Journal of Intercultural Communication, ISSN 1404-1634, issue 43, March 2017

Foregrounding Hybridity as a Master Trope in the Globalisation Discourses

The Case of the Advertising Space of Lesotho

Henry Amo Mensah

National University of Lesotho, Lesotho, Southern Africa

Abstract

The paper foregrounds linguistic and cultural hybridity as a master trope in the advertising space of Lesotho. Kraidy and Yazdiha’s postulations of hybridity together with the transformationalists view of globalisation and the Communication Accommodation Theory (CAT) provide the theoretical footing for the study. It is a qualitative study with data drawn from a total of seventeen adverts from the advertising space of Lesotho. A modification of Firth’s three-stage qualitative analysis is adopted for the study. The paper concludes that the hybridized Lesotho’s advertising space is an arena for resolving the inherent tensions in globalisation through adjustments and accommodation.

Keywords: Hybridity, Advertising space, Intercultural Communication, Globalisation, Communication Accommodation Theory, Lesotho


Introduction

Mediated, intercultural and linguistic communication practices, in the age of globalisation, have converged in different semiotic spaces occasioning a constellation of hybrid languages, cultures and discourses. Particularly, advertising space, with its mixture of texts and images, has resulted in the formation of a linguistic and cultural mélange. Commercial advertising is defined as: “the structured and composed non- personal communication of information usually paid for and usually persuasive in nature, about products (goods/services/ideas) by identified sponsors through various media” (Arens, 1999). In addition, Goddard (2002) referring to Birch describes advertising text and for that matter commercial advertisements as “the most pervasive, influential and inescapable discourse of the 20th century. Commercial advertising space is multimodal. A multimodal text is any “any text whose meanings are realised through more than one semiotic mode (Kress and Van Leeuven, 1996, p. 183).

Discourses of globalisation

Globalisation discourses articulate three viewpoints: the skeptics on the one hand and the globalizers on the other and the transformationalists who are found somewhere in between the two. On the one hand, the skeptics refer to globalisation as a myth about the world coming together (Hirst & Thompson, 1996). On the other, the globalizers see globalisation as a central driving force behind the rapid social and political factors that are reshaping modern societies the world over. Yet, the transformationalists take the position that globalisation represents a significant shift yet argue that there is still a significant scope for national, local and other agencies in the larger context of the global (Sarvaes & Lie, 2003, p. 8). From the cultural globalisation point of view, Chen (2012) argues that globalisation involves cultural identity and diversity and at the same time a rapid and seamless transmission of culture that results in the dissolution of human boundaries. According to Hirssch & Levin (1999), globalisation has become an umbrella construct that enables conflicting claims to co-exist and coevolve.

Aim of the paper

The paper foregrounds linguistic and cultural hybridity as a master trope (Kraidy 2001:316) in the advertising space of Lesotho in the context of intercultural communication and globalisation. Intercultural communication refers to communication between people from different cultures. Specifically, the paper examines the concept of hybridity in the bilingual advertising space of Lesotho against the backdrop of McEwan & Sobre-Denton (2011) postulation that advertising space creates unique opportunities for the discursive construction of hybridized cultures.

The paper focuses on the telecommunications sector in Lesotho and draws on adverts from the two registered mobile phone service providers that currently operate in the telecommunication sector in Lesotho as a case study. The two are Vodacom Lesotho (VCL) and Econet Telecom Lesotho (ETL). VCL is the biggest service provider accounting for 80% of the market share (Thoka & Kalebe 2015: 84) while ETL has 20% of the market share.

Brief sociolinguistic profile of Lesotho

Lesotho is a kingdom located in Southern Africa. It is a landlocked country completely surrounded by South Africa. It was a British protectorate from 1886 until it gained independence in 1966. Lesotho belongs to the outer circle in Kachru’s (1981) theorizing of English as an international language. The Kingdom of Lesotho is officially bilingual. The constitution of the Kingdom states that Sesotho and English are the official languages. Article 3(1) of Chapter 1 of the Constitution of Lesotho states: “The official languages of Lesotho shall be Sesotho and English and, accordingly, no instrument or transaction shall be invalid by reason only that it is expressed or conducted in one of those languages”.

For example, English and Sesotho are both used in the media. There are both English and Sesotho newspapers in Lesotho. Radio and television stations broadcast in Sesotho as well as English. Internet use is generally in English although on Facebook and other social media there is an increasing use of Sesotho.

English and Sesotho are also used for interpersonal communication in Lesotho. Both languages also serve instrumental, regulative and creative functions. The instrumental function of English is that it is the language of education and largely the language of official communication. As official languages, both Sesotho and English are used in the courts. While Sesotho is used predominantly in the inferior courts; English predominates in the superior courts.

