Can ESL students identify emphatic features of advertisements

The study aimed at investigating ESL students’ ability to comprehend and identify emphatic structures in advertisements, to find out the emphatic features that are easy to identify, and those that are difficult to identify. 60 ESL junior college students enrolled in a stylistics course took a test which consisted of an advertisement. The subjects were asked to identify the emphatic features of that advertisement and give two examples that illustrate the feature they give. Analysis of the subjects’ correct responses showed that the emphatic structures that the subjects could identify are: balanced sentence structure (53%), repeating key words (53%), arranging ideas in the order of climax, i.e. order of importance with the strongest idea last (45%), using active voice (33%), changing sentence length abruptly (33%), placing important words at the end of the sentence (32%), using periodic sentences (30%), placing emphatic words after a colon or a dash (27.5%), putting a word or phrase out of its usual order (23%) and identifying intensifiers, extraposition, exclamatory sentences, using anticipatory ‘it’, and changing sentence types together (20%). The percentages given reflect the difficulty level of the different emphatic features of the advertisement, and areas with which they had comprehension difficulties. Causes of advertisement comprehension problems and recommendations for instructional techniques that would help enhance the students’ ability to identify and comprehend emphatic structures will be given.

Prof. Reima Al-jarf
King Saud University
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

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