Airport language and the globalization of nothing

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    In this paper, I will draw on the honouree's work in onomastics (Sauer 2003; Sauer/ Krischke 2004) and the language of advertising (Sauer 1998). This seems a fitting tribute as I first developed my own work in the area (Piller 2001; 2003) under Hans Sauer's PhD supervision (Piller 1996). It is the specific aim of this paper to demonstrate the existence of a non-language, a global consumption register, with reference to a corpus of shop names at Munich Airport. I am using the term non-language to add it to the nullities, which the sociologist George Ritzer (2007) sees as characteristic of the globalization of consumption. Ritzer (2007) argues that globalization is a process in which "something" is replaced with "nothing". In this context, nothing refers to relatively empty forms which are centrally conceived and controlled. The nullities of globalization identified by Ritzer (2007) include non-places, non-things, non-people, and non-services. Like most sociologists of globalization (cf. Blommaert 2010), Ritzer does not pay any attention to the ways in which language intersects with the proliferation of nothing. However, the proliferation of empty forms -forms devoid of any specific, local content -can only be achieved communicatively, particularly through branding. For example, McDonald's hamburgers -the most widely recognized non-thing, which is at the centre of Ritzer's analysis of globalization (see also Ritzer 2008) -is globally made of the same ingredients, produced to the same specifications and consumed in the same settings. However, ultimately it is language that achieves the global standardization and control that is characteristic of global nothings: McDonald's hamburgers are uniformly labelled and the communication processes involved in selling a hamburger are just as centrally conceived and controlled as the product itself -from the shop name, via the menu, down to the actual scripting of server-customer interactions.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationMore than words
    Subtitle of host publicationEnglish lexicography and lexicology past and present : essays presented to Hans Sauer on the occasion of his 65th birthday - Part I
    EditorsRenate Bauer, Ulrike Krischke
    Place of PublicationFrankfurt am Main
    PublisherPeter Lang
    Number of pages13
    ISBN (Print)9783631595770
    Publication statusPublished - 2011

    Publication series

    NameMünchener Universitätsschriften. Texte und Untersuchungen zür Englischen Philologie
    PublisherPeter Lang
    ISSN (Print)0178-1383


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