Neology Process in the Era of the COVID-19 Pandemic: Spanish and French Media and Social Networks Discourse

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The study aims to explore features of the realization of the neological potential of lexemes created or rethought by the new reality and included in the COVID-19 concept sphere. It identifies the specifics of derivation and lexical-semantic ways of forming these neologisms. The research material includes more than 1000 articles from the most influential Hispanic and French-language publications and correspondence of native speakers in social networks and telephone applications in a synchronous cut over eight months of the pandemic. A vital factor for choice of material refers to the fact that the mentioned channels have formed a global communication environment that intensively contributes to the creation and dissemination of neology products. The methodology rests on the discursive and communicative approaches. It includes analysis and synthesis of theoretical research and applies continuous sampling of research material from the mentioned sources. The study establishes that the multidirectional processes distinguish the media and social networks’ discourse during the pandemic. Changes in the lexical-semantic discourse are carried out by creating neologisms, which, along with borrowings assimilated into the grammatical system or functioning in parallel with the national concept definition, are productive means of replenishing the lexis. The semantic neology’s main mechanisms are metaphorization and metonymization and changes in the semantic volume of a lexeme. Modern new formations perform pragmatic functions, making it possible to strengthen the emotional and modal interaction. The author concludes that neological processes demonstrate each language’s national and cultural originality and establishes that the linguistic norm in Spanish and French discourse does not conflict with the “disruptive” nature of linguistic innovations. The society positively evaluates the formation of individual speech meanings and linguistic meanings and the expansion of their functioning boundaries.

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The outbreak and evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic have presented a challenge to researchers in various science fields while simultaneously creating a significant amount of factual language material that should serve as the object of linguistic research. The relevance of the chosen topic is determined by the need for an in-depth study of the specifics of active word formation and borrowings as productive ways of replenishing the lexical stock of modern Spanish and French languages during a pandemic under the influence of extra linguistic factors. The current state of media and everyday discourse of social networks in the continuous dynamics of reflecting pandemic realities is crucial referring to the phenomenon historical and cultural potential, which is also due to the peculiarities of the national-linguistic picture of the world. Referring to communication, new linguistic formations appear and are consolidated, and their lexical-semantic and evaluative potential is revealed. We can conclude that the action of word-formation and lexical-semantic mechanisms of the language, discourse quickly assimilates and reflects the entire flow of information that accompanies the country’s historical development. The types of discourse under consideration represent a linguistic and cultural cross-section of the changes taking place in the country. This article expresses the concern to studying active neological processes from derivation and semantic mechanisms of neologisms’ formation and their use in modern Spanish and French media discourse and the natives’ everyday speech. The scope of the article is the Spanish and French media discourse, both oral and written, texts from social networks and telephone applications, and the material of selective interviews with native speakers.

The research discusses the productive and unproductive word-formation and lexical-semantic mechanisms of neology, which are currently used as tools for creating neologisms, which, along with direct or transformed borrowings, represent a significant part of the lexical space of modern Spanish and French media and everyday discourse. The purpose of the study was to identify the features of the implementation of the neological potential of lexemes created or rethought by the new reality and included in the field of the COVID-19 concept and analyze the communicative and pragmatic aspects of these neologisms.

