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ISSN 2227-6017 (ONLINE), ISSN 2303-9868 (PRINT), DOI: 10.18454/IRJ.2227-6017
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DOI: https://doi.org/10.23670/IRJ.2021.105.3.092

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Самигуллина А. Д. АНГЛОЯЗЫЧНЫЕ НЕОЛОГИЗМЫ В ПЕРИОД ПАНДЕМИИ КОРОНАВИРУСА: ФУНКЦИИ И СЕМАНТИКА / А. Д. Самигуллина // Международный научно-исследовательский журнал. — 2021. — № 3 (105) Часть 3. — С. 166—170. — URL: https://research-journal.org/languages/english-coroneologisms-function-and-semantics/ (дата обращения: 19.04.2021. ). doi: 10.23670/IRJ.2021.105.3.092
Самигуллина А. Д. АНГЛОЯЗЫЧНЫЕ НЕОЛОГИЗМЫ В ПЕРИОД ПАНДЕМИИ КОРОНАВИРУСА: ФУНКЦИИ И СЕМАНТИКА / А. Д. Самигуллина // Международный научно-исследовательский журнал. — 2021. — № 3 (105) Часть 3. — С. 166—170. doi: 10.23670/IRJ.2021.105.3.092

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АНГЛОЯЗЫЧНЫЕ НЕОЛОГИЗМЫ В ПЕРИОД ПАНДЕМИИ КОРОНАВИРУСА: ФУНКЦИИ И СЕМАНТИКА

АНГЛОЯЗЫЧНЫЕ НЕОЛОГИЗМЫ В ПЕРИОД ПАНДЕМИИ КОРОНАВИРУСА:
ФУНКЦИИ И СЕМАНТИКА

Научная статья

Самигуллина А.Д.*

ORCID: 0000-0002-8819-9805,

Московский государственный институт международных отношений (университет) Министерства иностранных дел Российской Федерации, Москва, Россия

* Корреспондирующий автор (anna_samigoullina[at]rambler.ru)

Аннотация

Языковые инновации отражают изменения, происходящие в мире, и называют реалии окружающей действительности. Во время пандемии коронавируса человечество столкнулось с новой реальностью, что способствовало появлению значительного количества лексических новообразований. Для описания условий, созданных коронавирусом, таких, как карантин, изоляция, удаленная работа, дистанционное обучение, в английском языке появилось значительное количество неологизмов и окказионализмов. Часть подобных «коронеологизмов» представляют собой лексические контаминации (бленды), состоящие из частей двух исходных слов. Из различных Интернет-источников был собран корпус из 73 лексических контаминаций, связанных с пандемией коронавируса. Данное исследование ставит своей задачей описать отличия процессов лексической контаминации и словосложения, исследовать функции лексических контаминантов (блендов) и их семантику.

Ключевые слова: языковая инновация, лексическая контаминация, бленд, словосложение, неологизм, словотворчество, коронавирус, ковид-19.

ENGLISH CORONEOLOGISMS: FUNCTION AND SEMANTICS

Research article

Samigoullina A.D. *

ORCID: 0000-0002-8819-9805,

Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Moscow, Russia

* Corresponding author (anna_samigoullina[at]rambler.ru)

Abstract

Language aims to describe and interpret the world, and the major function of linguistic innovation is to provide names for the new phenomena. The pandemic of COVID-19 has created a new reality and fundamentally changed people’s way of living, which gave rise to an unprecedented wave of linguistic innovation in many languages, including English. The numerous English neologisms and coinages, created in the era of COVID-19, are sometimes referred to as ‘coroneologisms’. This paper studies a particular type of these new formations: blends, i.e. lexemes formed from truncated parts of two source lexemes. Using a number of online sources, we compiled a personal corpus of 73 blends related to the pandemic of COVID-19. The main aim of this research is to analyse the functions of COVID-related blends, distinguish them from compounds, describe and analyse their semantics.

Keywords: language innovation, blends, compounds, neologisms, innovative language, COVID-19.

