Apocalyptic representation of COVID-19: A corpus-assisted discourse analysis of the World Health Organization's discourse practices

Discourse and Interaction


This study examines the interdiscursive representation of the coronavirus disease by the World Health Organization from the outbreak of the virus in January 2020 to the announcement of a successful vaccine in November 2020. The aim is to find out whether the agency has delivered apocalyptic language that increased anxiety and stress among the public leading to a weak human immune system, or contributed to creating global cooperation and placing emergency measures to fight the virus. I have adopted a discourse analysis approach, with the aid of NVivo qualitative software and corpus linguistic tools, for the analysis of a purpose-built corpus of the WHO Director-General’s speeches, focusing on referential, predication, perspectivation, intensifying, mitigation and argumentation strategies. The result of the analysis revealed that the WHO discourse referred to COVID-19 as an eccentric virus, qualified and intensified by the agency as a threat to humanity. The WHO adopted a subjective point of view, showing active involvement in the discursive representation of the virus and argumentatively asking people to unite until a vaccine is invented.

COVID-19; World Health Organization; corpus-assisted discourse analysis; discourse-historical approach; NVivo
Author biography

Sadiq Altamimi

University of Thi Qar

Sadiq Altamimi is Assistant Professor of English Linguistics. He got his PhD in English linguistics from Swansea University, UK. His research interests lie in textual functions and ideological representations of language and culture within discourse. This includes a productive methodological synergy between corpus linguistic tools and discourse analysis methods in an interdisciplinary framework, where corpus techniques could be usefully informed by discourse theories in triangulatory analysis.

Address: Sadiq Altamimi, Department of English, College of Education for Human Sciences, University of Thi Qar, Nasiriyah, 64001, Iraq. [e-mail:sadiq.a@utq.edu.iq]


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