Theoretical background  of the issue under study

The discourse is the verbalization of a certain mentality, both at the individual and group levels. It is “a way of linguistic representation and interpretation of the reality, as a result of which not only the worlds reflected in a specific way but also a special reality is constructed: a way of seeing the world inherent in a particular society is created, a way of ordering the reality” [1]. T. Van Dijk [2] and L. Cortés [3], mentioned the need to consider new vocabulary for discoursing analysis; a pragmatic approach was also taken by M. Escandell-Vidal [4], and H. Calsamiglia and A. Tusón [5], who spoke about the need to study the functions of neologisms taking into account their usual context and as a product of a deterministic communicative situation. Therefore, we consider neologisms in inseparably from the situational context: with social, cultural-historical, ideological, psychological, and other factors, with the system of communicativepragmatic and cognitive goals and attitudes of the initiator, interacting with the addressee. The article states that there is no generally accepted definition of the term “neologism” in modern linguistics since there is no single idea of this concept’s scope. V.Vinogradov considers that “neologisms are lexical units and meanings of words that retain the color of novelty, which have entered the language due to the social need for the nomination of new objects and concepts, as well as for new names of already known objects of thought”[6]. Some linguists put forward the extra linguistic determinism of lexical enrichment as a defining feature of the concept of “neologism”, as a consequence of which they characterize dictionary innovations as words denoting a new reality [7]. C. Sánchez and D. Azorín believe that a neologism should be recognized as such if it meets the following criteria: a word is new if the speaker is aware of it as such; a lexical unit can be classified as a neologism if signs of formal instability (phonetic, graphic, morphological) or semantic instability are registered; the absence of the mentioned lexeme in the reference lexicographic corpus [8]. B. Arrieta de Meza considers it necessary to classify neologisms by their origin (neologisms by form and contextual neologisms), as well as by function (referential neologisms (nomination of objects and phenomena) and expressive neologisms [9]. J. Díaz Rojo calls referential those lexical units that fill the denominative vacuum or denominative voids. At the same time, expressive neologisms, in his opinion, do not arise out of necessity, but for stylistic reasons, under the pressure of subjective trend and appear only in certain registers and contexts [10]. According to A. Martinet, the engines in neology processes can be either objective — the addressees need to carry out a communicative act that implies a non-existent concept, or subjective — the author’s options used for special purposes [11]. These reasons launched the two most common concepts in neology, explaining the communicative functions of neologisms: denominative neology and stylistic neology. Some authors think that is necessary to define neologism, not from the perspective of a linguist but communicative partners [12]. E. Llopart Saumell notes the obligatory motivation of any neologism, his “provocative” function and the relationship between his communicative function and their formation [13]. G. Mounin emphasizes the inherent game and entertainment function of neologisms [14].

Materials and methods

The work considers publications of political, socioeconomic, and cultural orientation (print and online versions of the Spanish newspapers: El PAÍS, 20 minutos, La Vanguardia, El Confidencial, La Región). This choice was dictated by the results of statistical studies in 2019, where data publications entered the top of the most influential and read [15]. The choice of texts is determined by three main factors: chronology (chronological scope of the study: March 10, 2020 — September 10, 2020, which corresponds to the acute phase of the period of the pandemic spread (more than 200 newspaper and magazine issues were analyzed), territorial factor (central and regional media were used) and the audience coverage (the work relies on the publications with the most massive circulation). Among other sources one can mention publications from the most read media of the Latin American countries: Clarín; La voz (Argentina), El Universal (México), El Comercio (Perú), their popularity was determined according to statistical indicators [16]. Sources of the French language research material were “20 minutes”, Le Monde, L’Equipe, Le Parisien, which are also among the most popular [17].

On the other hand, the research involves materials obtained due to a continuous sampling and the corpus contains over 1000 newspaper articles, and different television programs (news, educational, scientific, entertainment) of the most popular Spanish — Telecinco, Antena 3, La 1, and French — TF1, France 2, France 3 channels, the choice of which was also determined according to statistics for 2019: Spain [18], France [19], the broadcasts of the Euronews during the specified period. By analogy, texts on Twitter that analyzed available posts in professional communities (translators, foreign language teachers) and the correspondence of native Spanish and French users also became the research sources. We have obtained the consent of the authors in social media to use their published opinions, and examined the correspondence of WhatsApp users. 60 interviews with native Spanish and French speakers were conducted using a questionnaire on topics related to their speech applications of neologisms of the “Covid-19” lexical field, as well as on issues that determine their attitude to neology and its use in the considered types of discourse. The age of the informants is 20–65 years. Professional linguists, translators, and teachers were deliberately not included in the survey. It shows that for the objectivity and reliability of the analysis, data from explanatory, encyclopedic, special dictionaries and other lexicographic and reference publications were also used [20–24].