Introduction

Language has always played the major role in reflecting the reality, describing and interpreting the world, which inevitably leads to the creation of new linguistic material. In early 2020, the global community faced a new danger: the new virus that was later named COVID-19 (the name is a match between a blend and an acronym of lexemes coronavirus disease and the year when the first cases were registered). The outbreak of the disease, which was followed by restrictions on people’s movements, quarantines and lockdowns, caused people worldwide to voice their anxieties and fears, discussing the dangers and the new reality in face-to-face conversations, in the media, and in cyberspace.

As a result, an unprecedented number of new neologisms and coinages appeared in many languages, including English. The Internet, which became the main medium for people’s communication in the era of COVID-19, contributed to the rapid replication and dissemination of the newly formed lexemes. The report headlined “Words of the Unprecedented Year”, compiled by the editors of OED, focused on the keywords for each month of 2020, i.e. words that appear significantly more frequently in the Oxford Monitor Corpus of English in the given month than in the corpus as a whole [12]. For each month, ten keywords were selected, and whereas in January only three of them were related to the newly discovered virus (coronavirus, SARS, virus), in February eight words, and in the months of April, May in July all ten key words were connected to the disease [12].

This process of ongoing linguistic innovation attracted the attention of linguists and lexicographers: the major English dictionaries published special sections and blogs dedicated to the language of COVID-19 [10], [11], [12]. Tony Thorne, the British linguist and expert on English slang, compiled a running list of over 200 lexemes related to COVID-19, the language he referred to as ‘Coronaspeak’. Thorne’s ‘Covidictionary: Glossary of Coronacoinages’ includes neologisms, occasionalisms, jargon, slang, abbreviations and other coinages [17].

This article aims to research a particular type of new word formations related to the pandemic of COVID-19: blends (also referred to as ‘portmanteau words’). Using the resources mentioned above, a personal corpus of 73 COVID-related blends has been selected, with the aim of analyzing their semantics and functions.

Discussion

Linguistic innovation, i.e. formation of new linguistic material such as neologisms or coinages, generally aims at providing new words for the new realia. Undoubtedly, the upheaval of the new disease and the social distancing which restricted people’s freedom to the extent which had never been experienced before created a new reality, and language reacted by generating innovative material to relate the so-called ‘new normal’.

The pandemic of COVID-19 gave rise to a considerable number of compounds, i.e. lexemes combining two source words without any overlap or truncation. Examples of COVID-related compounds include coronababy (baby conceived during the lockdown), coronavision (problems with eyesight that began or worsened during the period of COVID-19), coronaphobia (extreme fear of COVID-19), doomscrolling/doomsurfing (the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news related to COVID-19, even though it is saddening, disheartening, or depressing), videofurbishing (refurbishing one’s home to make it look better during videoconferences); zoombombing (the action of joining a call uninvited on the videoconferencing service Zoom with the purpose of disrupting it), etc. The semantic meaning of these compounds is clear and discerning it does not usually require any effort on the part of the perceiver (reader or listener).

Another prolific method of forming neologisms related to COVID-19 is blending two previously existing lexemes. According to Gries, blending involves formation of a new lexeme by fusing parts of two source words of which either one is shortened in the fusion, which can involve some phonemic or graphemic overlap of the source lexemes [6, P. 639]. Algeo argues that the process of blending two existing words to make a new one has always been an unconscious process [1, P. 239]. Blending is especially productive in the English language; Berninetto, who studied blends in English, French, German and Italian, argued that ‘English seems to be the language that makes the largest use of this word formation procedure’ [4, P. 66].

Blending is similar to compounding in the way that it combines two or more established source lexemes in order to encode an innovative meaning [5, P. 4]. However, the major feature that distinguishes blends from compounds is that blends, unlike compounds, combine parts of lexemes rather than whole lexemes [7, P. 75]. Bat-El argues that the formation of a blend pursues two competing goals. On the one hand, a blend must have the structure of a single word, unlike compounds, in which the two base words are accessible; on the other hand, a blend must preserve as much of the structure from its base words as possible, in order to be sufficiently transparent [3, P. 66].

