Volume 29, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1384-6655
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9811
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes



The present study is a corpus-based discourse analysis of the metaphorical framing of Covid-19 in American political discourse. Drawing on data from a corpus of the White House briefings and statements, the study investigates the corpus profile of and and illustrates how the Coronavirus is primarily represented as an enemy to go to war with, rather than a public health crisis to control and mitigate. The study further situates the militaristic framing of Covid-19 within the theoretical framework of moral panic and examines the discursive features that ultimately bridge the metaphorical representation of the pandemic and the construction of moral panic. The study points to nuanced discourse strategies used in the White House press briefings that reconstruct the enemy and regroup the Coronavirus with other so-called enemies of the United States, such as the Communists, as well as the Islamic radicals and the Latin gangs and cartels.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Anthony, L.
    (2018) AntConc (Version 3.4.4) [Computer software]. Waseda University. https://www.laurenceanthony.net/software
    [Google Scholar]
  2. Baehr, P.
    (2006) Susan Sontag, battle language and the Hong Kong SARS outbreak of 2003. Economy and Society, 35(1), 42–64. 10.1080/03085140500465840
    https://doi.org/10.1080/03085140500465840 [Google Scholar]
  3. Baker, P.
    (2012) Acceptable bias? Using corpus linguistics methods with critical discourse analysis. Critical Discourse Studies, 9(3), 247–256. 10.1080/17405904.2012.688297
    https://doi.org/10.1080/17405904.2012.688297 [Google Scholar]
  4. Baker, J. P., & Levon, E.
    (2016) ‘That’s what I call a man’: Representations of racialised and classed masculinities in the UK print media. Gender and Language, 10(1), 106–139. 10.1558/genl.v10i1.25401
    https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.v10i1.25401 [Google Scholar]
  5. Beinart, P.
    (2014, May22). The myth of a war on religion. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/05/the-myth-of-a-war-on-religion/371438
    [Google Scholar]
  6. Boers, F., & Demecheleer, M.
    (1997) A few metaphorical models in (western) economic discourse. InW. Liebert, G. Refeker, & L. Waugh (Eds.), Discourse and Perspective in Cognitive Linguistics (pp.115–130). John Benjamins. 10.1075/cilt.151.10boe
    https://doi.org/10.1075/cilt.151.10boe [Google Scholar]
  7. Bonn, S. A.
    (2010) Mass Deception: Moral Panic and the US War on Iraq. Rutgers University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  8. Brouwer, J., Van der Woude, M., & Van der Leun, J.
    (2017) Framing migration and the process of crimmigration: A systematic analysis of the media representation of unauthorized immigrants in the Netherlands. European Journal of Criminology, 14(1), 100–119. 10.1177/1477370816640136
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1477370816640136 [Google Scholar]
  9. Cameron, L.
    (2008) Metaphor and talk. InR. W. Gibbs (Ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of Metaphor and Thought (pp.197–212). Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9780511816802.013
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511816802.013 [Google Scholar]
  10. Cameron, L., Mslen, R., Todd, Z., Maule, J., Stratton, P., & Stanley, N.
    (2009) The discourse dynamics approach to metaphor and metaphor-led discourse analysis. Metaphor and Symbol, 24(2), 63–89. 10.1080/10926480902830821
    https://doi.org/10.1080/10926480902830821 [Google Scholar]
  11. Charteris-Black, J.
    (2004) Corpus Approaches to Critical Metaphor Analysis. Palgrave MacMillan. 10.1057/9780230000612
    https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230000612 [Google Scholar]
  12. (2021) Metaphors of Coronavirus: Invisible Enemy or Zombie Apocalypse?Palgrave MacMillan. 10.1007/978‑3‑030‑85106‑4
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-85106-4 [Google Scholar]
  13. Cohen, S.
    (2002) Folk Devils and Moral Panics: The Creation of the Mods and Rockers (3rd ed.). Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. Deignan, A.
    (2008) Corpus linguistics and metaphor. InR. W. Gibbs (Ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of Metaphor and Thought (pp.280–295). Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9780511816802.018
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511816802.018 [Google Scholar]
  15. Gotsbachner, E.
    (2001) Xenophobic normality: The discriminatory impact of habitualized discourse dynamics. Discourse and Society, 12(6), 729–759. 10.1177/0957926501012006002
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0957926501012006002 [Google Scholar]
  16. Ferrari, F.
    (2007) Metaphor at work in the analysis of political discourse: Investigating a preventive war persuasion strategy. Discourse and Society, 18(5), 603–625. 10.1177/0957926507079737
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0957926507079737 [Google Scholar]
