[Lingtyp] coronavirus and Zipf

tangzhengda tangzhengda at 126.com
Sat May 2 15:41:02 UTC 2020

In Chinese, the counterpart is 'xin-guan (new-crown)', abreviated from the full form of 'xin-xing guan-zhuang (bingdu)' (new-type crown-shape (virus)) and used as a modifier either to bingdu (the virus) or directly to feiyan (the pneumonia, lit. lung-inflammation) caused by the infection of the virus. Ocassionally, xin-guan is used directly as the virus or even more rarely, as the pneumonia. 

Bridled by the disyllabic constraint, two syllables are expected to be selected from the four: xin-xing guan-zhuang; Finally xin-guan wins, for they are probably most 'informative' and indicative of the full form. 

By the optimal manner of discussion, Professor Danqing LIU had published an article and successfully predicted and advocated the unified use of xin-guan during the period of mixed use of other candidates, such as xin-xing, guan-zhuang, etc.  

Interestingly, xin-guan may not be able to invoke the meaning or the image of 'a crown', of which the lexical counterpart is the disyllabic huang-guan or wang-guan (emperor- or king-crown). It is because the monosyllableguan ceases to go into the lexicon.   One of the results is that quite a number of people mispronounce xin55-guan55 as xin55-guan51, since the latter morpheme, meaning 'championship, top', is more frequently employed for lexicalization. 

Jeremy Tang

Institute of Linguistics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences,
No.5 Jianguomennei Dajie, Beijing, China; 100732

At 2020-05-02 18:47:03, "Natalia Levshina" <natalevs at gmail.com> wrote:

Dear colleagues,

I'm writing an informal blog post about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on language, with a focus on Zipf's correlation between frequency and word/expression length. For example, the clipping corona (from coronavirus) is becoming increasingly popular in English: https://public.oed.com/blog/corpus-analysis-of-the-language-of-covid-19/ 
I also have some data from Dutch, German, Russian and Polish. I'm wondering how other languages behave in that respect. In particular,

1) Is there a shorter form for coronavirus, like corona? Can it only refer to the virus, or also to the pandemic and the disease?
2) If there is such a form, is it used widely or occasionally (e.g. humorously/creatively/in quotes)? For example, in Russian koronavirus is the preferred form because korona means 'a crown'. There's an untranslatable Russian joke, Prince Charles finally got a crown (korona), but it was the wrong one.
3) Is there a popular everyday (i.e. non-astronomic) meaning of the word that corresponds to corona in that language (e.g. a crown, like in Russian)?

4) Also, are there any other abbreviations or substitutions (e.g. the use of a shorter formally unrelated word, like car instead of automobile) related to the pandemic you have observed? 

I promise to post a summary if I get enough interesting data.

Many thanks and stay corona(virus)-free!

Natalia Levshina


Natalia Levshina
Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics

Wundtlaan 1, 6525 XD Nijmegen
The Netherlands

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