THE LANGUAGE OF PANDEMICS

Franca Daniele, MD,
“G. d’Annunzio” University, Chieti-Pescara, Italy

During this year 2020, all of us in the ESJ Family are celebrating the ESJ 10th anniversary and this Speciaò Edition – THE LANGUAGE OF PANDEMICS is part of these celebrations. Unfortunately, during this same year the whole world has been in total lockdown and the only communication means have been our telephones and computers. The coronavirus pandemic has abruptly changed our lives. Suddenly, our life modes were frozen and petrified into shapes that were unknown to us. The cities were deserted; we were all locked down in our houses with our beliefs, ideas, thoughts, joys and fears. In these peculiar, unusual, unnatural conditions, we have all found out that we are susceptible, liable and fragile. We have discovered internal resources never seen before, but that the support of our family and friends is crucial. We have realized that we are humane! Language is the most human characteristics, and during this pandemic, language has been proclaimed and elevated to its natural status: as the only means human beings have to stay in touch with, share and participate in each other’s lives. Sharing and participation have been possible thanks to the Internet and all the technological devices that have become extensions of our bodies.

To date Covid-19 is still spreading easily and sustainably in all communities (“community spread”) all over the world. Community spread is referred to as airborne transmission, representing an important way of transmission of infectious diseases like tuberculosis, measles, and chicken pox, through which a group of people get infected with a virus or bacterium in a precise area. Covid-19 infection is spread by exposure to the virus through small droplets and particles produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes; these droplets can linger in the air for minutes to hours and can move for distances up to 2 meters. After infection with Covid-19, symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus, and can range from mild illness to severe disease. Covid-19 pandemic has certainly lead many policy makers in many countries to revise and reset their healthcare systems in terms of both human resources and facilities, because for the first time, the ‘modern’ world was found to be unfit to face such a medical emergency.

In these somewhat ‘exceptional’ conditions medical knowledge transmission and spreading is crucial, especially because people need to be not only informed about the facts surrounding the disease and its spread, but they primarily need to be reassured. Indeed, the issue of knowledge and communication in medicine is certainly a serious one, and during this pandemic medical communication is taking place at different levels starting from the World Health Organization, passing through the different health ministries and commissions in all countries, and ending with doctors and journalists.

The papers in this Special Issue use a variety of research methods and they all describe with different angles and different viewpoints this exceptional human condition. Furthermore, this Special Issue is aimed at highlighting language in all its aspects and especially as a communication and an exchange tool during this historical period.

The Edition starts with the article by Barbara CAPPUZZO who discusses about the importance of English language as the language of the world, and about the ways the pandemic outbreak has affected our lives, the way we talk and the way we conceive the world. She debates on how a number of Anglicisms have become fully part of the lexicon of Italian language, traditionally being open to foreign words. According to her investigation, Covid-19-related Anglicisms are used in Italian to such an extent that we can reasonably refer to them as the ‘language of pandemic’, with numerous English words and expressions employed in Italian.

Renzo MOCINI’s article continues the investigation into the peculiarities of the language used during this Covid-19 pandemic. More specifically he analyzes the ways the World Health Organization (WHO), which represents an authoritative voice in health issues, has managed communication and information transfer to the laypersons during this 2020 pandemic. He continues that since the recent Covid-19 pandemic outbreak, an infodemic has occurred, conveying an overabundance of information, in which separation of the ‘wheat from the chaff’ and true from fake news is extremely difficult.

The article by Stefania CICILLINI and Antonella Maria GIACOSA is the perfect example of how our professional and teaching experiences have been so diversified during this period, forcing us to change all our teaching habits and find new strategies to keep our students glued to their computers and listen to us. Indeed, both lecturers and students had to become familiar with online education and had to interact and communicate digitally to replace face-to-face interaction. CICILLINI and GIACOSA highlight how, in this context Emergency Remote Education emerged as a branch of distance learning concerning the unplanned response to an educational emergency.

The present Special Edition ends with my paper, which carries out a textual, discourse and semantic analysis of the song Entangled, a masterpiece by the English band Genesis. The song describes a patient living in a dream-like state, having many similarities and parallels with the state of being affected by Covid-19 and experiencing the worst manifestations of the disease. The most overt message deriving from analyzing the words and the discourse in Entangled is the prevailing-type pattern that evidences the strong imbalance existing in a relationship between a doctor and a patient. The inaffable music and voices join in a coral-like song that seems to have links with serenades, charms, prayers, and with unknown dimensions. The enchanting images produced by Entangled evoke a calm, dream-like state where the listener is carried inside the soft ripples of the rhymes and verses that combine and overlap perfectly with the flowing rhythm and the purely magical music.

 

                                                                                    Franca Daniele, MD

“G. d’Annunzio” University Chieti-Pescara

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