Research methodology

An integrated paradigm makes the backbone of the research: combined qualitative and quantitative methodologies, theoretical and empirical analysis. The theoretical part followed the comparative approach to the investigation of academic papers that refer to the present research theme. The empirical part exploited a set of principles, approaches, theories, and techniques. The case study techniques were applied to structure the empirical data. The work solves the tasks within the framework of the discursive and communicative approaches. At each stage of the work, analytical and synthetical methods were used that optimally satisfied the set goal and objectives of the research: the method of continuous sampling of research material from the indicated sources; questioning and interviewing the informants, linguistic observation, which includes interpretation, description, generalization, and typology of the analyzed material, discourse analysis, comparing dictionary definitions, the method of functional-stylistic, word-formation and lexical-semantic analysis of linguistic material, contextual analysis of lexical material (with the involvement of linguistic and cultural and sociolinguistic nature). The research results’ reliability and scientific validity are provided by a significant amount of the studied language material, the initial theoretical provisions, and a complex of scientific and practical research methods corresponding to its subject.

Results and Discussion

Reasons for the activation of neological  processes during a pandemic

The semantics of “pandemic” neologisms is inextricably linked with pragmatics since these lexemes reinforce the speaker’s attitude to reality in linguistics. It is known that the chronic growth of the pace of life enhances the effect of the law of saving language efforts. Still, during the pandemic, the opposite situation occurred — the pace slowed down, and native speakers had considerable time for word creation. It shows that the increase in the level of emotional tension in a society’s life, in turn, strengthened the processes of the formation of precisely emotionalexpressive types of word-formation models. The mere fact that during this period, the existence of society turned into a virtual plane, and the use of the capabilities of the World Wide Web has increased significantly; it created conditions for more active interaction between users. The audience has grown. There is more free time to use the network, both in terms of communication and familiarization with media information, which undoubtedly influenced the introduction of neologisms into the usage of both media and everyday discourse. J. García Platero believed that in the event of the appearance of a neologism, it is the interaction between the issuer (distributor of the word) and the virtual recipient (reader or listener) that generates “complicity,” the result of which is the consolidation of the neologism in the usage [25]. Such active participation of users has a significant effect on the introduction of “pandemic” neologisms into language practice.

Perception of neological processes in the lexical field  of the “Covid-19” by Spanish and French speakers in communicative situations of media and social media discourse

During the study, according to the division into age categories, the informants were divided into groups of 20 people, presented in the table below. The positive answers of the respondents are reflected in the table.

As the table shows, the older generation representatives offer the lowest degree of susceptibility to neological trends. Nevertheless, if you summarize all age groups’ responses, then about 65% of speakers included neologisms associated with “Covid-19” in their everyday usage. 98% of informants note the positive effect of neological vocabulary in media discourse on a more intense degree of information perception. The older age group cautiously evaluates the possibility of innovation in the language: nevertheless, 50% of respondents are ready to agree with linguistic new formations, and if one summarizes the answers, then 75% of discourse actors agree to support “linguistic modernity” and only a quarter of respondents consider that the language already has an established system of nominative and expressive means, beyond which it is not necessary to go. For the two younger age groups, the share of language conservatives was 10%. “Legalization” of lexical units’ rights in explanatory dictionaries, the expansion of existing definitions is considered necessary by 100% of native speakers of the younger age group, 90% of the middle, and 40% of the older.

Table 1 / Таблица 1
Results of the survey / Результаты опроса


Natives 20–25 years old

Natives 26–40 years old

Natives 40–65 years old

Do you use "pandemic" neologisms in your discourse on social media or phone apps?




Does neological vocabulary make media discourse more memorable for you or disturb your perception?




Are you a supporter of modernist trends in the language and welcome language innovation?




Are you conservative and think that the language has enough resources to nominate and show expression without resorting to neology mechanisms?




Do you consider the lexicographic recording of new lexemes necessary?




In comparison, 75% of the language users have a positive attitude towards dictionary codification and systematization of neologisms. Thus, we can conclude that society positively evaluates the formation of individual speech meanings and linguistic meanings and the expansion of their functioning boundaries. Most of the recipients or actors of the communicative act believe that neologisms solve specific communicative tasks, enriches the discursive realization and gives evaluative modality and additional connotations.

