Language and attribution: Women and identity

Esra Coskun, Purdue University


Language and Attribution: Women and Identity traces the creation of Republican Turkish woman starting in the 1920s, and her transformation in the capitalist era to Modern Turkish woman, through semiotic analysis of printed advertisements from the 1920s through mid-1950s and from late-1950s into 1970s. When it comes to power, one of the first acts of the new Turkish government is to carry on a project to create a new woman, who as a result has a prominent role in the nation. The state “advertises” its ideology through advertisements created by Ihap Hulusi Gorey. When the State stops promoting, a less intellectual woman is portrayed in the commercial advertisements by the phallocentric discourse, and the portrayal is more implicit, which brings back the gender inequalities erased by the early Republican State. Julia Kristeva differentiates between two modalities of signifying process called the semiotic and the symbolic. The semiotic signifies the innate mode of signification that individuals have even prior to language acquisition, and the symbolic signifies the realm of the everyday language of the speaking subject, which is regulated by phallocentric laws. For the study, the advertisements are first identified as narratives to point out any similarities in their plots, using Vladimir Propp’s method to list the elements in fairy tales. Kristeva’s semiotic as it functions in the advertisements is accessed by the analysis of graphic material using tools of French semiotics, introduced by Algirdas Julien Greimas and developed by Jean-Marie Floch in Identités visuelles and Sémiotique, marketing et communication. In line with Kristeva’s distinction of the semiotic and the symbolic, the functions in which early Republican advertisements place women are similar to each other, and are different than those Modern advertisements do. Republican advertisements make use of the symbolic in addressing women, whereas visual language in Modern advertisements creates and reproduces gender inequalities, as well as maintaining the traditional concepts of femininity and masculinity. Advertising language of the modern era is found to be phallocentric, and it takes the social reconditioning that creates associations between the semiotic and the feminine, and the symbolic and the masculine as granted. Therefore, changing main modality of the advertisements from symbolic to semiotic, advertisements from mid-1950s to 1970s promote an identity of women that does not align with Republican ideals.




Harris, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Philosophy|Language|Gender studies

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