  17. Flusberg, S. J., Matlock, T., & Thibodeau, P. H.
    (2018) War metaphors in public discourse. Metaphor and Symbol, 33(1), 1–18. 10.1080/10926488.2018.1407992
    https://doi.org/10.1080/10926488.2018.1407992 [Google Scholar]
  18. Hanne, M.
    (2022) How we escape capture by the “war” metaphor for Covid-19. Metaphor and Symbol, 37(2), 88–100. 10.1080/10926488.2021.1935261
    https://doi.org/10.1080/10926488.2021.1935261 [Google Scholar]
  19. Hauser, D. J., & Schwarz, N.
    (2015) The war on prevention: Bellicose cancer metaphors hurt (some) prevention intentions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 41(1), 66–77. 10.1177/0146167214557006
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167214557006 [Google Scholar]
  20. Hier, S. P.
    (2008) Thinking beyond moral panic: Risk, responsibility, and the politics of moralization. Theoretical Criminology, 12(2), 173–190. 10.1177/1362480608089239
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1362480608089239 [Google Scholar]
  21. Hinton, E.
    (2016) From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America. Harvard University Press. 10.4159/9780674969223
    https://doi.org/10.4159/9780674969223 [Google Scholar]
  22. Howe, N.
    (1988) Metaphor in contemporary American political discourse. Metaphor and Symbol, 3(2), 87–104. 10.1207/s15327868ms0302_2
    https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327868ms0302_2 [Google Scholar]
  23. Ibrahim, Y.
    (2007) SARS and the rhetoric of war in Singapore. Crossroads: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 18(2), 90–119.
    [Google Scholar]
  24. Khan, A.
    (2022) Identity as crime: How Indian mainstream media’s coverage demonized Muslims as coronavirus spreaders. InA. Musolff, R. Breeze, K. Kondo, & S. Vilar-Lluch (Eds.) Pandemic and Crisis Discourse: Communicating COVID-19 and Public Health Strategy (pp.355–374). Bloomsbury. 10.5040/9781350232730.ch‑020
    https://doi.org/10.5040/9781350232730.ch-020 [Google Scholar]
  25. Kilgarriff, A., Baisa, V., Bušta, J., Jakubíček, M., Kovář, V., Michelfeit, J., Rychlý, P., & Suchomel, V.
    (2014) The Sketch Engine: Ten years on. Lexicography, 11, 7–36. 10.1007/s40607‑014‑0009‑9
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s40607-014-0009-9 [Google Scholar]
  26. Kirmayer, L. J.
    (1988) Mind and body as metaphors: Hidden values in biomedicine. InM. Lock, & D. Gordon (Eds.), Biomedicine Examined: Culture, Illness and Healing (pp.57–93). Springer. 10.1007/978‑94‑009‑2725‑4_4
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-009-2725-4_4 [Google Scholar]
  27. Lakoff, G.
    (1991) Metaphor and war: The metaphor system used to justify war in the Gulf. Peace Research, 23(2/3), 25–32.
    [Google Scholar]
  28. (1993) The contemporary theory of metaphor. InA. Ortony (Ed.), Metaphor and Thought (pp.202–251). Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9781139173865.013
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139173865.013 [Google Scholar]
  29. Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M.
    (1980) Metaphors we Live by. University of Chicago Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  30. Loseke, D.
    (2009) Examining emotion as discourse: Emotion codes and presidential speeches justifying war. The Sociological Quarterly, 50(3), 497–524. 10.1111/j.1533‑8525.2009.01150.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1533-8525.2009.01150.x [Google Scholar]
  31. McEnery, T.
    (2006) Swearing in English: Bad language, Purity and Power from 1586 to the Present. Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  32. Mohammadi, A. N.
    (2019) Meaning potentials and discourse markers: The case of focus management markers in Persian. Lingua, 2291, 102706. 10.1016/j.lingua.2019.06.007
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lingua.2019.06.007 [Google Scholar]
  33. Nie, J. B., Gilbertson, A., de Roubaix, M., Staunton, C., van Niekerk, A., Tucker, J. D., & Rennie, S.
    (2016) Healing without waging war: Beyond military metaphors in medicine and HIV cure research. The American Journal of Bioethics, 16(10), 3–11. 10.1080/15265161.2016.1214305
    https://doi.org/10.1080/15265161.2016.1214305 [Google Scholar]
  34. Olza, I., Koller, V., Ibarretxe-Antuñano, I., Pérez-Sobrino, P., & Semino, E.
    (2021) The #ReframeCovid initiative: From Twitter to society via metaphor. Metaphor and the Social World, 11(1), 98–120. 10.1075/msw.00013.olz
    https://doi.org/10.1075/msw.00013.olz [Google Scholar]