Productive mechanisms of the appearance  of neologisms in the era of a pandemic. Semantic way of formation

In this way of word-formation the producing base and the derived word coincide in terms of expression, but diverge in terms of content, that is, we are talking about the rethinking of the already existing lexical meaning, the so-called neologisms-meaning. The term confinamiento is a prime example of this technique. According to the RAE (La Real Academia Española (Spanish Royal Academy) — the establishment responsible for the codification of linguistic norms in the Spanish language) dictionary: 1. Action and effect derived from the verb confinar; 2. Punishment according to which the convicted person must temporarily reside, at large, in a place other than his usual place of residence. The verb Сonfinar: 1. Expel someone from its territory (land), having determined for him the place of obligatory residence). 2. Conclude someone or something within certain limits’) 3. Border, adjoin something [20]. The Spanish Medical Dictionary gives the term an even more radical definition: being of an object in a small space, closed and unventilated, resulting in death due to lack of oxygen [21]. Some more examples from media discourse that do not inform about self-isolation unambiguously use the term confinamiento in the meaning of imprisonment: Rápidamente se integró en política haciendo uso de todo lo aprendido durante el confinamiento. In the context of a pandemic, the term, and its cognate lexemes confinar, confinado have acquired the meaning of being in self-isolation during a pandemic, and the meaning does not correspond to the dictionary definition, since in the current meaning of the lexeme: a) the place of residence does not change; b) the concept of punishment is absent, El confinamiento da resultados a corto plazo; Suecia, el país que no confinó, etc.

By analogy, a similar semantic picture emerges in the French usage of the term confinement. The definition of the Larousse dictionary is as follows: action from the verb confiner, which is defined as to lock, to be locked in a particular place or limit yourself to a specific activity. There are also meanings associated with the isolation of the animal population and the shortage, in this regard, of something: Situation of an animal population that is too numerous in too small a space and which, as a result, lacks oxygen, food or space. Significance of the precautions taken concerning nuclear waste: All the precautions taken to prevent the dissemination of radioactive products in the environment of a nuclear installation [22]. These definitions show that the discrepancies in the modern “pandemic” usage of the lexeme and its derivatives are less semantically significant (compared to the Spanish language). Here are some examples from newspapers: C’est officiellement la fin du confinement en France, depuis ce dimanche minuit.

The meaning of the verb mapear, which RAE defines as a term from the sphere of biology and regionalism in Chile — to make maps [20] was also rethought. In modern discourse, this lexeme was registered by us in the meaning of track the movements of the carrier of the virus: No se podrá circular libremente por el edificio, de modo que sea posible “mapear” el recorrido y los contactos de un empleado que diera positivo por covid-19.

Several phrases have also emerged that are not neologisms but whose semantics have radically changed. Thus, the Spanish phrase plantas limpias lost its original meaning clean floor, that is, without dirt, and became the name of the zones “treated from the virus”: Llevan semanas preparando lo que denomina “plantas limpias”, a las que podrán ir volviendo empleados. Another example was the espacios pulmón zonas, literally, space + lungs, in this combination and meaning, these lexemes were not used before, now this is the name for places that have been disinfected and in which you can safely breathe: empresa propietaria ya a proponer a los inquilinos “espacios pulmón”. On the contrary, some phenomena have not yet received their name and are waiting for their denominational turn. For example, educational institutions have not yet come up with job titles for a person who will be in charge of all aspects related to Covid: Los colegios designarán a una “persona de referencia” para los aspectos relacionados con la covid-19. It shows that one can talk about a metaphorical transfer of meaning, which creates a particular image based on words in a figurative sense. It is essential to emphasize that in the discurse space, the metaphor functions to model reality, conveying an individual vision of the world and setting its interpretation.

Morphological word-formation.

Prefixation based on a rethought meaning

Modern usage was supplemented by the terms desconfinamiento, desconfinar in Spanish, and déconfinement in French, formed using the prefixes -des (dé) from the corresponding noun and verb forms. Following the grammatical rules, these prefixes have one of their meanings “the expression of the opposite action and return to the previous state of affairs”[26, 27]. Based on this rule, conclusions can be made that the use of these lexemes meets grammatical derivation norms and can be used as an antonym of confinamiento (confinement in French), e.g., España da otro paso en el plan de desconfinamiento tras la pandemia del coronavirus; Coronavirus oblige, avec une multitude d’interrogations sur les conditions du déconfinement.

