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Webinar 2020

The European Federation of National Institutions for Language (EFNIL)

announces the

The EFNIL Webinar

"Language in the corona crisis"

 on 30 September and 1 October 2020





30 September  

14:00 – 16:00 The Lexicon used in the Corona Discourse

Frieda Steurs: The Dutch Language is Coronaproof (video)

Carolin Müller-Spitzer / Sascha Wolfer: Recent developments in German online press in the face of

the coronavirus crisis (video)

Kristina Despot and Zeljko Jozic: How Coronavirus Infected our Language (and Thought) (video)

1 October

09:00 – 11:00 Multilingualism and linguistic justice

Ingrid Piller: Linguistic diversity in a time of crisis: Language challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic (video)

Questions (video)

13:00 – 15:00 Plain language

Katrin Hallik: The Estonian clear language team assisting the government with the crisis of COVID-19 (video)

Chiara Fioarvanti: Information resources on Covid-19 for migrants who live in Italy: an overview on Web communication during the outbreak (video)

Kjetil Gundersen and Ann-Helén Langaker: Terminology’s role in plain language (video)

General discussion (video)

15:30 – 17:00 Presentations of the winners of the Master's Thesis Competition

Nastja Slavec (University of Ljubljana): 'To have' Irish in Corca Dhuibhne: Language ideologies and practices in a minority language community.


Magdalena Pawlik (University of Warsaw): The Art of Amendment: A Genre Analysis of Amendments Tabled by Members of the European Parliament in the Ordinary Legislative Procedure.


Kristina Babic (Universität Wien): Phonetic interference in second language acquisition of German. A study of phenomena of interference of Arabic-, Kurdish-, Romanian- and Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian-speaking learners of German as a second language.



With the appearance of the Corona virus and Covid 19, many Europeans became aware of the word pandemic as a description of a disease, which at first may have looked like just another virus infection, but which turned out to be a whole new kind of threat. 

How do you talk about such a phenomenon? What are the linguistic means by which it can be meaningfully expressed? Interpretations of such a phenomenon are set and negotiated in public discourse. The result of these interactions is reflected not least in changes in vocabulary. Such changes obviously depend on the intentions of those involved, but there are also practices and specific options that have to do with structural traits and discourse traditions in individual languages.

These changes in vocabulary and their capture and description by linguistics and lexicography will be the subject of the session on “Corona and the Lexicon”. Speakers from three European language communities – and representatives of national language institutions that are members of EFNIL – will give talks on the relative situation within their language, Croatian, Dutch and German so laying a basis for a discussion of this topic.

Frieda Steurs: The Dutch Language is Coronaproof


The start will be made by Frieda Steur from the Instituut voor de Nederlandse taal (INT). She will talk about the variable and successful ways the Dutch language community is dealing with the language challenges of the corona crisis. Both Flanders and the Netherlands went into lockdown in the middle of March, and “telecommuting” or telework from home became the new standard. The Dutch language institute was well prepared for such a situation with an excellent IT infrastructure in place and robust servers that allowed the colleagues to access the data and algorithms from home. We had ZOOM-meetings, MS-teams, Skypecalls, and e-aperitifs at the end of the week.

We closely monitored the new language data that were processed every week, and identified loads of neologisms related to Covid-19. This resulted in different publications and a full fledged ‘Coronadictionary’ with more than 1000 entries. In my talk, I will present some of the work we did, and also the impact of the crisis on the Dutch language in general. At the same time, digital language material is more wanted than ever before, as e-learning becomes more and more popular for all levels of education.

Carolin Müller-Spitzer / Sascha Wolfer: Recent developments in German online press in the face of the coronavirus crisis

As second speakers Carolin Müller-Spitzer and Sascha Wolfer from the Leibniz Institut für Deutsche Sprache (IDS) will present the use of the cOWIDplus resources for analysing the change of discourses in times of Corona. The coronavirus pandemic dominates the news on a large scale. In our talk we want to show three inter-connected resources that are designed to capture and illustrate these effects on a subset of the German language: An RSS corpus of German-language, a continuously updated HTML page tracking the diversity of the vocabulary in the RSS corpus (cOWIDplus Analyse) and a Shiny web application that enables other researchers and the broader public to explore the corpus in terms of basic frequencies (cOWIDplus Viewer). We show, how weekly overviews of the most frequently used words show the point in time when the corona pandemic becomes the dominant topic in news reports; how a veritable explosion of word formation products with ‘corona’ such as ‘pre-corona society’ or ‘post-corona future’ can be observed; how other topics - e.g. football - are suppressed by the coronavirus crisis; how the discussion about ways out of the lockdown is reflected in the data; and how prominent virologists are entering the same 'frequency league' as politicians.

