. a sense of need, users of a certain language draw material from another for such purposes as education and technology (e.g. palestra hi-tech);
  4. the prestige associated with the use of words from another language (e.g. gourmet, concierge(s), charm);
  5. a mix of some/all reasons above.

As can easily be noticed from the examples of borrowings given in brackets in the above list, some particular semantic fields offer a number of sites for borrowing in tourist texts.
Table 3.6 below shows Italian, English and French borrowings which are present in my multilingual comparable corpus, in relation with the semantic fields of food and drinks, places and others.

Where to stay in the UK and in Italy - Foto 9

Table 3.6: Borrowings in English and Italian in promotional texts and the fields which they belong to.

A closer look at Table 3.6 reveals an interesting contraposition between Italian and English borrowings. As is well-known, Italian art and history boasts "unique cross-national as well as cross-cultural recognition and diffusion" (Francesconi, 2007: 135). For this reason, a huge number of Italian terms regarding historical places to visit in Venice can be found in English texts promoting hotels and their surroundings. By contrast, English borrowings in Italian promotional texts mainly refer to modern features of hotels and the facilities they provide. As for the French borrowings, it can be seen that in both the English and in the Italian promotional texts, the majority of them belong to the semantic field of food and drinks. As a matter of fact, French cuisine is world-renowned for its style in preparing and cooking dishes and in fact French cuisine has created the basis for the current European cuisine. Moreover, terms like chef, gourmet, brasserie attract and seduce the tourist because of the sense of prestige they give to the text (the French pronunciation does indeed sound chic to many people).
It is essential to take the fact into account that tourism texts in English adopt foreign terms more frequently than general English texts do. According to Dann (1996 in de Stasio / Palusci 2007: 137), "this does not reflect a natural language process but a purposeful and careful work of selection and adoption by tourism promoters". The reason is that this strategy enriches the meanings expressed by the signifier, which thus goes far beyond denotation and acquires a number of connotative meanings. Also promotional texts exploit the phenomenon of language ambiguity, which leaves room for more interpretations through associative meanings. From a stylistic point of view, this process performs "internal deviation" (Cook, 2001 in de Stasio / Palusci 2007: 143), as it enacts a departure from the norm established and observed within the text, that is the fact that it is written in a foreign language. Consequently, the borrowed word has a higher power in terms of its potential to catch the reader's attention. As Dann (1996 in de Stasio / Palusci 2007: 137) observes, "the unusual lexical choice fulfils a function of ego-enhancement, to the extent that it flatters the pseudo-linguistic abilities of the reader". The obvious implication is that the writer seems to establish an intimate and exclusive dialogue with an ideal reader.