By prefixing with the -des prefix, one of the most common terms desescalar, desescalada, was formed. According to the RAE dictionary, escalar to climb, climb to a height [20]. The RAE, which is still discussing the possibility of including desescalada and desconfinamiento and their derivatives in the dictionary, at the beginning of the epidemic assessed desescalar as an antonymic translation of the English lexeme to escalate (aumenta — enlarge) and recommended replacing it with the Spanish lexemes reducir, disminuir o rebajar (meaning reduce). Later, the RAE “legalized” the term not yet in the dictionary but in its recommendations [28]. According to French media and everyday discourse, we did not record the use of déscalade (by analogy with déconfinement) as a derivative of escalade (the meaning is synonymous with the use of escalada) (We also believe that when translating into Russian it is impossible to use the Russian analogue of “deescalation” as used mainly in the context of conflict situations).


Affixation is the most productive way of word-formation. The RAE corpus dictionary contains the term cuarentena, one of the meanings of which is the following definition: preventive isolation for sanitary reasons, subject to people or animals for a certain period [20]. This lexeme served as the basis for the formation of linguistic derivatives according to the productive model of verb formation using the Spanish verb suffix -ar (-ear) and formed the verb cuarentenar and its variant cuarenten(e)ar in the meaning of to be in quarantine. Neologisms with these suffixes are synthetic forms of verbs that replace traditional analytical constructions verb + noun. The RAE is considering the possibility of including new verbs in the dictionary, urging, nevertheless, to give preference to the analytical constructions poner/estar en cuarentena o pasar la cuarentena [29]. Some Latin American countries have created etymological doublets: thus, in Mexico, the verb encuarentenar is more common. It is formed using the prefix-suffix method (prefix en- and the suffix -ar). Thus, the lexeme cuarentena gave impetus to the formation of a derivation chain and also gave rise to controversy about the legality of using cuarentena to determine the isolation period, which is equal to 14 days (the etymology of the word is associated with the numeral cuarenta) (40). The Argentine’s newspaper La voz considers it possible to use the lexeme catorcena (derived from catorce: Debería ser catorcena [30]. The French media also consider it possible to form the neologism quatorzaine (quatorze-14) as a tracing of the lexeme quarantaine: À partir de mercredi, nous allons demander aux Français (..) qui rentrent en France de se soumettre à une quatorzaine [31]. However, the RAE dictionary does not specify its duration when defining the lexeme cuarentena [20], thus, such phrases are not paradoxical: Nos ordenaron guardar una estricta cuarentena de doce días. Both neologisms, Spanish and French, should be considered derivatives from the corresponding cardinal numbers formed with the productive suffix -ena (-aine). The above-mentioned formant –ear served as a basis for forming a verb from coronavirus: coronavirusear. The suffix -ico was used to create an adjective with the meaning of belonging: coronavírico. The analysis of material in French and a survey of informants did not allow to identify verbs formed from the mentioned nouns in French.


English as the modern ‘lingua franca’ has made it the source of borrowing for Spanish and French discourse. Some borrowings became a semantic tracing paper that does not involve translation, spelling, and phonetic adaptation; others received grammatical design using articles or inflections and assimilated the language’s grammatical categories. To define the concept of confinamiento, some media resort to borrowings from the English language, using the Anglicism lockdown, adapted to Spanish using the masculine article el: Los huéspedes no podrán salir a causa del lockdown.

The borrowing of super spreader (English: a person whose ability to transmit the virus is above average), also has several more preferred Spanish equivalents, and, according to our calculations, is used in discourse in an equivalent ratio: Se trata de un perfil que eleva la capacidad de la pandemia el “super spreader”.

Supercontagiador, supervector, superpropagador (approximate translation: superinfective, supervector, superdistributor) formed from the corresponding Spanish nouns with the prefix super- and can be considered neologisms semantically similar to English borrowings. En España, estos supercontagiadores podrían estar detrás de la mitad de todos los casos; un gurú del sijismo, fallecido por coronavirus y sospechoso de haber sido un ‘superpropagador’.