Both languages also serve a creative function. According to Kachru (1992), the creative function of language is the creative use of language in various literary genres. Language use in advertising is an example of the creative use of language. Since both Sesotho and English are available to the linguistic community by law and through practice, they are both used extensively in advertising.

Types of hybridity

Two types of hybridity are identified in this paper. These are linguistic hybridity and cultural hybridity. Linguistic and cultural hybridity in the advertising space of Lesotho may be explained as the outcome of intercultural which is accentuated by globalisation.

Linguistic hybridity is conceptualised as code mixing, code switching and translanguaging. Code-switching refers to inter-sentential switching which involves switches from one language to another. On the other hand, there is the phenomenon of code-mixing, that is, intra-sentential switch where a switch occurs within the same sentence or sentence fragment. Translanguaging refers to “the ability of multilingual speakers to shuttle between languages, treating their diverse languages that form their diverse languages as an integrated system” (Canagarajah 2011:401). It is important to note that code switching, code mixing and translanguaging are a characteristic linguistic trait of bilingual speakers. It is interpreted as the ability to use one code or the other as an indicator of language vitality.

In addition, the paper examines cultural hybridity in the advertisements. Ting-Toomey (1999:9) contends that culture is essentially a human phenomenon consisting of common ideas, values and worldview of the same group of people that help them to adapt to their external environment. Samovar and Porter (2003:8) maintain that culture is not innate but acquired over time. Bhabha (1994:247) also argues that culture cannot be defined but rather must be seen within the context of its construction. Thus cultural signs are symbols that circulate within specific cultural locations and social systems of values (Bhabha 1994:277). Yazdiha (2010:35) suggests that culture is a traveler collecting artifacts from various locations along the way. Its walls are too insubstantial to be used as a means of exclusion.

Rowe and Schelling (1991:231) define cultural hybridity as: “the ways in which cultural forms become separated from existing practices and recombine with new forms in new practices”. Hybridity is likely to result in what has been referred to as “Third Culture” Casmir (1978, 1997). “Third Culture” may simply be described as an innovation. The new hybridized culture or innovation is likely to contain components of each individual culture while developing unique cultural characteristics. Thus cultural hybridity may generally refer to the integration of cultural bodies, signs and practices (Yazdiha, 2010:31).

Hybridity in the advertising space

One of the spaces where globalisation and hybridization are instantiated is the advertising space. A number of works have been done previously on hybridity in advertising. Hall (1996) states that globalisation represents culturally hybridized state of ideas, identities and values simultaneously creating shared cultural and local spaces and an emergence of new articulation of the local and global.

The literature on previous works on the use of English in advertising demonstrates lexical borrowing, one- word code- switching, chunks, formulae, phrases or utterances as well as English headlines and subtitles. In addition, the linguistic effects of the media are not limited to spreading English; the media themselves also give rise to new uses of language (Hjarvard, 2008:75).

For example, LaDousa (2002) argued that the combination of English and Hindi in advertising served to construct centre versus periphery distinctions in Banaras. Bhatia (1992) studied the discourse functions and pragmatics of mixing in advertising across cultures. He concluded that the mixing of English and local languages in advertising resulted in “glocalisation” that is a combination of the “global” and the “local”. Again Bhatia (2000:197) emphasises the point that hybridization in advertising from the “positive approach” is natural, creative, innovative and persuasive. It allows the copywriter to optimize the strength and appeal of the advertising messages (Bhatia, 2000: 169 as cited by Piller).

Piller (2003:170) studied advertising as a site of language contact. She argued that mixing in advertising is connected to the phenomenon of globalisation. She (2003: 170-171) mentioned that multilingualism has become a major phenomenon in the language of advertising. She found out that a major phenomenon of mixing was borrowed and loaned words. According to Piller, borrowing and loaning pointed to an attempt to associate the advertised product with ethno-cultural stereotype (ibid). In addition, she stated that language contact phenomenon in advertising was a powerful tool in the construction of identity whether, national, racial or class identity. She (2003:176) argued, however, that English was associated with a social stereotype because internationally English has become a global symbol of modernity, progress and globalisation. Piller posited that the exclusive use of local language indexed local pride and patriotism while the exclusive use of English pointed to globalisation. According to (Bhatia, 1992:176), English was “the single most favoured language for global mixing in advertising. English was favoured because it is inimitably associated with a variety of values such as novelty, modernity, internationalism among others” (Phillipson and Skunabb-Kangas 1999).

Lee (2006:60) examined the linguistic construction of modernity through hybridization in South Korean adverts. He found out that hybrid linguistic forms in the discourse of Korean TV commercials drew specifically on bilingual copywriters’ ability to create them and the viewers’ ability to understand them. He argued that in globalisation, the tension between global discourses and local practices produces hybridity that is interrelated with modernity by its engagement with English and that the linguistic expression of modernity in South Korea is guaranteed by English bilingualism.

