English and Asian Flavor in Russian Advertising of the Far East Zoya proshina and Irina ustinova abstract

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Asian Englishes. An International Journal of the Sociolinguistics of English in Asia/Pacific. 2012. Vol. 15, No.2. P. 30-59.
English and Asian Flavor in Russian Advertising of the Far East


Abstract: Glocalization of English in the Russian sociolinguistic setting can be observed in advertising that has been booming in Russia since the Iron Curtain fall. Many features of Russian ads – structural, semantic, and functional – have been influenced by English. In Asian Russia, advertising also bears traces of cultural influence of the neighboring countries, which makes it more colorful and distinctive. Formally, English influence is observed in a number of ways, from employing words and sentences in this language to code-mixing including shift of letters and word switching. The semantic analysis has revealed a change of meaning of some English key words used in Russian ads. The functional role of English is in its association with internationalism, modernization, innovation, prestige, creativity, and fun. English words used in ads are often helpful in the English language teaching and learning. At the same time, the functional analysis has revealed dynamics of Russian cultural values.

In the Russian Federation, English falls under the category of the Expanding Circle countries (Kachru, 1985), which means it is a performance variety. English does not have an official status on the entire vast territory of the Russian Federation. Nevertheless, the high tides of Russian-English cultural contacts are obvious in the 21st century and in some Asian parts of Russia English plays a distinguished role.

Russian Federation has never been a monolingual country. It comprises 21 ethnic republics, which include over 150 ethnic groups with their own indigenous languages. The Asian part of Russia is traditionally divided into Western Siberia, Eastern Siberia, and the Russian Far East. The Russian Far East stretches from Amur Oblast, with the administrative center of Blagoveschensk, and Yakut-Sakha Republic in the west to Chukotsky Automous Area (Anadyr, administrative center) in the east, including Jewish Autonomous Oblast (Birobidjan), Khabarovsky Krai, Primorsky Krai (Vladivostok), Sakhalinskaya Oblast (Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk), Magadanskaya Oblast, Koryak Autonomous Area (recently united with Kamchatskaya Oblast), and Kamchatskaya Oblast (Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky). The last three administrative divisions are referred to as the Far North.

The Russian Federation Law of 1991 proclaimed Russian as the national language on the territory of the Russian Federation, but the subjects of this Federation, many of which are located in the Asian part of Russia, such as Altay, Tyva, Yakutia, have the right to declare their ethnic languages as official on their territory. In this respect, the linguistic situation in the Yakut-Sakha Autonomous Republic is unique. It is characterized by the interaction of two national languages (Russian and Yakut), five official languages (Even, Evenk, Yukagir, Chukchi, and Dolgan), and one working language (English) (Samsonov, 2003). This region of the Russian Federation is rich in diamond deposits with the potential of exporting its resources to the Western world. The use of English is necessary due to the increase in cross-cultural communication between speakers of different languages, adoption of advanced technologies, and creation of a multilingual work force that meets international standards. English has become a mandatory language for instruction at schools there, and the English language lessons are provided for the staff of Yakut ministries and offices (Zharikov, 2001; Ustinova, 2005).

The intensive Russian-American contacts in the Russian Far East started already in the 19th century. With Russia’s expanding her territories and founding new outposts and cities, there was a need in new money and energy, trade and industries. Far Eastern cities, or ‘frontier towns’ (Ingemanson, 2005: 94) were open to international companies, including American and Australian businesses.

Business contacts with the Americans are much more intensive in Asian Russia than business contacts with the British, so interest in American English is prevalent to that in British English. What is more, Russian Far East has extended economic ties with China, Korea and Japan nowadays, and English as a lingua franca is widely used there in business situations as a means of communication between non-native English speakers. The neighboring Asian countries’ education also focuses on American English, so it is easier to understand Asian English speakers when following the same model of English. There is also an opinion among Russian students that American English is ‘easier’ and ‘simpler’ than British English because it is the language of diverse immigrants who adapted it to their needs (Proshina, 2006).

