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Coronavirus and language

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Wednesday, 9 Mar 2022, 15:43

An earlier posting (https://learn1.open.ac.uk/mod/oublog/view.php?user=12245&taglimit=500&tag=coronavirus) has referred to the effect of Corona on language.  There is now a new article on the effect of the virus on the German language ttps://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/feb/23/from-coronaangst-to-hamsteritis-the-new-german-words-inspired-by-covid?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Other

It shows some words are directly taken from one language to another - eg Covidiot and some make use of rhyme to be memorable eg CoronaFußgruß (corona foot greeting)

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Language and Covid

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There have been several articles on popular websites referring to language creativity and Covid.  The following is interesting in many ways:


Key points I take from this are:

- there is creativity in recombining for new contexts (e.g. "quarantine and chill" repurposing "netflix and chill" although the latter seems to have a sexual implication that the former might not have)

- there seems to be a tendency to form abbreviations like WFH

- the metaphors used like "a war" are consequential and perhaps both reflect how people are thinking about the pandemic and how they may react to it.  There is perhaps a key role for politicians to think carefully about how these are used.  It was, for example, pernicious for so many allies of Johnson to say he would survive Covid because he was a fighter.  How does this make relatives of people who did not survive feel?

- the links between cultures and the forms used are clear - e.g. there seems to be a trend for Australian English to shorten words.  Presumably there are many more specific examples of creativity in smaller cultures.

I also read the following article about the way that new terms are being created in Welsh:


It seems telling that the writer refers to a term being "rather lengthy" in Welsh when the English is hardly shorter. 

Perhaps the most important point is that in the last paragraph where the Welsh language commissioner warns that Welsh speaking patients could be at risk if they are not able to use their own language.

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Corona virus and online teaching

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I am in contact with several ex students who are university teachers of English in China and they are currently replacing classes that would have been face to face with online classes.  Classes at schools also seem to be interrupted and online teaching is being used through an app called DingTalk - students of mine also refer to Tencent as another platform (Wang 2020).

It will be interesting to see what emerges in terms of a new experience of online learning.  Perhaps there will be new innovative practices or possibly students and teachers will feel that online learning is inferior (if it is used badly, this seems possible).  I wonder whether researchers will use this as a test case.

In informal chats through WeChat, my ex students refer to problems related to poor broadband speeds or other technical problems and, of course, this is a problem we face at the Open University.

Wang XY (2020) "The word from Wuhan" London Review of Books Volume 42, Number 5 Available at https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v42/n05/wang-xiuying/the-word-from-wuhan?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=4205&utm_content=ukrw_subs [Accessed March 4th 2020]

P.S. As I was writing, I got a notification that Italy is closing schools and universities https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2020/mar/04/coronavirus-live-updates-who-global-recession-fears-update-latest-news

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