Peruchia (2009:292) also examined hybridity, textual voices and gender identities in the narrative discourse of advertising copy. He contended that adverts that contain narratives that mix persuasive and narrative discourse types and also first person and third person narratives can be classified as an instance of hybridization.

From the review of the literature above, it is obvious that English mixing in advertising has received significant attention. In the context where English is a foreign language, English mixing is linked to the spectacle of globalisation where English is associated with internationalism, modernity and innovativeness while local languages are often connected to local pride and nationalism. Hybridized advertisements may also resolve the potential tension between the global and the local, a phenomenon that has been described as “glocalisation”.

Theoretical framework

Yazdiha (2010) and Kraidy’s (2002) postulations on hybridity together with the transformationalists view of globalisation provide the theoretical footing for this paper. Yazdiha (2010:32) suggests that studies of hybridity can offer the opportunity for a counter-narrative, a means by which the dominated can reclaim shared ownership of a culture that relies upon them for meaning. In other words, hybridity can be employed as a powerful tool from domination imposed by language. Thus hybridized locations may be identified as spaces used by individuals or communities to articulate their unique narratives and to challenge well-established hegemonic discourses and hierarchies.

Kraidy (2002:317-18) posits that hybridity is descriptive device that refers to the local reception of global media texts as a site of cultural mixture. In other words, hybridity is a clear product of global and local interactions. He contends that ontologically and politically, hybridity as a practice marks the recognition that transcultural relations are complex and dynamic, that is, a hybridized space is a place where intercultural and international communication practices are continuously negotiated in interaction of differential power. He advocates a critical reception of hybridity which is likely to show up the inequality that may be inherent in mixing. On the other hand, the transformationalist globalizers posit that although globalisation represents a significant shift in global relations, there is still significant scope for national and local practices (Sarvaes & Lie (2003:8)

The paper postulates that the advertising space in the bilingual context of Lesotho is an arena for resolving the tensions of globalisation through accommodation and adjustments. Communication Accommodation Theory (CAT) explains the phenomenon of accommodation that is also inherent in hybridity. Hoyer and MacInnis (2007:320) define CAT as a theory that “predicts that the more effort a source puts into communicating with a group, the greater the response by this group and the more positive will be their feelings. CAT also states that in order for people to accommodate others during their interaction, they adjust their speech, their vocal patterns and their gestures (Giles, Taylor & Bourhis, 1973:173). McQuail (1996b) and Bell (1991:70; 1991:107) also posit that in mass communication, communicators always, in some sense, try to win the approval of their audience. Furthermore, Coupland et al. (1998), state that CAT is built around communicative efficiency, that is, the need to be heard and understood. The accommodation would also include code switching, reference to cultural bodies and practices and the reproduction of everyday speech.

The paper theorises that although CAT traditionally applies to face-to-face communication, it is also applicable to the advertising space of Lesotho newspapers to the extent that, hybridization allows for a “convergence” of different communication practices. The theory thus reinforces the idea that bilingual spaces allow bilinguals to actively use their socially active repertoire and also create new socially uses of language (Bhatt, 2003).

Methodology

The study is qualitative in that it seeks to provide an in-depth analysis of the selected adverts. It is based on qualitative data taken from a total of seventeen adverts from the advertising space of Lesotho. The adverts are print adverts drawn from the major English Lesotho newspapers. Some of the adverts are also taken from the linguistic landscape of Lesotho. Linguistic landscape is defined as the language of public road signs, advertising billboards, street names, place names, commercial signs and public signs on government buildings (Landry and Bourhis 1997:25). Availability of these adverts also influenced their selection. The sampling method could thus be described as convenience sampling. According to Bell (1991:3) one of the reasons for studying media language is because of its availability.

Firth’s (1997) three-stage qualitative analysis approach is adopted with some modifications for the examination of the selected adverts. First, Firth advocates a surface meaning analysis where every object in the advertisement is recorded on a sheet without offering any interpretation. The second level of analysis is a close reading of the adverts. Here one explores themes, values, narrative structure, tone, symbols, icons, omissions etc. and the third level is the ideological interpretation of the advertisement. In this paper, while Firth’s first two stages are followed, there is a modification of the third stage. Instead of the ideological interpretation of the adverts, a study of the adverts as linguistic and cultural hybrid is made, that is, the nature and kind of hybridity found in the adverts and the implications of the mixture are examined. Advertising is steeped in culture and analyzing the advertising copy reveals the deep culture of a people. The study seeks to answer the following questions:

  1. how does Lesotho’s advertising space allow for the reception and appropriation of global media texts?
  2. how does Lesotho’s advertising space permit national and local (indigenous) practices?
  3. how does hybridity in Lesotho’s advertising space illustrates a shared ownership of the cultural space?
  4. What does the phenomenon of hybridity in Lesotho’s advertising space generally point to?