Studies on Russian Advertising

One of the main domains of most intensive English-Russian contacts is advertizing that, no doubt, was stimulated in Russia by the process in the English speaking countries. Russian advertising studies have been conducted from different perspectives: extra-linguistic, such as history of advertising in Russia, similarities and differences in concepts, values and beliefs of Russians and Westerners towards advertising, and linguistic surveys, which explore various language issues. The title of Gary Burandt’s and Nancy Giges’ book Moscow meets Madison Avenue: the Adventures of the First American Adman in the U.S.S.R. speaks for itself. It describes a personal experience of a Western ad professional who came to Russia in 1989 to establish connections and start cooperation with the Soviet advertising agencies. At that time American admen saw ‘a rudimentary understanding of how to sell products with communications’ in Moscow (Burandt’& Giges, 1992, p.11). In their article Testing the Cross-National Applicability of U.S. and Russian Advertising Belief and Attitude Measures Andrew Craig, Durvasula Srinivas and Richard Netemeyer (1994) demonstrate the procedures for testing the cross-national equivalence of advertising belief and attitudes in general and then apply their technique toward comparison of these issues between Russians and Americans. According to the results of the test, Russian respondents exhibited more favorable beliefs toward the advertising in general and social effect of advertising, while Americans felt it resulted in negative social effects. The positive results of Russian respondents’ views on advertising were explained by the fact that Russians consider it as a necessary part of the change to market-driven economy and an opportunity to help improve it (Craig et al., 1994, p.81). However, the results of polls conducted by the Russian statistics agencies in the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century reveal that the majority of Russians have negative attitudes toward advertising nowadays. The discrepancy between the results of Craig’s research and the statistics of Russian polls can be probably explained by the fact that the data from only 64 Russian University business students were analyzed by Craig, and they are not the representatives of population with different social and educational status. The social value of advertising is not obvious to the majority of Russian adult readership and viewship who consider advertising as an annoying phenomenon regardless of the rapid advertising market growth (see Ustinova 2006 for details). According to the Gallup media statistics, only 1.8 % of the adult population, who reside in cities with the population of more than one hundred thousand people, like TV commercials very much, 27.7 % like them in general, and 70 % do not like them at all (Aclub, 2002). The decrease of trust in advertisements is obvious: 51 % of the respondents in 1996, and only 31 % in 2000 answered positively to the question whether TV commercials serve as a reliable source of information about goods and food. 30% of the respondents agreed, and 62 % disagreed in 1996, while 24 % agreed and 69 % disagreed in 2000 with the statement that ‘TV commercials help consumers to choose the right product’ (VTSIOM, 2002).

Ludmilla Wells-Gricenko conducted interviews with Russian government officials, business and advertising industry professionals, professors and students in Moscow in 1991. In her article Western Concepts, Russian Perspectives: Meaning of Advertising in the Former Soviet Union (1994), she argues that Western firms should consider the concept of advertising as cultural communication, and not neglect Russian perspectives on advertising, as the influence of Russian culture on Russian advertising is enormous. However, Russian culture and Russian advertisement get more and more influenced by new-coming, mostly American, values brought in Russia through various means, especially mass media. The renowned Russian linguist Vitaliy Kostomarov (2005) argues that advertisement is the most aggressive type of mass communication. He draws attention to change of word meanings in ads due to their pathological thirst for expressiveness, which means that ads are active in changing national language semantics.

The increased role of advertising in Russian community is traced in intensified interest in this socio-linguistic phenomenon. The turn of the 21st century is marked by the increase of a number of defended dissertations on advertisement. A linguopragmatic survey of manipulative tactics used by advertisers is presented in the dissertation by Elena Popova (2006). Using symbols in ads is proved to be one of the widely used ways of manipulating and persuading (Sychova, 2008).

Researchers stress the syncretic character of ad texts, the feature termed as creolized text (Anisimova, 2003), which implies using all sorts of semiotic means – pictorial, textual, musical, vocal, even sensory – to reach the goal intended by an ad. For example, more and more often we come across the heart-sign ♥ in place of the verb “love”: I New York. Я Москву (I Moscow). In one of the Moscow ads of the Russian car Lada, the car image is introduced in the middle of the word: Пора обLADAть.

