Successful marketing communication requires a strong understanding of the language of the intended audience. Never assume that a whimsical or clever catch-phrase or slogan will be understood by everyone. Language is an evolution of culture, and cultures are geographically bound. Therefore, language is a unique representation of culture in a specific time and location. Language is mostly thought of as spoken words with inflection, tone, and pronunciation linked to a country, state, or region. Variations of language within the same culture are separated by a historical timeline. Hath, henceforth, and hither were commonplace in a Shakespearean play. These words would disrupt and confuse a conversation in a modern day culture.
From Old English through Middle English and into Modern English, sometimes referred to as the Queen’s English, cultural changes influenced language. Alterations of dialect, such as pronunciation, were a direct result of the separation of societies into culturally common groups. The wealthy were educated and pronounced every word with accuracy. The lower class societies could not afford books or to properly educate their youth. As a result, a variation of the language was evolved—influenced by culture. While the words were identical, the pronunciations were radically different. History can have an intense effect on language (Ellis-Christensen, 2009).
Over the past 1000 years, England has hosted many cultural changes with accompanying languages. The United States, a young country by comparison, has spawned many variations of its own language. Derived from the Queen’s English, American English has morphed into the many dialects we use today. We have more variations of language spread across many regions within our borders than ever before. The southern states are recognized as a culture with a slower, more deliberate, pronunciation of our modern vocabulary. Extra syllables are sometimes added as well as vowels accented to create the slow southern drawl we have come to associate with southern cultures.
The pronunciation of our American English vocabulary is bound to geographic regions in our country. There are subtle differences in speech between North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Individuals from this part of the country can identify a person from one of the other southern states. The New England states have a vernacular all its own. New York has New England and Canadian influence in the northern counties. The boroughs of New York City each enjoy a variation of the New York recognizable accent.
New York, like many other diverse densely populated regions in our country, has their own language. Once again, culture influences the evolution of these languages. A stoop is the Brooklyn word for the front stairs of a building. Dogs are attracted to and a fireman would attempt connecting a fire hose to a Johnny pump. Most of New York City uses the plural of you—yooze.
The United States has managed to incubate language more granular than that of a single culture. From cultures, through societies, and down to individual neighborhoods—language is altered and molded to be unique. Words are pronounced differently and new words are formed as a way to express independence from other cultures. Society affects language. Social boundaries are blurred as schools host multilingual classrooms (Budach & Rampton, 2008). Students from many cultural and ethnic backgrounds find common ground by developing a language unique to their social environment. A variation of language is created by the melting pot of several cultures proving once again that our cultural background forges our language.
Every country has a rich history of language and culture. As long as cultures change and societies are born, language will be as unique and versatile. While the base language for each country can be linked to a culture, societies and even neighborhoods can be responsible for the many variations of a single language. Words, expressions, and non-verbal communication are all part of the language with which we communicate. Our cultural background affects our gestures and reactions as much as our dialect and inflection. Communication is defined as, “Any process in which people share information, ideas, and feelings” (Hybels & Weaver III, 2007). Not only is language influenced by culture, but communication in general. Marketing communication should be indigenous. For your next marketing campaign–watch your language!
Budach, G. & Rampton, B. (2008). Language in late modernity: Interaction in an urban school. Language in Society, 37(4). p. 600. Retrieved April 4, 2009, from ProQuest Direct database.
Hybels, S. & Weaver, R. (2007). Communicating Effectively. Boston, MA: McGraw Hill Companies, Inc.
Leila, M. E. & Goodman, J. E. (2008). A Cultural Approach to Interpersonal Communication. Language in Society, 37(4). p. 619. Retrieved April 4, 2009, from ProQuest Direct database.