According to Connolly, the fact that the source lexemes forming a blend are truncated can potentially lead to problems of interpretation, because a language speaker does not always easily identify the source lexemes. Therefore, the meaning of the newly formed lexeme is not as transparent as it is in the case of compounds [5, P. 4]. This results in the fact that it is compounds and not blends that are the first choice when it comes to expressing subordinate categories, because they are ‘safe indicators of the source categories’ [9, P. 98].

It can be argued that blends, unlike compounds, do not increase efficiency; on the contrary, they often require conscious effort to interpret, until the perceiver discerns the source words and their meaning. Lehrer poses a valid question: If blends make the perceiver’s work harder, what is their purpose? [8, P. 369-370]. Gries believes that the process of forming blends is an ‘intersection of conscious and unconscious processes as well as spoken and written language’ [6, P. 664]. The resulting lexeme is often a catchy neologism, whose main function is surprising the perceiver and attracting their attention.

Captivating the readers is especially important for journalists, who have long been fascinated by the process of creating original blends. Ayto mentions that instances of blending multiplied exponentially in the XX century, and this process was greatly contributed to by journalists [2, P. 184]. According to Ayto, blending was particularly fashionable in the US press in 1920s-1940s, especially in Time magazine, and columnists, in particular, instigated and perpetuated this fad [2, P. 184].

In the era of COVID-19, blending enjoyed a new wave of popularity in mass media, and many ‘coroneologisms’ (a words which is itself a blend of corona + neologism) have been coined by journalists of the British press, competing for readership. According to Thorne, the blend coronaverse (corona + universe) was first used in the Guardian, lockstalgia (lockdown + nostalgia) first appeared in the Times, coronopticon (corona + panopticon) was created by The Economist, and COVIDpreneurs (COVID + enterpreneurs) was coined by the Irish Times [17].

The social media became another major source of blends related to COVID-19: when a post with a ‘coroneologism’ was repeatedly shared online, as it happened with coronanoia (corona + paranoia) or maskhole (mask + asshole), it became viral, and subsequent posts with the hashtag containing the coinage were published on Twitter and Instagram. There are currently over 195 thousand publications on Instagram with the hashtag #coronatimes, and approximately 5.5 thousand containing each of the hashtags #blursday and #maskhole, for instance.

Lehrer, studying the perlocutionary intentions of creators of blends, notes their playful character and argues that many blends are witty and involve word play, puns and allusions [8, P. 370-371]. She believes that when the perceiver deciphers the intended meaning, they are entertained, and at the same time feel clever and proud of themselves to have successfully figured out the intended meaning of the blend. This generates a positive attitude toward the speech event and the referent of the neologism, and creates a certain social bond between the participants of communication [8, P. 370-371], which can be considered one of the main functions of blends. Using the novel ‘coroneologisms’, speakers of English share a certain feeling of camaraderie, unity, being ‘in the same boat’. This humorous and light-hearted way to relate dangerous and often tragic reality has possibly become a coping mechanism for many language users. 

Results

On the basis of analysing the semantic structure of ‘coroneologisms’, we grouped all blends related to the pandemic of COVID-19 into a number of categories.

Group 1. Blends, describing the new reality created by COVID-19 and the pause in the human activity (5 lexemes), e.g.:

  • coronageddon (corona + armageddon): the near-certain, end-of-times condition created either by the actual COVID-19 virus or the massive social, financial and political devastation generated on the back of global hysteria [16];
  • coronapocalypse (corona + apocalypse): facetious term for extreme reactions to the outbreak of COVID-19 [14];
  • coronaverse (corona + universe): the name given to human society in a post COVID-19 world [16];
  • anthropause (anthropos + pause): the (temporary) disappearance of humans from natural environments [14];
  • quarantimes (quarantine + times): a hashtag or label for the prevailing circumstances under lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic [17].

Group 2. Blends, describing life during the lockdown and its monotony of (8 lexemes), such as:

  • blursday (blur + thursday): humorous word for any day of the week that feels not much different from the one before [14];
  • boreout (boredom + burnout): extreme tiredness and depression caused by being bored at work over a long period of time [16];
  • cluttercore (clutter + normcore): an aesthetic or decorating style that embraces clutter [15];
  • infits (inside + outfit): the outfit that one wears when one stays in instead of going out [16];
  • ronavation (rona, slang for ‘corona’ + renovation): renovation one undertakes during the pandemic.

