Call for papers for Special issue – Lingue e Linguaggi

The Languages and Anti-Languages of Health Communication in the Age of Conspiracy Theories, Mis/Disinformation and Hate Speech
Ed. by Massimiliano Demata, Natalia Knoblock and Marianna Lya Zummo
We are calling for abstracts for a special issue of Lingue e Linguaggi focusing on the languages of health communication in both institutional and non-institutional media settings. The special issue will address aspects related to genre and discourse as well as morphosyntactic characteristics of health communication in the current age, an age increasingly characterised by (dis-/mis-)information, conspiracy theories and hate speech as occurring in the context of both mass media and social media.
Dis- and misinformation, conspiracy theories and hostile communication are reportedly on the rise and are beginning to receive significant attention among linguists and discourse scholars because of the alternative discourses which are generated through them (Demata et al, forthcoming; Knoblock 2020; Zummo 2018, 2017; Lazaridis et al., 2016). In particular, health communication has been subjected to mis-and disinformation as well as to contributing to conspiracy theories which have become very influential in many countries. With the growing influence of social media in the public sphere (KhosraviNik & Unger 2015; KhosraviNik 2017; Zummo 2017; Demata, Heaney & Herring 2018), the communication of alternative health discourse, often in opposition to that of “official” media and science, has become very difficult to challenge. Furthermore, the narratives supporting alternative health discourses have increasingly become part of the growing consensus for populist parties and leaders in many parts of the world, as distrust in the official science feeds into the typically populist drive against establishment politics (Bergmann 2018).
During the last three decades, health discourse has been particularly exposed to mis/disinformation and fake news. Conspiracy theories (CTs) and mis/disinformation about AIDS have been followed by those about the supposed damage brought by vaccines (Archer 2015; Kata 2010). In fact, tension arises between medical science looking out for the collective well-being and the emotive amplification of groups being concerned with their individual health. Such exchanges have developed in anti-vaccination discourses, with online fora working as echo chambers. More recently, the coronavirus outbreak has provided evidence of how the spread of disinformation and conspiracy thinking has reached beyond the narrow confines of individual or group narratives for believers. CTs support alternative views on official science, economy and the news, and construct certain (often radical) beliefs in periods of existential or social uncertainty. They are creating new articulations of discourse in the public sphere because of their innovative, and often subversive, language that mixes urgency, hope, hate speech and suspicions for potential machinations form the establishment. Social media have provided the ideal output for CTs: without “gatekeepers”, polarized communities create an “antagonistic sphere” (Krzyzanowski & Ledin 2017) and foster political engagement (especially against governments and the establishment), which can even lead to extremism and violence (Bergmann 2018; Wodak 2020).
The purpose of this special edition to explore the “anti-languages” (Halliday 1976) and the counter-discourses endorsing (mis/dis-)information and CTs in direct opposition to official discourses and challenging social and political hegemony (Terdiman 1985; Van Dijk 1997).
We welcome papers that explore the following points, though other pertinent submissions will also be considered:
CT production and discourse on a social, linguistic and political perspective(s)
Critical analysis of CT on health-related issues and their social impact
Intersectional analysis of health and computer-mediated communication
Historical overview of Health (and Medical) Humanities and CTs
Military language in social representation of medicine
Linguistic and cross-cultural analysis of threat assessment levels
Othering caused by health issues
Hate speech related to/originating from groups opposing official health discourse
Analysis of linguistic cues (e.g. the occurrence of certain parts of speech) that distinguish the language of CTs from strictly informative sources.
Verbal aggression, “othering”, dehumanization, hate speech in health-related discourse(s)
The politicization of health discourse
Please send abstracts (maximum 300 words plus references) by 1 April 2021 to:,,
Confirmation of acceptance: 15 April 2021
Deadline for submission of first drafts: 1 October 2021
Deadline for submission of revised papers: 31 January 2022
Publication: Summer 2022
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