Lancaster University researchers reveal the ‘Viral Language’ of the pandemic
en-GBde-DEes-ESfr-FR

Lancaster University researchers reveal the ‘Viral Language’ of the pandemic

Publication title: Viral Language Analysing the Covid-19 Pandemic in Public Discourse
Author: Luke C. Collins, Veronika Koller
Publication type: Book (Paperback)
ISBN number: 9780367756666

Remember ‘Covidiots’ and the first protests by ‘anti-vaxxers’?
The early stages of the pandemic saw plenty of new words enter the public ‘voice’, but many of these novel terms were actually fairly short-lived.
However, according to new research by Lancaster University linguists Dr Luke Collins and Professor Veronika Koller, some will be here to stay, such as ‘zoom fatigue’, an effect of the increase in video-conferencing, and ‘lockdown’.
In their new book ‘Viral Language: Analysing the Covid-19 pandemic in public discourse’, Dr Collins and Professor Koller look at how language was used about and during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Across eight chapters, they demonstrate how experiences of health and illness can be shaped by political messaging, scientific research, news articles and advertising.
Examples include:
  • Stay home, save lives: Health ministers in various English-speaking countries used Twitter/X as a broadcast medium to give direct, bite-sized advice to citizens.
  • Many politicians declared ‘war’ on Covid, but another popular metaphor was that of journeys. For example: ‘we have come through the tunnel’. Politicians of all stripes used it to ensure compliance with lockdown and other measures and to emphasise togetherness.
  • Scientific writing on Covid-19 featured some hyperbolic language. For example: ‘This is one of the most extensive datasets on individual transmission events’. This, say the researchers, suggests increasing competition among academics in the scientific effort to control the pandemic.
  • Did politicians follow ‘the science’ or the scientists? British news media participated in a critical discussion of what ‘the science’ is and how it contributes to policymaking.
  • And how do you advertise for beer when consumers cannot go out? Advertisers balanced the lockdown context with messages of empathy, community and responsibility. Rather than change course completely though, they adapted their brand values to the new context: Budweiser was still about sports and national identity, Heineken continued to show young people enjoying themselves (although socially distanced), and Stella Artois stuck to its focus on history and heritage.
The book was inspired by the researchers wanting to find out how a globally disruptive crisis, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, leaves traces in the very way we speak and write.
After all, they say, language helps us make sense of events and influences how we experience them.
To investigate the language around Covid-19, Dr Collins and Professor Koller looked at a variety of sources, from large collections of scientific writing and news, which they analysed with computer-assisted methods, to crowd-sourced examples, social media and advertising videos.
As Dr Collins explains: “For the computer-assisted studies, we looked at 224 million words worth of scientific articles, 772 million words of news articles and 12,000 tweets.”
Professor Koller adds: “The studies are of interest to anyone who wants to understand how the language of the news, politicians and advertising changed in reaction to the pandemic”.
‘Viral Language’ is published by Routledge.


Regions: Europe, United Kingdom
Keywords: Society, Social Sciences, Humanities, Linguistics, Business, Culture, media & publishing, Health, Covid-19

Testimonials

For well over a decade, in my capacity as a researcher, broadcaster, and producer, I have relied heavily on Alphagalileo.
All of my work trips have been planned around stories that I've found on this site.
The under embargo section allows us to plan ahead and the news releases enable us to find key experts.
Going through the tailored daily updates is the best way to start the day. It's such a critical service for me and many of my colleagues.
Koula Bouloukos, Senior manager, Editorial & Production Underknown
We have used AlphaGalileo since its foundation but frankly we need it more than ever now to ensure our research news is heard across Europe, Asia and North America. As one of the UK’s leading research universities we want to continue to work with other outstanding researchers in Europe. AlphaGalileo helps us to continue to bring our research story to them and the rest of the world.
Peter Dunn, Director of Press and Media Relations at the University of Warwick
AlphaGalileo has helped us more than double our reach at SciDev.Net. The service has enabled our journalists around the world to reach the mainstream media with articles about the impact of science on people in low- and middle-income countries, leading to big increases in the number of SciDev.Net articles that have been republished.
Ben Deighton, SciDevNet

We Work Closely With...


  • BBC
  • The Times
  • National Geographic
  • The University of Edinburgh
  • University of Cambridge
Copyright 2024 by AlphaGalileo Terms Of Use Privacy Statement