Group 3. Blends, referring to the information overload or the spread of false information about the pandemic of COVID-19 (7 lexemes), e.g.:

  • coronaspiracy (theory) (corona + conspiracy): a conspiracy theory linking a country, person, or technology to the coronavirus crisis [16];
  • coronawashing (corona + brainwashing): taking a pre-existing product and/or service and claiming it can prevent, treat, or cure coronavirus without providing ample evidence [16];
  • infodemic (information + epidemic): the accelerated spread of disinformation about COVID-19 [17];
  • mockdown (mock + lockdown): an inefficient lockdown;
  • twindemic (twin + epidemic): a scenario in which an epidemic, such as COVID, is accompanied by an outbreak of a second infectious disease, such as influenza [17];
  • quaranzine (quarantine + magazine): a collaborative, virtual resource documenting life and thoughts during COVID-19.

Group 4. Blends, describing the technological advances assisting people during the quarantine and social distancing (7 lexemes):

  • coronopticon (corona + panopticon): the notion of a national or global system of surveillance and control [17];
  • covideo (COVID + video) (party): a social event held using video conferencing [16];
  • homeference (home + conference): online conference, e.g. via Zoom, taken from one’s home;
  • phygital (physical + digital): a concept of blending digital experiences with physical experiences [16];
  • quarandating (quarantine + dating): pursuing romantic relationships while recognizing social distancing and other recommended CDC guidelines during a pandemic [16];
  • hyflex (hybrid + flexible): a way of learning in which lessons are given face to face in classrooms and also made available on the internet;
  • quarantech (quarantine + technology): apps and gadgets that help during the quarantine.

Group 5. Blends, describing symptoms or consequences of COVID-19 and COVID-induced stress.

A. Blends naming the feelings of anxiety or fear people experience during the pandemic (7 lexemes), e.g.:

  • coronacoaster/ronacoaster (corona + rollercoaster): the severe mood swings experienced during the coronavirus [14];
  • coronallusional (corona + delusional): feeling dazed and confused because of COVID-19;
  • coronanoia (corona + paranoia): a fear-driven reaction to COVID-19, often to the point of irrationality and/or delusion [16];
  • coronasomnia (corona + insomnia): lack of sleep experienced due to the pandemic of COVID-19;
  • lockstalgia (lockdown + nostalgia): nostalgia for a time when the country was in lockdown, or in a more extreme form of lockdown [14].

B. Blends naming other symptoms/ problems resulting from COVID-19 (3 lexemes):

  • inflammageing (inflammation + ageing): aging caused by the inflammatory processes;
  • maskne (mask + acne): acne produced by wearing face masks [16];
  • quaransheen (quarantine + sheen): a shiny nose and/or forehead visible while engaged in videoconferencing [17].

Group 6. Blends, humorously naming ways to cope with COVID-induced anxiety and fear: alcohol consumed with medicinal purposes (4 lexemes):

  • coronarita (corona + margarita): a cocktail drunk during lockdown;
  • locktail (lockdown + cocktail): a lockdown cocktail, often made with Warner’s Gin [16];
  • quarantini (quarantine + martini); a cocktail drunk while socially distancing [15];
  • walktail (walk + cocktail): a cocktail that one makes to drink while walking on the streets; an alcoholic beverage in a to-go cup [16].

Group 7. Blends, related to demographic trends, types of people and their relationships.

B. Blends naming people who do not comply with COVID-19 regulations (9 lexemes):

  • covidiot (COVID + idiot): a person who annoys other people by refusing to obey the social distancing rules designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 [13];
  • morona (corona + moron): a person who refuses to obey regulations related to COVID-19;
  • quarantroll (quarantine + troll): individual sending malicious online messages in conditions of and/or referring to quarantine [17];
  • maskulinity (mask + masculinity): men’s refusal to wear a mask;
  • maskhole (mask + asshole): selfish people in my neighborhood who refuse to wear a face mask [16];
  • coronarse/ coronass/ coronasshole (corona + arsehole/asshole): a person who mingles with and spreads the Coronavirus among people even though he or she knows that he or she is a carrier of the virus [16].