English plus Free4Sho and Sesotho plus Free4Sho mix

Figure 1

Figure 1 which is taken from the linguistic landscape of Lesotho is a “Free4Sho” (Free for Sure) advert. The headline quips: “Get 100% Free4Sho all in one Zone”. The body copy consists of *111# and various internet services that a customer can access with Vodacom Free4Sho. These are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Skype among others. The slogan is “Vodacom Power to you”.

Figure 2

Figure 2 also advertises a “Free4Sho” product. The product is announced in the headline which says: “Dial *111# and still get 100% extra free Calls, SMS, and Internet, Free4Sho”. The headline comes with a Vodacom logo. The image is a fusion of Lesotho celebrities and icons (artistes, comedians, and media icons) in a joyous and celebratory mood. They are wearing different kinds of clothing; some local Basotho dresses made from local fabric while others are in foreign garbs. Significantly, there is a man in a garb that mimics the skin of a tiger and its tail on his buttocks.

Another is wearing a blanket, a local Basotho apparel. In his hand, he has an accordion, a very popular musical instrument in Lesotho. Behind these men in the middle of that line is a plump lady with earphones round her neck. The women particularly are donning different hair styles and one has a traditional headgear while another has wedding crown on. The Vodacom slogan: “power to you” is repeated in Figure 2.

Figure 3

Moreover, Figure 3 advertises Vodacom’s “Free4Sho” product. The headline intones: “Always in the Zone with 100% Free4Sho”. The image is one of an excited young lady in a red sleeveless western dress taking a call on her mobile phone. Her excitement is shown in the way she wears a broad smile on her face. Her posture expresses someone who is perhaps dancing as a result of the telephone conversation. The body copy is “100% FREE” in a circle. The slogan in Figure is “Vodacom Power to you”.

Figure 4

Finally, Figure 4 also advertises a “Free4Sho” product. The headline in Figure 4 is made up of a Vodacom logo and the Sesotho expression “Ntho e monate ea phetoa” (when you have enjoyed something you go for it repeatedly and luxuriate in its limitless and immeasurable pleasure). The image cum body copy shows that the advert is a promotional one. It displays Vodacom’s access number *111# with some benefits of Vodacom’s Free4Sho services emitting from it. These are “100% Extra Free Internet”, “100 Extra Free Calling Minutes” and “Unlimited SMS on Red Prepaid”. Like the other Vodacom adverts, Figure 4 also has “power to you” as its slogan.

Analysis of hybridity in the “Free4Sho mix”

All the four headlines contain the hybrid expression “Free4Sho”. The construction is found in medial position in the first headline. In the headlines in Figures 2, 3 and 4, the utterance is in the final position. In the headline in Figures 1, 2, 3, the expression is combined with English while in Figure 4, it occurs with Sesotho. The placing of the expression in the final position is for emphasis. In Figure 4, for example, Free4Sho is combined with Standard Sesotho, “Ntho e monate ea phetoa” which directly addresses the audience/ consumer.

The repetition of “Free4Sho” is noteworthy. “Free4Sho” is a unique SMS linguistic form which is a hybridization of English orthography “free” the phonetic spelling “4” which stands for “for” and “Sho” a “tsotsital” expression which means “certain” but which reechoes the English word “sure” and is phonologically rendered in the same way. “Tsotsital” is a hybrid and an in-group language, a type of pidgin, which straddles Sesotho, Afrikaans and isiZulu. This new linguistic form is a unique coinage that involves a spelling innovation which is a peculiar orthographic convention of youth language. In addition, the unique code mixing and the images discursively construct modernity and youthfulness. While the adverts target a cross-section of the Basotho population, they focus on the youth as the target consumer/audience. The entire expression, therefore, is a hybridized construction that is combined with Standard English to create a unique narrative that is likely to attract the attention of the consumer and the potential client.

Pan African expressions as part of mixture: and “m-pesa” “waya waya”

Figure 5

Figure 5 advertises a Vodacom’s service that uses “M-Pesa” to buy electricity. The headline combines a “Vodacom logo and Buy Electricity anywhere, anytime with M-Pesa”. On the top left corner of the advert is a promotional message: “+Free 20 Min Daily Calling bundles” and on the bottom left corner is the acronym LEC representing Lesotho Electricity Corporation. The image consists of five people. It is a husband, wife, their two children and their grandmother. The man is enthusiastically demonstrating how to use M-Pesa to his family. The husband, wife and children are casually dressed in western clothes. The grandmother, on the other, is dressed in a traditional Basotho dress called the Seshoeshoe. While the wife (mother) has a low haircut, which is typically Basotho, the children are wearing braids which is a Pan-African hairdo.

