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LIN 18 — Advertising and the Language of Persuasion

Quarter: Winter
Day(s): Mondays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 8 weeks
Date(s): Jan 22—Mar 18
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Jan 24
Unit: 1
Tuition: $465
Instructor(s): Will Leben
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Open
Please Note: No class on February 19
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Live Online(About Formats)
7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Jan 22—Mar 18
8 weeks
Refund Date
Jan 24
1 Unit
Will Leben
Please Note: No class on February 19
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
This course will explore a side of advertising beyond its reputation as an often deceptive nuisance. What sets a compelling ad apart? How do its verbal and visual components collaborate to amplify its impact? We will address the topic from a linguist's perspective, adding insights from psychological research and marketing expertise. Students will engage directly with a large number of tangible examples in print ads and TV commercials, searching for composition and linguistic subtleties that succeed or fail in creating effective persuasion tools.

While we'll touch on ethically questionable practices, our primary focus will be to recognize the ingenious ways that ads are structured to gain our attention and to maintain it for long enough to engage our interest and be remembered afterward. Class sessions will analyze a series of ads, each of which we’ll solicit insights and impressions from class members to complement the prepared lectures. Weekly assignments will involve finding ads that exemplify or cast new light on the course content.

After many decades of research, marketers have come to understand the intricate interplay between reason and emotion in our behavior. By examining how ads appeal to our rational and emotional sides, we will better understand what advertisers know about us. In the process, we may well also learn some new things about ourselves.

This course is designed for anyone who wants to learn about the use of language in advertising. No experience in linguistics is required; all students are welcome.

Professor of Linguistics, Emeritus, Stanford

Will Leben taught linguistics at Stanford for over 30 years and has received the Dean’s Award for Distinguished Teaching. He is also chair emeritus of the linguistic group at Lexicon Branding, a source of some well-known brand names, including Swiffer, Dasani, and BlackBerry. He has co-authored books on English vocabulary, tonal languages of the Chadic and Kwa groups in West Africa, and the languages of the world.

Textbooks for this course:

There are no required textbooks; however, some fee-based online readings may be assigned.