Nina Scherbina (2002) focused her dissertation research on the correlation between language and culture as manifested in ads. Each nation has its own ways of persuasion, determined by culture. The specificity of culture-loaded devices makes the ads difficult to translate. The correlation between language and culture, typical of ads, as well as their intertextuality turn ads into an authentic material available and productive for learning language and culture (Kwon Sun Man, 2006). Gender and linguacultural aspects of advertisement are discussed in the dissertations by Olga Karimova (2006) and Alexandra Belikova (2007). The analysis of ads in intercultural communication is conducted by E. Medvedeva (2004), while regional mass media means of producing persuasive effect, called ‘stoppers,’ are investigated by Larisa Kopreva (2007), who emphasizes the role of English borrowings in South Russian ads, and Anton Skakodub (2007).

Some other publications discuss the language issues of Russian advertising. In the article by Lara Ryazanova-Clarke (1996), published in the USA, the elements of persuasion in the language of Russian TV advertisements in 1993-1995 are observed. The study examines some of the most regular linguistic mechanisms of persuasion in ads, among them the usage of first and second person plural forms of pronouns and verbs, rhetorical questions, imperative verb forms, praising the products by using adjectives and creating intimacy with addressees with the help of colloquial expressions. A substantial number of works on advertising language were published in Russia, which made it possible for Oksana Ksenzenko to determine and describe a new branch of linguistics – Advertisement Linguistic Studies (Ksenzenko 2011). Kwon Sun Man (2006) singles out three main types of key words used in Russian ads. From the morphological aspect, these types are represented by verb texts adding dynamics to the ad; noun texts producing the impression of stability and invariability, and adjective texts stressing the quality of advertised products. Specific syntactic features (parallel and detached parts, parenthetical words, comparative phrases and elliptical structures) facilitate laconism and capaciousness of ad sentences. Imperative sentences expressing joint action reduce categorical inducement of utterances. Stylistic analysis reveals traces of various registers in ad texts, addressing them to customers of various social groups. In terms of lexis, ads can include Russian culture-loaded words (supermarkets Avos’ka [String-bag], Kopeika; restaurants Kucher [Coachman], Samovar) and allusions, such as names of pictures by famous Russian artists, geographical names connected with outstanding Russian poets, musicians and other historical and public figures (restaurants Valeriy Bryusov, Yermak, cafes Boldino, Graf [Count] Suvorov, Graf Tolstoy, entertainment center Rasputin).

In the synopsis of the dissertation by Oleg Dmitriev Structural and Semantic Characteristics of a Slogan as an Advertising Text Component (2000), the comparative analysis of American and Russian print slogans is done, and the syntactical structures of Russian slogans are described. Yulia Gaponova’s dissertation Means of Expressing Modal Meanings in Printed Ads (2007) proves that ad discourse is characterized by cohesion, which means it can be rightfully regarded as text produced in marketing communication and consisting of both verbal and non-verbal components. In her opinion, advertisement gravitates towards myth as ‘belief without reasoning’ (Gaponova, 2007, p. 12) and replicates its structure and functions. Ad myth activates the model of possibilities in the minds of interested customers and stimulates their necessity to act (buy). Comparison of advertisement and myth is also done in the dissertations by Roman Torichko (2003) and Larisa Geraschenko (2006). Geraschenko highlights the idea that myth is able to form a positive worldview of a person, which is so important for advertisement. Mythological nature of advertisement supports a system of values, conserves stereotypes and images, symbolically models the natural and social world, and stabilizes emotional state of a person.

In her dissertation research, Ludmila Amiri (2007) describes the ‘carnaval nature’ (Amiri, 2007, p. 3) of advertisement, observed in employing language game and play and testifying to the creativity of ads. Language game is defined as conscientious experiment oriented towards creativity, purposeful destruction of a stereotype, language form and function typical of a norm of a certain language community. In ads language game is used to intensify expressiveness of the text so that it might facilitate selling a certain product or service. She analyzes language games on phonetic, graphical, morphological, and word-building levels. Amiri argues that Russian and American ads have a lot of parallel devices, which testifies to advertisement internationalization, which results from the English language impact and the influence of Western, especially American, culture.

Various genres of advertisement texts are described: magazine ads (Belikova, 2007), newspaper ads (Brovkina, 2000, Manianin, 2007), TV commercials (Kornilova, 2002, Ustinova, 2010; 2011), and radio commercials (Strel’nikova, 2006).