Figure 6

Figure 6 which is also taken from the linguistic landscape of Lesotho also advertises how to use M-Pesa to buy electricity. The Sesotho utterance: “Qoba mekoloko le maeto ka m-pesa” (avoid long journeys and lengthy queues by using “m-pesa”) is the headline. The body copy in combination with the image is a mobile phone surrounded by a range of M-Pesa services which are “Ramela kapa amohala chelate” (Send or receive money); “Reka Airtime” (Buy Airtime); and “Patala Motlakese le Insurance” (Electricity and Insurance). The slogan is “Vodacom Power to you and m-pesa”.

Figure 7

The focus of Figure 7 is a unique Vodacom product which is a limitless calling airtime using Power Hour Bundles. The headline reads: “Call waya waya with Power Hour Limitless calling”. The body copy quips: “M3 Limitless calling for next Hour”. This is also a promotional advert because the original limitless call cost M5. On the top left corner, there is a command that states, “Buy any bundles & get a Free entry in Vodacom Fortunes. The slogan in this advert is “Vodacom Power to you”. The image is a dancing young man who is obviously happy from the expression on his face and from his posture. He is dressed in a combination of singlet and a suit jacket often referred to as “smart casual”- a way of dressing which has become fashionable in show business and is also trendy among the youth.

Analysis of Hybridity in the Pan African expression: “m-pesa” “waya waya”

The injunction “Buy Electricity anytime, anywhere, with M-Pesa” in the headline in Figure 5 is a combination of Standard English with the compound noun “M-Pesa”. The headline in Figure 6 “Qoba mekoloko le maeto ka m-pesa” on the other hand is a combination of Standard Sesotho and “M-pesa”. Translated into English, it means avoid long journeys and lengthy queues by using “m-pesa”. The sub headline which is also “Letsetsa *111# ho sebelisa m-pesa” means dial *111# to use “m-pesa”. As mentioned earlier, the body copy in combination with the image is a mobile phone surrounded by a range of M-Pesa services which are “Ramela kapa amohala chelate”; “Reka Airtime”; and “Patala Motlakese le Insurance”. The language of the first service is entirely in Sesotho while the other two are a combination of Sesotho and English. In these other two, the matrix language is Sesotho while the single English words “Airtime” and “Insurance” have been added perhaps, because there is no exact translation of these two words in Sesotho or that they symbolise modernity.

“M-Pesa” stands for mobile money where “M” is the initial for mobile and “Pesa” is a Swahili word for money.M-Pesa”, a mobile-phone based money transfer and microfinancing service, was originally launched in 2007 by Vodafone for Safaricom and Vodacom, the largest mobile network operators in Kenya and Tanzania. It has been adopted and appropriated in Lesotho to give Vodacom a Pan-African outlook. Moreover, in Figure 5 there is a fusion of three generations in addition to a mixture of tradition and modernity.

In Figure 7, the headline “Call waya waya with Power Hour Limitless calling” has English as the matrix language with “waya waya” creatively and cleverly inserted into it. Similarly, “waya waya” is a Pan-African urban/contemporary language form. It means “to go on and on” or “again and again”. In fact, the phrase “waya waya” is popularly predominantly associated with good times (Stroud and Mpendukana, 2009:369). It also suggests non-localness and distance/extension. It covers many language groups and spaces and also refers directly to iterative and pleasurable times (ibid).

These are instances of linguistic hybridity involving code mixing or translanguaging where the linguistic resources of the advertising community are exploited for commercial reasons. “waya waya” emphasises the English adjective “limitless”. These unique narratives demonstrate that Vodacom is a Pan-African brand.

The “KaeKapaKae” mix

IMG-20150923-WA0001

Figure 8

Figure 8 advertises an internet surfing service offered by Vodacom. The headline “KaeKapaKae” is in Sesotho which means “everywhere”. However, the body copy is entirely in English. It states: “A great day to surf the internet Dial *111# 60#5”. The slogan is “Vodacom Power to you”. Figure 8 has a picture of an over-excited young man in dreadlocks looking intently at a tablet. He is by all intents and purposes happy.

Figure 9

Figure 9 advertises a service that uses the Vodacom network to send money for free to any network. The headline is entirely in English. It states “Send money for Free to any network”. This particular advert is also a promotional one because on the left bottom corner just above the slogan #KaeKapaKae is “BY POPULAR EXTENDED DEMAND” which indicates that this current adverts is a follow-up to a previous one. The slogan “KaeKapaKae” is, however, in Sesotho. The image is a smiling young woman who is sending money through her mobile phones. From the image, the money is seen darting out of her phone. She has African braids beautifully woven on top of her head. Her sleeveless western dress is made from an African fabric.

Analysis of Hybridity in the “KaeKapaKae” mix

Specifically, Figure 8 targets the growing youthful population of Rastafarians in Lesotho and a secondary audience of any one who admires Rastafarians. Figure 8 also carries the implication that modern telecommunication gadgets are not used in the offices only but can be used anywhere and everywhere by everyone. In Figure 8, the advert is intended to reach out to the youth of Lesotho.