C. Blends naming young people (2 lexemes):

  • coronial/ coronnial (corona + millennial): a baby conceived during the COVID-19 pandemic [15];
  • quaranteen (quarantine + teen): the generation born during the pandemic, who will become teenagers in 2030s [17].

D. Blends naming other types of people (4 lexemes):

  • quaranqueens (quarantine + queen): a woman excelling during lockdown, particularly one excessively cleaning and tidying [17];
  • quaranteam (quarantine + team): the people one chooses to live with during a coronavirus quarantine [16];
  • covidpreneur (COVID + entrepreneur): a person or organization that exploits panic related to the COVID-19 pandemic by purchasing and reselling household goods to persons unable to sufficiently gather and horde “necessities” independently [16];
  • zoombie (zoom + zombie): a person exhausted by spending all day on video conferences, especially on Zoom [16];
  1. Blends naming problems in people’s relationships caused by the pandemic (2 lexemes):
  • covidivorce (COVID + divorce): a divorce resulting from the COVID house arrest where the parties realize that a parting of the ways might be best [16];
  • zumping (zoom + dumping): dumping a significant other on Zoom [Urban].

Group 8. Blends, naming the types of holidays that people take during the pandemic of COVID-19 (7 lexemes), e.g.:

  • coronacation (corona + vacation): a) a prolonged period at home away from one’s normal place of work, study, etc. viewed as an obligatory holiday imposed by stringent COVID-19 restrictions; b) a holiday or vacation taken during the period of the COVID-19 pandemic [14];
  • homecation (home + vacation): a holiday spent completely at home [14];
  • drivecation (drive + vacation): time spent in one’s caravan or camper van parked at home during lockdown [15];
  • safecation (safe + vacation): a holiday in a destination thought to be safe while the pandemic continues elsewhere [17];
  • schoolcation (school + vacation): a family holiday during which the children receive online schooling;
  • workation (work + vacation): a holiday where one stays in a hotel or other accommodation and works from there.

Group 9. Blends, describing the economic consequences of the pandemic of COVID-19 (3 lexemes):

  • pancession (pandemic + recession): a pandemic-associated widespread economic recession [17];
  • shecession (she + recession): coronavirus-induced economic recession that affects mostly women;
  • spendemic (spending + pandemic): a dramatic increase in online shopping by those confined during the coronavirus crisis [17].

Group 10. Blends, referring to the new language created under the influence of COVID-19 (3 lexemes):

  • coronacronym (corona + acronym): acronym related to COVID-19;
  • coroneologism (corona + neologism): neologism related to COVID-19;
  • covidictionary (COVID + dictionary): the language of COVID-19.

Group 11. Blends, naming the anticipated end of COVID-19 lockdowns (2 lexemes):

  • loxit (lockdown + exit): the process of exiting from lockdown [17];
  • covexit (COVID + exit): the process of gradually relaxing and removing the restrictions on public life imposed by governments in response to the Coronavirus crisis [15]. 

Conclusion

Major changes that happen in the society and especially social crises, disasters and wars are always reflected in the language. The pandemic of COVID-19, which has brought loss and disruption to the people worldwide, also engendered an immense surge in linguistic creativity. Blends can be considered one of the most original types of neologisms related to COVID-19. Among English ‘coroneologisms’ there are blends describing people’s transformed lifestyles during lockdowns, feeling of anxiety and stress people experienced during the pandemic, new technologies assisting in remote work and distance learning, reproachful names for unwise people flaunting COVID restrictions, and many others.

Many of these blends were created by journalists or used on social media. These lexical formations are often playful and witty, and their main function is catching the attention of the reader or listener. Using a certain shared jargon, employing humour to narrate frightening or tragic reality may help people deal with fear and grief, create a sense of unity and a bond between participants of communication; thus, blends and other ‘coroneologisms’ serve an important social function. 

Конфликт интересов

Не указан.

Conflict of Interest

None declared.

Список литературы / References

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