Irina Ustinova’s and Tej Bhatia’s study ‘Convergence of English in Russian TV commercials’ (2005) is based on the data gathered in 1998-2005. According to the authors, the presence of English and English-Russian mix as the main source of linguistic creativity is a salient feature of Russian TV commercials. The multiple language mixing is observed in three types of TV advertisements, such as social, service, and commercials in ‘English and Emerging Advertising in Russia’ (Ustinova 2006). The article ‘English and American Culture Appeal in Russian Advertising’ (Ustinova, 2008) proposes that Russian advertising discourse offers prospective for examining changes in Russian language and culture in the context of globalization. It focuses on the use of English in Russian advertising with an analysis of code-mixed samples drawn from print, Internet and TV advertisements. Also, the age-specific ads reveal the possible ongoing changes of Russian ethnolinguistic identity.

English in Advertising in Far Eastern Russia

Russian perestroika took off many locks and opened many gates. One of the gates was to access of foreign goods onto the Russian market. Together with goods came their advertisements intended for an international customer and, therefore, written in English. Before perestroika, advertising of Russian governmental products, with no competition, hardly existed at all. In the Soviet time, the newspapers and TV channels were owned and sponsored by the government; as a result, the wall and print ads were very rare, and TV programs were never interrupted by the commercials. The absence of ads ‘struck visitors from capitalist countries very forcibly: bare walls in metro stations, unbroken print in newspapers, mail deliveries without circulars’ (Cook, 1992, p. 15). Advertising as an industry in modern Russia appeared as a real force only at the end of 1980s-beginning of 1990s, after the acquisition of private property, joint ventures, small business, and direct negotiations for products were allowed (Ustinova, 2006). After perestroika, streets got ‘decorated’ with advertising billboards and overhead streamers; ads appeared in newspapers and magazines; TV programs began to get interrupted by commercials. According to the research data, 63 % of Russian TV advertisements are carried out with the use of English (Ustinova, 2006). One of the salient features of today’s Russian cities is a ‘change of speech clothes’ (Kitaigorodskaya, 2003, p. 149), the trend of using new names typical of the periods of drastic social transformations. Using other languages is one of the ways to actualize this trend, and English is, no doubt, a dominant language among other languages. Today English is used for promoting not only imported products and companies but also domestic ones because it is associated with prestige, glamour, and success.

Ads as ‘texts of minor form’ (Kitaigorodskaya, 2003, p. 149) with English-Russian code-mixing have become ‘a vehicle for the import of scores of Western words including brand names and words with Russian equivalents that are used because they sound “Western”’ (Murray, 1994, p. 99). Many Russian scholars, legislative and executive institutions got concerned with the inundating flow of English words. The members of the Governmental Council on the Russian language under the auspices of the former President Vladimir Putin warn that the Russian language is evolving out of control and could be inundated by a wave of foreign borrowings and aggressive Americanization (Weir, 2002). There were attempts to issue language policy regulations on the use of foreignisms, which were strict enough in Moscow, the capital city, whose former mayor Yuri Luzhkov tried to prohibit slogans and labels in foreign languages (Ustinova, 2006). However, the farther from the capital, the less strict observation of the regulations was noticed, so in the Russian Far East bilingual ads and ads with code-switching continued to thrive and develop. Moreover, the material found in Asian Russia manifests conglomeration of not only Russian-English mix, but also a certain flavor of Asian languages and cultures. This makes us analyze the material in the aspect of language and culture contacts.

In this paper we first analyze the structural dimension of English-Russian language mix on the levels of words, sentences and phrases in outdoor and print advertisements found in Vladivostok, Nakhodka, Khabarovsk, Komsomolsk-na-Amure (Russian Far East), and then look into semantics of English used in ads, and, finally, discuss the functional aspect of English use. Our data include about 500 samples of outdoor advertising signs, billboards and overhead streamers, as well as 100 ads from magazines and newspapers, published in the Russian Far East, that are widely circulating among the general public.

Structural analysis

Two large categories are usually identified in ads: display, where the elements are set in larger sizes to attract the reader’s attention and body copy or the text (Wells at al, 1998, p. 460). These elements can be further subdivided into structural components, such as headline, sub-header, caption or attention getter, body, slogan, product name, company name or logo, wrappers or labels, pricing and availability, producer of goods, contact information (address and telephone/fax), target consumer and proof of certification or registration (Bhatia, 2000, p. 201-202; Ustinova, 2008).