The assumption in the headline: “Send money for Free to any network” in Figure 9 is that money could be sent to those networks through “m-pesa” which has been deliberately omitted from the headline. This advert intertextually recalls the M-Pesa service that Vodacom offers. It is noteworthy that sometimes “KaeKapaKae” is used as a headline; on other occasions as a slogan.

These adverts are targeted to a particular societal segment that is English users; yet connects to the Basotho identity through the single word “KaeKapaKae”. Furthermore, the adverts demonstrate an instance of differential power in the use of language because the entire body copy for both advertisements are in English. The flexibility of movement and positioning of “KaeKapaKae” shows the omnipresence of Vodacom services.

The play on words: “Meloli” and “SUMMA FEVA”

Figure 10

Figure 10 advertises the introduction of a welcome tone as one of Vodacom’s services. The headline reads: “Introducing Meloli welcome tone”. The image is one of a smiling young man wearing long dreadlocks. He is clad in an African shirt and jeans with local/ traditional beads around his neck and also traditional bangles on his wrist. He is playing a guitar while simultaneously looking admiringly at his mobile phone. He is obviously enjoying the melodious and silky tunes from the guitar. The slogan is the usual “Vodacom Power to you”.

Figure 11

Figure 10 advertises a Vodacom sponsored concert. The headline in Figure 11 reads: “VODACOM SUMMA FEVA”. The image is made up of Basotho and South African artists, that is, a mix of entertainment icons from Lesotho and South Africa who are billed to perform at a concert in Lesotho. On the left top corner of the advert is the Vodacom logo.

Analysis of Hybridity in the play on words: “Meloli” and “SUMMA FEVA”

Hybridity in the headline in Figure 10 is achieved through the subtle exploitation of the sound in the word “Meloli” which is pronounced like the English word “melody”. “Meloli”, a welcoming tone, is thus evocative of the happiness that is associated with the products of Vodacom. The implication is that the mellifluous welcoming tunes from Vodacom network always makes one happy. Suggestively, the image in Figure 10 intertextually recalls a similar image in the Vodacom advert in Figure 8.

“SUMMA FEVA” written in Standard English would be “summer festival” or “summer fever”. “SUMMA FEVA” is a non-conventional and non-standard spelling that follows a sound correspondence in the English Language which is a phonological approximation of non-conventional spelling. It is an intersection between orthography and pronunciation. As mentioned earlier from the “positive approach”, hybridization is thus natural, creative, innovative and persuasive (Bhatia 2001:197).

“Mahala” mix

Figure 12

Figure 12 advertises a free Vodacom airtime service called “Mahala” (Free) which is captured in the headline “Mahala Spring madness”. The image in Figure 12 is a picture of a phone with an inscription “FREE unlimited SMSes ALL DAY”. “FREE” is in capital and also written in bold. In the middle right side of the phone is a butterfly while on the bottom left corner is a sunflower. These objects of nature are a feature of spring. The slogan is a combination of “Vodacom Power to you” on the left bottom corner of the advert and “#KaeKapaKae” on the bottom right corner.

Figure 13

Figure 13 is a very simple advert that advertises another free Vodacom service evoked in the headline “Mahala March Madness”. The body copy is “FREE INTERNET 20% EXTRA AIRTIME ALL DAY”

Analysis of Hybridity in “Mahala” mix

“Mahala” is a Sesotho word which translated into English means “free”. It is used together with “Spring madness” in Figure 12. In Figure 13 “Mahala” is combined with “March Madness”. In addition, the copywriter combines the graphonomical device of capitalisation and boldness together with “mahala” to emphasise the affordability and accessibility of Vodacom services. The use of alliteration especially in “Mahala March Madness” also accentuates the jollity of the two seasons. It is interesting to note that the body copy in both adverts are, however, in English. Thus hybridity is located in the headline. The objects of nature in the images in Figure 12, together with the headlines in Figures 12 and 13 point to the fact that spring and summer symbolise the renewal of life and gaiety respectively that Vodacom products are associated with.

Econet adverts

Figure 14

Figure 14 advertises a Lesotho blanket which is a common garb in Lesotho which is worn during winter. The headline is” Econet HAPPY BLANKET” while the sub headline is “GIVE THE GIFT OF WARMTH”. The image is a picture of a smiling middle-aged man wearing a traditional Basotho hat, “mokorotlo”, and a blanket, the main traditional costume of the Basotho. He is playing a traditional instrument, “mamokhorong” or “sekhnkula”, that mimics a guitar. He is obviously happy. The slogan in this advert is “Inspired to change your world”.