Our statistics states that French discourse demonstrates a preferred use of the Anglicism super spreader over French super contaminateur and super propagateur: Les super-spreaders du coronavirus: que faut-il savoir? The active use of the term cluster in the everyday discourse was also recorded, the anglicism was previously used only in medicine to refer to a group of people infected with the same disease or being in the outbreak of an epidemic: 39 clusters ont été recensés depuis le 11 mai [32]. The use of Anglicism cluster in this meaning in the Spanish discourse has not been recorded. It is used in Spanish to designate industrial groups or places of production: El apoyo a la creación de clusters forma parte de la estrategia europea. The media and social networks prefer to use the combination grupos de brotes (groups of outbreaks) to refer to infected groups.

Referring the verbal borrowings, we recorded the frequency use of the verb sanitizar, which is a tracing of the English verb sanitize with the Spanish grammatical design: Metro comenzó a sanitizar sus vagones. However, linguists and medical professionals consider this use to be excessive borrowing, as there are verbs with a similar meaning desinfectar, higienizar in Spanish, whose use is more recommended, Un programa de higienización debe establecer prioridades. We will note that out of 100 studied usages with the meaning “to undergo sanitization” in the discourse, we identified 68 usages of desinfectar, 28 — sanitizar and 4 — higienizar.

Word formation

In modern Spanish, word formation has become more active with the help of the so-called prepositive elements (prefixoids) ‘tele,’ ‘vídeo’, etc. RAE is currently considering the possibility of including the neologism videollamada (call with video) in its dictionary, thereby expanding the number of vocabulary units with the specified prefixoid, the lexeme videoconferencia already exists in the dictionary. See an example from a newspaper: Matrimonio por videollamada en tiempos de cuarentena. Before the time when the world shifted into the “video mode”, in media discourse this concept was conveyed through the adjective telemático, meaning communication with the help of video means: Encuentro telemáticо con los responsables de emergencias. The use of the lexeme teletrabajo has increased significantly. This lexeme is fixed in the DLE and teletrabajador(ra): a person who works utilizing telecommunications. The verb teletrabajar, formed from a noun, is absent in the dictionary, however, it is actively used in discourse: El reto de arañar metros cuadrados en casa para teletrabajar.

A similar semantic situation is observed in French discourse, where the prefixoid télé formes the verb-neologisms télésaluer (greet each other by video) or analytical constructions fairé des télépauses (make pauses by video), télédéconnecter (relax by video), téléfête (party by video), téléconvivialité (conviviality by video). We need to note that the Russian translation with the prefix tele is not successful because it shifts the emphasis to the concept of ‘television’, while we are talking about the use of telecommunication systems for work and leisure.

Telescoping or lexical contamination

We need to note that it is this way of word formation in the present historical cut that is the most effective way of replenishing the neological lexical corpus. During the study, about 50 telescopic neologisms were found. We urge that telescopic neologisms should be classified as stylistic neologisms because they are primarily expressive lexical units with a pronounced semantic-connotative meaning. In contrast, the new unit combines two forms and two initial meanings, which is especially essential for the formation of neologisms in which the doubling of meanings contributes to ensuring the semantic content of the term, while the specified semantic content should be transparent. These neologisms are a vivid example of a word-building game representing a synthesis of ordinary words with a possible combination of formally identical parts.


Compression is one of the types of telescopy. During the study, a significant replenishment of the vocabulary is carried out due to the implementation of the word-formation potential of abbreviations and the creation of abbreviated forms. The analysis showed that new definitions are most often represented by nouns formed by juxtaposing an abbreviation and another lexeme, while morphemes with similar sounds often overlap. There is no doubt that the abbreviation covid has become the most productive. With its help, the lexeme covidiota (covid + idiota) was formed, which is used both as a noun and as an adjective and means irresponsible behavior or its actor during the Сovid period: ceux qui sortent sont vite taxés d ‘être des covidiots et inconscient (French); La izquierda se ha convertido en Los Covidiotas (Spanish). We also recorded such examples as a divorce or a wedding during a pandemic: сovidivorcio, covidboda, and сovidartículos (goods), coviprecios (prices). In French social networks and the media, several neologism verbs like covider (covid+vider ( empty) with the meaning “to empty the stocks of alcohol” and covidéprimer (covid+déprimer) — “to experience depression” were noted.

