Language patterns in the coronavirus pandemic

Matchstick men

FAU researchers analyse language used in conspiracy theories and the right-wing populist scene

Which language patterns are most common in conspiracy theories about coronavirus? Two linguists at FAU are investigating this question in more detail. The Volkswagen Foundation is providing 120,000 euros in funding for their project ‘Tracking the infodemic: Conspiracy theories in the corona crisis’ over a period of one and a half years as part of the ‘Corona Crisis and Beyond’ initiative.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has left many people feeling uncertain, providing fertile ground for the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories. Many of the stories spread are absurd and contradictory, and yet more and more people seem to believe in them. Prof. Dr. Fabian Schäfer, Chair of Japanese Studies, and Prof. Dr. Stefan Evert, Chair of Computational Corpus Linguistics, are now investigating the language patterns used in Covid lies and the similarities between these and the language used by right-wing populists. The two linguists from FAU are basing their research on innovative corpus linguistics methods. They are taking authentic samples of language used by conspiracy theorists, analysing it and comparing it with the language used by right-wing populists, predominantly in social media such as Twitter. Through a process of operationalisation and automation, the researchers aim to uncover typical language patterns which can be used in future to recognise conspiracy theories straight away.

Further information

Prof. Dr. Fabian Schäfer
phone: + 49 9131 85-29145

Prof. Dr. Stefan Evert
phone: + 49 9131 85-22426