English or an English-Russian mix is utilized in nearly all structural components in the layout of Russian ads. The name of the product and/or company is a must in the layout of an ad. It occurs in written forms as a brand name, as an element on a label, within the text of the body, wrapper or a slogan. English names present both international and local producer-companies and seller-companies, as well as various service companies.

  • The name of the company-producer and/or a brand name of the product

According to our data, this component ranks second in frequency of English words that are used in the Russian Far Eastern ads (10 % of all English-bearing inscriptions) (Proshina, Kubritskaya, Sergeyeva 2008). Even words which do not come originally from English look like English loans due to their Roman script: for example, Japanese Sony or Korean Samsung (the latter meaning literally “three stars,” but often misinterpreted as the Biblical hero Samson). Russian producing companies sometimes take Englishized names: e.g., the company producing windows Фабрика окон VEKA (=Window Manufacturer VEKA, i.e. Window Manufacturer of the Century ); furniture factory SalvaDoor. English names make an ad more catchy and it attracts a customer.

  • The name of the firm – seller of the product, and/or a store

Commercial organizations are the most frequent users of English (75 % of all the ads in English). Among them a variety of shops, studios, agencies and centers can be found:

  • shops that sell cosmetics (Charmzone, Косметик-City = Cosmetic-City), decorations (Art Fashion Gallery), clothes (Dress Code, Jokey Jeans, Earth Gear, FROGGI), and footwear (Respect yourself, Step);

  • food shops and supermarkets: Pacific, Red Mart;

  • shops selling equipment (domestic and office equipment, computers, mobile telephones, etc): Plasma Hall, Digital Hall, Sony Hall, Treasure Island;

  • computer service centers: GLOBAL SERVICE;

  • car service: Pole Position Bridgestone, Auto Oasis, Car, Сити Моторз (= City Motors), Hummer; carwash Paradise;

  • furniture shops and interior design studios: Paradise, Lux Décor, ЯRus;

  • catering centers: Sandwich Time, Allegro Food, Allegro Pub, Magic Burger, Pizza M, Чайна Таун (= China town)

  • entertainment clubs: Dancehouse, Fantasy Land, Q-zar, Down Town, Kento’s, Military, Yellow Submarine, casinos Royal Park, Ace, movie theaters New Wave cinema, People’s cinema;

  • health clubs (Fitness Club, Атлетик Сити = Athletic City, Фитнес Лайф = Fitness Life), beauty salons (Studio Beauty, Эстетик Холл = Aesthetic Hall, Александр Тодчук Студио = Alexander Todchuk Studio),

  • dental centers (Дентал Клиник = Dental Clinic, Джордж Дентал Групп = George Dental Group);

  • photo studios: Смайл = Smile;

  • travel agencies Pacific Line, Pacific Tourservice, Влад Трэк = Vlad(ivostok) Track, Дальинтур Траст = DalInTour Trust, Старвинд Виза = Starwind Visa, Спутник-Тревел = Sputnik-Travel;

  • hotels: VladMotor Inn, ACFES-Seyo, Story;

  • match-making agencies: SUNRISE, New Life;

  • building materials: Jonnesway, Вуд-мастер = Wood-master, ELITE-СТРОЙ – Elite-Structure, Тайгер = Tiger;

  • banks: Trust, Саммит Банк = Summit Bank; auditing companies: ADVISER, КамчатПрофитБанк = KamchatProfitBank, etc.;

  • fish-selling companies: Фиш-сервис = Fish-service;

  • transportation: Taxi-Клаксон = Taxi-Klaxon, VIP-авто = VIP-auto, Юнайтед = United,

  • employment centers: Пасифик скай = Pacific sky, Континент-Групп = Continent Group;

  • advertisement agencies: PR-factory, P & I; НАХОДКА МЕДИА ГРУПП = Nakhodka Media Group.