Abbreviations from the names of social platforms and applications turned out to be quite productive, with the help of which some neologisms were created: le whatsapéro (a truncated colloquial form of the French lexeme apéritif), by analogy were formed le skypéro, le coronapéro, as well as some individual variants: le vodkafone, le whiskype. From the post in social networks: Skypéro, c’est un truc de Nordeste? Chez nous, on s’organise des coronapéros à distance, et ça marche quelle que soit la technologie utilisée.


Truncation can be called a different version of compression, namely creating shortened words of various structures, the so-called contractures, formed as a result of a special reduction of stem, derivatives, complex words and phrases. The neologism infodemia is Spanish and French grammatical adaptations from the English neologism infodemic, contractures of lexemes information, and epidemic. The lexeme is used in the context of redundant and not always truthful information related to a pandemic: Ahora padecemos de infodemia, una verdadera epidemia informativa de la pandemia. With the help of the truncation method, several words were formed from the first morpheme of the lexeme cuarentena (quarantine). As a result, neologisms cuarentrena from the verb entrenarto train — training at home during the quarantine period, cuarenpena (pena — grief, regret) — sadness and regret experienced by a person during the quarantine period were formed. Truncation of the stem of the French lexeme quarantaine (quarantine) + haine (hatred) formed the semantic neologism quaranthaine, the meaning of which is transparent. The corona stem from the complex two-segment lexeme coronavirus with the help of which the following neologisms were invented: coronacrisis; coronacoma, coronaburro (covidburro) (burro (donkey), the Spanish version of the lexeme covidiota.

We also quote a series of expressive compression words based on the modeling of the original lexeme сonfinamiento. This is how the neologism confitamiento and its derivative confitado appeared, formed by replacing the stem of confin- with the stem of confit from confiture (sweets) and its variant сochinamiento (from the Spanish cochino piglet) with the meaning “weight gain during isolation due to excessive appetite”. Users of French social networks have shown a high degree of creativity. They have created many copyright neologisms from the lexeme confinement. Thus, people who fear the disease began to be called hypoconfiniaс from the truncated form of the noun hypochondriac + the morpheme сonfIn: On en devient parvovirus, une maladie très répandue chez les hypoconfiniaques.

Social networks are flooded with phrases: en mi zoompleaños (at my zoomthday) (Zoom + truncated form from the Spanish noun сumpleaños o Rendez-vous au Zoombar. The neologism balconazi (balcon + nazi) appeared to indicate those who insult or report the police about people in the streets during isolation. This connotation is also conveyed by the Spanish neological phrase justiciero de balcón (balcony lawyer): El tío ejerce de policía desde su balcón, maldito balconazi. The verb médicâliner (the truncated stem of the lexeme médecin (doctor) + the verb câliner (to show affection): Applaudir les soignants le soir à 20 heures se dirait ‘médicâliner’. Some other examples could be mentioned here as individual neologisms with expressive coloration, formed with suffixation from the corresponding nouns denoting objects — sources of sound, to denote this action with their help: poubelliser (poubelle- trash can), casseroliser (casserolepan),vuvuzéliser (vuvuzela-football fans ): Un peu partout les voisins poubellisent, casserolisent, vuvuzélisent, selon l’instrument de musique (ou de torture) qui leur passe sous les mains, dans une coronaphonie proche du cacovirus, ou l’inverse, on ne sait plus trop. An example of a neological derivation contraction was the usage neologism lundimanche (lundi- Monday+ dimanche- Sunday), as users call an endless day that lasts during isolation, when there is no difference between Monday and other days: l’horloge semblent ne plus avoir aucun sens. La semaine ne comporte plus qu’un seul et même jour qui se répète en boucle, lundimanche.