Figure 15

Figure 15 advertises Econet landline airtime. The product is realised in the BECHA NCHOATHI (you can bet on “nchoathi) UNLIMITED CALLS! FOR LANDLINE (22xxxx, 27xxxx & 28xxxx) which is the headline plus body copy.

Figure 16

The headline in Figure 16 is “BABATONE DATA DEALS”. “BABATONE” is a Sesotho word which refers to a small container that is used to serve alcohol in very small quantities. It means that Econet data can be purchased in small quantities from 1 Loti upwards. “Loti “which is the singular of “Maloti” is the currency of Lesotho. The slogan again is “Inspired to change your world”.

The image in Figure 17 is a pristine and a natural rural setting with two huts, one on the left and the other on the right. The “babatone” sits in the middle of the huts indicating that one can connect the two huts through the “babatone”. Behind the huts in the background is a beautiful landscape showing the mountains of Lesotho.

Figure 17

The product that is being advertised in Figure 17 is a funeral insurance that can be obtained through using Econet services. The headline is “EcoSure Mpolokeng” and a sub headline “yourphone yourinsurance”.

The image consists of three people: a beautiful young lady, a middle aged man and an old lady. The young lady wears a smile on her face, the middle aged man carries a sense of satisfaction on his face while the old lady shows a sense of appreciation. The slogan again is “Inspired to change your world”.

Analysis of Hybridity in Econet’s adverts

The headline in Figure 14 “econet HAPPY BLANKET” and the sub headline “GIVE THE GIFT OF WARMTH are in English. However, hybridity is located in the appropriation of a western musical instrument that has been localized by the copywriter. This image from econet intertextually recalls the image of the Rastafarian in the Vodacom adverts who also plays the guitar.

Yet, while the Econet adverts target the rural folk and perhaps low-income earners, the Vodacom advert is targeted at the urban and suburban consumer. It is also noteworthy that while the dressing is exclusively Basotho, by combining it with an entire English headline, the advert creates a hybrid discursive space of accommodation of Basotho cultural forms and English language which is a symbol of modernity (Lee 2006).

In Figure 15, “BECHA NCHOATHI UNNLIMITED CALLS FOR LANDLINE (2xxxx, 27xxxx & 28xxx) is written in both capital and bold”. Becha” translated into English means you can bet on Econet product which is a better product, obviously comparing Econet’s products to that of Vodacom’s. However, in this context it may also mean “buy”. The copywriter exploits the ambiguity intrinsic in “becha” to create a twin discourse of betting on and buying “nchaoathi”. “Nchoathi” is also a Sesotho word which is a brand name for one of Econet’s products. “Nchoathi” translated into English means “talk for a long time and pay for less”. “Nchoathi” interdiscursively evokes “waya waya” in a Vodacom’s advert in Figure 7.

The ingenious use of Sesotho and English is also an instance of translanguaging where Sesotho and English are freely mixed together. “22”, “27”, “28” also stand for the different Econet landlines. The “xxxx” that comes after it represents the other individual landline numbers. It may also be symbolic of the love relationship that exists between Econet and its loyal customers. The advert points to a shared ownership of the linguistic and advertising space.

BABATONE in Figure 16 can also be read as a combination of two words “BABA” which means “father” in Swahili and many other non-European languages and “TONE” which refers to the ring tone from Econet. Together, it may be interpreted as the “father of all tones”, which can be purchased with the smallest amount of money. It should be noted that “Babatone” which is the headline is entirely in Sesotho. However, the code switches to English in the sub headline. The body copy is also in English except for Babatone which is in Sesotho.

Hybridity here is at the level of language and the images. The discourse centres on providing mobile services to the rural folk who are low income earners. It is intended to reach both Sesotho and English speakers but more English speakers through the language but the Basotho people through the images.

The headline in Figure 17 is a combination of English and Sesotho. EcoSure which is in bigger font. It is a blend of “Econet” and “Sure” which is derived from “Insurance”. “EcoSure” is used as an adjective here preceding “Mpolokeng”, a Sesotho word that means “cover”. The sub-headline “yourphone, yourinsurance” is entirely in English and written uniquely. The slogan at the bottom right of the advert is ECONET written in capital letters with bold fonts. The advert suggests that once one uses Econet, one is insured against death: hence the blended sub-headline: “yourphone, yourinsurance” reechoed by the Sesotho word “mpolokeng”.

The image is a hybrid of three generations: the old lady, presumably a grandmother, the middle-aged man, a father and the young lady, a daughter. There is a strong sense of kinship amongst them indicating the strong bond that Econet shares with its customers. The advert also suggests that Econet is also used by all generations whether young, middle aged or the aged and also by both sexes.