Company names are represented mostly by nouns or noun groups (SWAN, Funny angels, Бубль-гум = Booble gum), frequently by male or female anthroponyms (Cecily, Jessica; OSCAR, Gregory), mythonyms: Apollo, Vesta, Venus. Abbreviations and shortenings are not infrequent, especially for official business establishments, like banks (PRIMSOTSBANK – shortening of the Russian “PRIMorsky SOTSial’nyi BANK” = “Primorye Social Bank”). There are compound nouns transcribed in Cyrillic from English: стейк-ресторан (= steak-restaurant), Фиш-сервис = Fish-service, арт-кафе = art-café, with the first component specifying the type of the establishment expressed by the second component. The number of phrases consisting of an attributive noun in preposition to another noun is mushrooming: Евродизайн Маркет (Euro-design Market), Континент-Групп (Continent Group), master service, Dream World, Foot Land. In this phenomenon some linguists see an English transfer that causes changes to Russian syntax, which normally requires an adjectival attribute (cf. офис-менеджер = ‘office manager’ vs. офисный менеджер = Adj + N ‘a manager who works in the office’) (Aitmukhametova, 2000).

English adjectives are also used for naming, though for many Russians they sound as nouns, since they do not end in vowels like Russian adjectives and are written in Cyrillic: Элегант = Elegant (clothes shop), ГРАНД = Grand (footwear shop), Фаст = Fast (building company). Verbs, though rarely, are also encountered, mostly those that have conversion relation with nouns: MOVE (advertising agency), Ride (car service center).

  • Body text

Body text plays a very important role in a display because it identifies the product and makes the point of the message. English is seldom used for describing goods, its benefits, application, and so on. This component makes up only 6 % of all English-language material in Russian Far Eastern advertisement. Preference is given to Russian as the national language, which is quite understandable. However, there occur ad texts written in English only (intended for foreign guests) or English-Russian mixture: ‘Аренда: renting apartments for foreigners’; work time: 8-21, out of holidays’; ‘Laura – kid’s boutique, D&G Junior, Guess, Miss Blumarine, Parrot, Moschino Junior’ - kid clothes store ad; ‘Samsung Computer IP Student’ – computer ad; ‘Salamander city lady marathon sportive’ – footwear store ad.

Some of these texts contain non-grammatical structures (out of holidays = ‘no days off’) and newly coined words (sportive), which might be explained by a low level of English command of these ad compilers.

In most ads, body texts are made in Russian with a few words of general character (product names, function terms, etc) inserted in English – for example, the following TV ad: «плазменные и LCD телевизоры LG с функцией Time Machine» (plasma and LCD TV sets LG with the function of Time Machine). Transplanted (Romanized) English names of this type, without translation, can make a considerable part of a Russian text: e.g.,

Из новых разработок компании Wynn’s следует выделить также специальный продукт DIP3 для двигателей с непосредственным впрыском, разработанный для Mitsubishi GDI, Toyota SIDI, VW/Audi/Seal/Skoda FSI, Nissan, BMW, Alta Romeo, Renault IDE. Данные системы очень чувствительны к качеству топлива. Продукт Wynns DIP3 Liguid и DIP3 Aerosol предназначены для межсервисного использования с целью поддержания в чистоте топливных систем (AG Автогид. [Autoguide: magazine for car fans.] Vladivostok, 2007, № 8 (40), с. 51)

Among the newly designed gadgets of Wynn’s company it is worth highlighting a specialized product DIP3 for the engines with direct injection, developed for Mitsubishi GDI, Toyota SIDI, VW/Audi/Seal/Skoda FSI, Nissan, BMW, Alta Romeo, Renault IDE. Products such as Wynn’s DIP3 Liguid and DIP3 Aerosol are intended for the inter-service use in order to maintain the fuel systems clean.

  • Slogans

About 4 % of all the ads from our data contain English-language slogans. Slogan is a phrase or sentence with a complete meaning. Usually it is a laconic structure that may use rhyme, rhythm, alliteration, or pun to become memorable (Local touch, Global Brand - for computer ‘Acer’).

Some slogans are registered trademarks; that is why they are not translated into national languages. Slogans like ‘Ideas for life’ (Panasonic), Like.no.other’ (Sony), ‘It’s different’ (Pantech), ‘United colors of Benetton’ (Benetton), ‘Thinking of you’ (Electrolux) are well-known all over the world, for they belong to transnational companies. English slogans are also invented by local companies and stores: ‘Keep it simple’ (store), ‘Digital & Mobile’ (mobile phone chain), ‘You and only you’ (clothes store Glance), ‘From appearance to protagonist’ (clothes store Take Two), ‘Create your home’ (store Boomerang).

