Exploring language effects in ethnic advertising: a sociolinguistic perspective

Scott Koslow, Prem N. Shamdasani, Ellen E. Touchstone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The authors apply sociolinguistic theories of accommodation to investigate how consumers in a minority subculture respond to the use of their ethnic language in advertising. Specifically, Hispanic consumers' responses to the varying degrees of Spanish-language usage in print advertising were examined. It was found that the effects of Spanish usage in advertising can be usefully explained by accommodation theory. Spanish-language advertising increased Hispanic consumers' perception of advertiser sensitivity to Hispanic culture and people, and this perception in turn enhanced affect toward the advertisements. Yet, after controlling for perceived advertiser sensitivity, it was also found that advertising exclusively in Spanish decreased affect toward the advertisement. This finding may be interpreted to mean that though Spanish-language advertising appears to signal solidarity with the Hispanic community, exclusive use of Spanish in advertising may arouse Hispanic insecurities about language usage. Implications for future research and theory on language choice and usage in communication to consumer subcultures are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)575-585
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1994
Externally publishedYes


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