Discussion

The paper has demonstrated that across the advertising space, there are repetitions such as “Free4Sho”, “100%”, “Zone” “Free”, “M-Pesa”, “anytime”, “anywhere”, “waya waya”, “KaeKapaKae”, “Meloli”, “SUMMA FEVA”, “mahala” and “madness”. These repetitions are combined with various images to evoke hybridized discourses of happiness, affluence, affordability and convenience, modernity, youthfulness and trendiness. These easy-to-recall images are pan cultural and thus enhance cross-cultural communication.

Hybridity in Lesotho’s advertising space allows for the reception and appropriation of global media texts. The predominant use of canonical Standard English in the headlines, sub-headlines, body copy and slogans of some of the adverts attests to this phenomenon. For example, some of the headlines: “A great day to surf the internet” and “Send money for Free to any network” are exclusively in English. The popular Vodacom slogan “Power to You” is wholly in English. The predominant use of English indicates that as a colonial language and also as an official language recognised by the country, English still enjoys a pride of place in the sociolinguistic ecology of Lesotho. English use may also index inequality and differential power that are inherent in a mixture which may be described as hegemonic.

Yet, there is still a significant scope for national and local (indigenous) practices. Sometimes, Standard Sesotho is used as the headline. “For instance, in Figure 1, the headline reads: “Ntho e monate ea photoa”. Figure 6 has as its headline “Qoba mekoloko le maeto ka m-pesa is predominantly Sesotho except for the compound word m-pesa. “KaeKapaKae” is used freely both as headline and tagline. “Babatone” is also used as a headline in an Econet advert. The use of Sesotho is indicative of the linguistic vitality of the indigenous language. These findings thus reveal that hybridity on one hand points to the reclaiming of the cultural space and the narration of the unique narratives which sometimes indexes Lesotho cultural heritage and identity.

Clearly, Lesotho’s advertising space illustrates a shared ownership of the cultural space. The advertising narratives found in Lesotho are in English and Sesotho and English cum Sesotho. Since both Sesotho and English are available to the linguistic community by law they are both used freely in various combinations to create peerless hybrid narratives. For example, the headline “Call waya waya with Power hour Limitless calling” has English as its matrix language with “waya waya” ingeniously and imaginatively inserted into it. “M-Pesa”, a combination of “M” which stands for “Mobile” and “Pesa” a Swahili word for money and “waya waya”, an isiZulu expression for endless delight effectively make Vodacom a Pan-African brand. Lesotho’s advertising space, therefore, demonstrates a shared ownership of the cultural space. It is receptive of languages other than Sesotho. These are English, Swahili, isiZulu and new coinages.

In addition, advertising space accommodates new coinages of popular culture which is a major outcome of globalisation. The new coinages include SMS forms, phonetic spelling, non-conventional and non-standard spelling giving credence to Hall’s (1996) postulation that globalisation “represents culturally hybridized state of ideas, identities and values simultaneously creating shared cultural and local spaces and an emergence of new articulation of the local and global.”

Conclusion

The phenomenon of hybridity in Lesotho’s advertising space generally points to the fact that intercultural communication against the backdrop of globalisation has created room for the coexistence of English and Sesotho and the creation of new and unique linguistic forms in the advertising space of Lesotho. The unique narratives in the advertising space are encapsulated in the code mixing, code switching, translanguaging and the amalgamation of different cultural forms. In some instances, English is the matrix language and in other cases, Sesotho is. The copywriter shuttles between the two languages and newly created linguistic forms that culminate into the construction of original and complex interrelated discursive practices that make up the complex repertoire of the advertising community in Lesotho (Canagarajah, 2011:401; Garcia & Wei 2014). Traditional, pan cultural and western images are strategically yoked together for commercial purposes.

Above all, the occasional inequality observed in the advertising space works on both sides so that when English language and other cultural forms are dominant, the space may be described as hegemonic. However, where Sesotho and Lesotho cultural forms dominate the advertising space, it indicates a counter narrative and liberation from domination, self-assertion as well as the linguistic vitality of Sesotho. On other occasions, however, hybridization symbolizes a shared ownership of the advertising space and therefore leads to the emergence of a “third culture”.

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About the Author

Henry Amo Mensah is an applied intercultural communication linguist. Currently, he is a lecturer in Linguistics at the National University of Lesotho. He teaches pragmatics, academic writing, language of the media and business communication and translation theory. His research interests are language of news media and advertising, language policy, sociolinguistics of multilingualism and multiculturalism, intercultural and international communication.

Author’s Address

Henry Amo Mensah
National University of Lesotho
P.O. Roma 180
Lesotho
Southern Africa
Email: hamjay2000@yahoo.com
Tel: +266 56537544

Acknowledgement

I would like to acknowledge the assistance I received from Teboho Mphi and Makie Letsie final year African Languages and Literature and Linguistics students respectively of the National University of Lesotho who helped me to translate the Sesotho expressions into English. I am also grateful to the anonymous first reviewer for the many useful suggestions that I incorporated into this article.