  • English in the closing lines, headers or attention getters

These structural components reinforce the advertising message and also serve as a marker of prestige; thus, the expensive electronic, perfume and home appliances are targeted at the upper-middle class Russians who are expected to be educated and proficient in English. 6 % of outdoor ads with English elements in our data contain English in headers and closing lines: ‘Pioneer London’ (clothes store Podium), ‘Finely Selected Specialty Tea’ (tea Greenfield), ‘Kid’s Clothing Company’ (kid clothes store Pampolina); ‘Cash and carry’ (kid supermarket Бубль-Гум = Booble Gum), ‘Funny Things From All The World’ (shop Кукабарра = Kukabarra) and others.

  • Additional information about the products and price

In contact information, the address, telephone, and directions are usually in Russian, but the web and email addresses are always in Roman script as English is the global language of the Internet: www.CRUZAK.ru, www.japanbestcars.ru, www.JPBEST.ru, www.japanstart.ru, www.marineservice.info, www.souzmoto.ru.

The mentioning of the country-producer is an indicator of a product’s high quality as several stereotypes about the products exist. The best electronic appliances and cars are made in Japan and Korea; the best perfume – in France, the best chocolate or dairy products – in Russia. The country or the city–manufacturers can be written both in Roman and Cyrillic: Paris-Париж, Japan-Япония.

Mixing of scripts

In advertising discourse in Russia, both Cyrillic and Roman scripts are used in presenting English or English-looking words (see also, Ustinova 2008; 2011). In the Russian Far Eastern ads, the use or imitation of East Asian scripts together with Cyrillic and Roman scripts, is a noticeable phenomenon. The following physical manifestation patterns can be revealed and presented in the Russian Far Eastern ads.

English in Roman letters

English in Roman letters is dominant in the brand names of the world famous products and their companies: Honda, Toyota, Sony, Dirol, Clean and Clear, etc. Sometimes the brand-name has a transparent or ‘speaking for itself character’ in English that is lost in a Russian ad and the meaning can be deciphered only by bilinguals: e.g., Fairy (dish detergent); INCITY (dress shop). Company names, especially names of stores, employ English words as a symbol of prestige: e.g., clothes stores Dress Code, Symbol, travel agency Double Step Travel. English names may carry traces of Russian English, like the name of a footwear shop in Komsomolsk: AirStep Обувь, which is influenced by the Russian metaphorical collocation воздушная походка (vozdushnaya pokhodka, i.e very light step as if walking on the air, not ground.) As though intended primarily for international customers, some shops and restaurants hang out inscriptions in English: Open / Closed in letters far larger than those of the corresponding words in Russian. Simulating McDonalds, a café in Komsomolsk warns its customers: No smoking, and its disposal cups have inscriptions: Soup to go.

English words phonetically transcribed in Cyrillic

This type of physical manifestation is becoming very popular, especially in the promotion of those Western or Asian products that are already well-known on the Russian market. The consumer gets used to the products and their brand names do not seem foreign any more as they are written in a familiar Cyrillic script: Кока Кола (Coca-Cola), Пепси (Pepsi), Брук-Бонд (Brook Bond).

English names of companies written in Cyrillic script can be read by all Russian customers, imposing on them an exotic atmosphere of far-away countries, making the impression of international participation in these businesses and thus emphasizing the company’s reliability: e.g., insurance company «Даск» (Dusk), beauty salon «Бьюти Лайф» (Beauty Life), ship service agency «Старфиш» (Starfish), shipment company «Вл Лоджистик» (Vl. Logistic), computer store «Грин Лайт» (Green Light); computer service «Креатив Саунд» (Creative Sound), door manufacturer Дорз (Doors).

Cyrillicized English occurs in headers welcoming clients: for example, in Komsomolsk-na-Amure, Kyokushinkai Karate Center greets the customers by listing services provided by the center (Plate 1) (on the right is our translation, not seen by the Center customers, the word in bold type is English):



Лечебный массаж

Универсальные тренажеры

Беговые дорожки




Medicinal massage

Universal simulator equipment

Running tracks

Exercise bicycles

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