Pragmatic intention of neologisms  and the defining role of the author’s principle.  Functions of “pandemic” neologisms

The motives that determined the appearance of the neologisms are not the same. Some lexemes appeared for objective reasons, dictated by the need to give a name to the new reality, where the nominative function of neology manifested itself. Other lexemes emerged according to the subjective reality, connected with the author’s individual desire to give a particular phenomenon an expressive coloring, to designate an extralinguistic situation within the author’s style that characterizes his vision of an already known fact or phenomenon. These neologisms attract attention by the unexpected combination of derivation elements. In the “pandemic” neologisms, the expressive and stylistic function of neology is well-manifested. Most likely, these stylistic neologisms will have a temporary character, will be the so-called meteoric words, and will fade with the pandemic as witnesses of a particular period. However, they will play an essential role as an indicator of the participants’ creative potential in the discursive process in a particular historical cut. Most of the linguistic units we have considered have expressive-evaluative properties and stylistic significance, which consists of their emotional and social coloring, which allows them to perform the function of emotional impact: they are discursive manifestations created under the influence of the context for the implementation of an actual communicative task, mainly to express the meaning, as well as expressive shade, often comic or ironic, necessary in this case. Thus, these neologisms acquire evaluative and socio-evaluative meaning, which is relevant in the current social-communicative situation. Note that Spanish and French speakers are generally characterized by an associative orientation in the perception of reality; these languages have retained mainly a connection with the specified-sensory perception of the world, where a metaphor is the primary means of mastering and explaining reality, not so much at the logical-conceptual level but the level of emotional acquiring of the picture of the world.

We state that the individual neologisms color the communicative register of social networks and everyday discourse with playful imagery, which, as we see it, has a positive therapeutic effect on the sick or fear-ridden human community, and here we can probably speak of the function of the therapeutic emotional impact of neologisms of comic semantics.

The neologisms presented here are ambiguous in their interpretation, and the issue remains open. They can be called lexemes-realities, or neologisms-realities, as they have served as a precise indicator of the reflections of changes in the human ecosystem and, at the same time, reflected the emotional state of native speakers and their lingua-cultural attitude to the period of the pandemic.


The neologisms that have appeared in the language can be considered a kind of revenge of the language over the disease, proving that the language continues to live and evolve, no matter what, to correspond to the historical context and the needs of society. Language again determines the rhythm of the whole world in crisis. It is the media and social networks that transform the individual’s neologisms into linguistic universals thanks to the possibilities of digital technologies. The society itself, which initiated the “uprising” of lexical units, actively perceives them in its linguistic consciousness, welcoming semantic and stylistic shifts, and redistribution of meanings. Simultaneously, as the analyzed material has shown, the linguistic norm in Spanish and French discourse does not conflict with the “disruptive” nature of linguistic innovations. Note that modern society is distinguished by a more significant word-creation potential and a desire to perceive and fix this vocabulary as a stable linguistic resource. All this creates a dynamic and natural picture of language and discourse development, with intensive neological processes taking place in them.

Changes in the lexical-semantic discourse are carried out by creating neologisms and occasionalism, which, along with borrowings, are productive means of replenishing its vocabulary. New linguistic “pandemic” units are fixed in the discursive space and are actively reproduced by native speakers. The predominant derivation models of wordformation are (in terms of significance): telescopy, compounding, abbreviation and abbreviated neologisms, affixation (first of all, prefix, then — suffix). Replenishment of the lexical field also occurs by adapting borrowings assimilated into the grammatical system or functioning in parallel with the national version of the concept definition. Among the mechanisms of semantic neology, metaphorization and metonymization are distinguished and a change in semantic volume (narrowing, expansion of meaning, semantic shift). It follows from the complex action of several trends in the language: the trend towards expressiveness and, at the same time, linguistic economy, which is a necessary condition for the functioning of the language. Modern neologisms perform the essential pragmatic functions, enhancing the emotional and modal interaction between the discourse actors.

The results of the research can be used to create practical courses that consider neological processes in the discourse of the media and social networks, translation courses in professional communication and also demonstrate a creative approach in language teaching, as motivational tools to increase the students’ interest. Neological processes demonstrate each language’s national and cultural originality, making it possible to consider the translator as an intermediary between languages and between cultures. Therefore, it is possible and necessary to teach a language not only as a new code, as a new way of expressing thoughts, but also as a source of information about the people’s national culture — the bearer of the target language.


About the authors

Ekaterina V. Zvereva

Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN university)

Author for correspondence.
ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2268-0580

PhD in Linguistics, Associate Professor at the Department of Foreign Languages in Law Institute

6, Miklukho-Maklaya str., Moscow, Russian Federation, 117198


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