Kristina Despot and Zeijko Josic: How Coronavirus Infected our Language (and Thought)

In the third talk Kristina Despot and Zeijko Josic from the Institute of Croatian Language and Linguistics will discuss changes in the Croatian language brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic the lexical and the conceptual level.

On the lexical level, many neologisms that have spread extremely fast thanks to social networks. The new reality also caused the appearance of new collocations and phrases, changes in meaning of existing words, and the borrowing of medical jargon into general language. We will give an overview of the content of a dictionary on the vocabulary related to the coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease developed at our Institute.

On the conceptual level, the metaphorical framing of the coronavirus discourse will be discussed, especially the metaphor of war that dominates public discourse. The discourse in the media as well as in general public is dominated in all languages by the conceptualization of the virus as an enemy, and of the prevention of its spread as a fight or war against a dangerous invisible enemy, which must be defeated as soon as possible. Based on the results of the analysis of a specially compiled corpus of Croatian (and English) texts two questions will be answered: 1) Why is the metaphor of war so dominant? 2) Is a re-conceptualization possible and how would a different framing change the way the public sees and understands this situation?

1 October

09:00 – 11:00 Multilingualism and linguistic justice

Ingrid Piller: Linguistic diversity in a time of crisis: Language challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic

In this seminar, I explore the language and communication challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Linguistic minorities have, by and large, been excluded from timely high-quality information, as research brought together in the first concerted sociolinguistic research effort dedicated to the pandemic shows (published in a special issue of Multilingual due out in September).

The severe limitations of multilingual crisis communication that the pandemic has laid bare result from the dominance of English-centric global mass communication; the longstanding devaluation of minoritized languages; and failure to consider the importance of multilingual repertoires for building trust and resilient communities.

I will also reflect on the dynamics of academic knowledge production at a time of crisis and close with implications for sociolinguistics.


Bio: Ingrid Piller is Distinguished Professor of Applied Linguistics at Macquarie University. She is the author of Linguistic Diversity and Social Justice (Oxford University Press, 2016), and numerous other publications. Her research blog is available through Language on the Move and she tweets about linguistic diversity @lg_on_the_move.


13:00 – 15:00 Plain language

The plain language webinar session will focus on plain language as a tool for facilitating public communication in the pandemic situation. The covid 19-pandemic has highlighted the need for plain and user oriented language to secure that the whole community of language users have access to the information that could prevent the spread of the disease.

The webinar will give us perspectives from three different parts of Europe on plain language work during a pandemic. After the three consecutive 20 minute presentations, there will be a short break and a following discussion. The session will be moderated by Ase Wetas (

Katrin Hallik: The Estonian clear language team assisting the government with the crisis of COVID-19

(How we got straight into the text corpus of the Estonian government)

At the beginning of March 2020 the Estonian government created a webpage to inform people about the new regulations and restrictions related to the crisis and provide verified and up-to-date information about it.

A section of the webpage called Questions and Answers gathers citizen inquiries from main government agencies. The previously dispersed information was assembled into one platform and it urgently needed structure and good linguistic assistance.

In just a few days a team of volunteer Estonian language editors and Russian and English translators was compiled and the basics of clear language basics was taught to them. Clear language guidelines were sent to officials composing the original texts in government agencies.

We created networking platforms and the volunteer work started. For 3 months we kept editing and translating every free moment.

We were very excited to use the opportunity to show the benefits of clear language and get the clear language principles straight into the heart of government communication. The guidelines, the terminology, the clear language text structure will remain in the text corpus and keep creating change. shows the government Questions and Answers section in English.

Chiara Fioarvanti: Information resources on Covid-19 for migrants who live in Italy: an overview on Web communication during the outbreak

Access to online legal and public information is nowadays a key-factor for fully participating in society and this is even more important in times of emergency, like during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

But some categories of users find themselves in situations or conditions such that they may find it difficult to access and understand standard public information. This is the case of migrants who have recently settled in the host society.

In Italy, various content on prevention measures and rules have been provided to the general public by public authority websites during the different phases of COVID-19. Some of these were specifically targeted for the audience of migrants.

This contribution aims to provide an overview and an initial analysis of the information resources on COVID-19 directed to migrants produced and shared through the Web by Italian public bodies and organizations.

Kjetil Gundersen and Ann-Helén Langaker: Terminology’s role in plain language

One of the things we have learnt from the corona pandemic is that terminology plays an important role. There has been a wide use of terminology in all communication and information from the authorities to the general public about the pandemic, infection control and the precautions taken in that regard.

The Language Council of Norway coordinates terminology work in Norway, and we have written several short corona-related texts about the terminology the authorities have used and use in their communication. We have cooperated with the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and have advised them on term choices, and they have also quality-assured both the terminology and the content in the corona-related texts from the Language Council.

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