  35. Papamanoli, A. A., & Kaniklidou, T.
    (2022) Covid-19 representations in political statements: A corpus-based analysis. InA. Musolff, R. Breeze, K. Kondo, & S. Vilar-Lluch (Eds.), Pandemic and Crisis Discourse: Communicating COVID-19 and Public Health Strategy (pp.47–60). Bloomsbury. 10.5040/9781350232730.ch‑003
    https://doi.org/10.5040/9781350232730.ch-003 [Google Scholar]
  36. Parsi, K.
    (2016) War metaphors in health care: What are they good for?The American Journal of Bioethics, 16(10), 1–2. 10.1080/15265161.2016.1221245
    https://doi.org/10.1080/15265161.2016.1221245 [Google Scholar]
  37. Partington, A.
    (2003) The Linguistics of Political Argument: The Spin-Doctor and the Wolf-Pack at the White House. Routledge. 10.4324/9780203218259
    https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203218259 [Google Scholar]
  38. Payan, T., Staudt, K., & Kruszewski, Z. A.
    (2013) A War that Can’t be Won: Binational Perspectives on the War on Drugs. University of Arizona Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  39. Pelosi, N.
    (2021, September6). A war on women’s right. Pelosi Update. https://pelosi.house.gov/media-center/pelosi-updates/a-war-on-women-s-rights
    [Google Scholar]
  40. Rettig, R. A.
    (2005) Cancer Crusade: The Story of the National Cancer Act of 1971. iUniverse.
    [Google Scholar]
  41. Reyes, A.
    (2011) Strategies of legitimization in political discourse: From words to actions. Discourse and Society, 22(6), 781–807. 10.1177/0957926511419927
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0957926511419927 [Google Scholar]
  42. Segal, J. Z.
    (1997) Public discourse and public policy: Some ways that metaphor constrains health (care). Journal of Medical Humanities, 18(4), 217–231. 10.1023/A:1025645904106
    https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1025645904106 [Google Scholar]
  43. Šeškauskienė, I., & Urbonaitė, J.
    (2007) Health metaphor in political and economic discourse: A cross linguistic analysis. Kalbų studijos, 111, 68–73.
    [Google Scholar]
  44. Sevier, H.
    (2019) Articulating Aliens: Discursive Crossover and the Figure of the Migrant [Doctoral dissertation, University of Hawai’i at Manoa]. Scholar Space. https://scholarspace.manoa.hawaii.edu/items/13f2c75c-f1a2-4099-b7fa-2340329534cd
    [Google Scholar]
  45. Semino, E., Demjén, Z., Hardie, A., Payne, S., & Rayson, P.
    (2018) Metaphor, Cancer and the End of Life: A Corpus-Based Study. Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  46. Silaški, N., & Đurović, T.
    (2022) From an invisible enemy to a football match with the virus: Adjusting the Covid-19 pandemic metaphors to political agendas in Serbian public discourse. InA. Musolff, R. Breeze, K. Kondo, & S. Vilar-Lluch (Eds.), Pandemic and Crisis Discourse: Communicating COVID-19 and Public Health Strategy (pp.271–284). Bloomsbury. 10.5040/9781350232730.ch‑015
    https://doi.org/10.5040/9781350232730.ch-015 [Google Scholar]
  47. Sketch Engine
    Sketch Engine. (n.d.). Thesaurus – synonyms, antonyms and similar. https://www.sketchengine.eu/guide/thesaurus-synonyms-antonyms-similar-words/
    [Google Scholar]
  48. Taylor, C.
    (2014) Investigating the representation of migrants in the UK and Italian press: A cross-linguistic corpus-assisted discourse analysis. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics, 19(3), 368–400. 10.1075/ijcl.19.3.03tay
    https://doi.org/10.1075/ijcl.19.3.03tay [Google Scholar]
  49. Van Dijk, T. A.
    (2005) War rhetoric of a little ally: Political implicatures and Aznar’s legitimatization of the war in Iraq. Journal of Language and Politics, 4(1), 65–91. 10.1075/jlp.4.1.04dij
    https://doi.org/10.1075/jlp.4.1.04dij [Google Scholar]
  50. (2006a) Ideology and discourse analysis. Journal of Political Ideologies, 11(2), 115–140. 10.1080/13569310600687908
    https://doi.org/10.1080/13569310600687908 [Google Scholar]
  51. (2006b) Discourse and manipulation. Discourse and Society, 17(3), 359–383. 10.1177/0957926506060250
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0957926506060250 [Google Scholar]
  52. Wallis, P., & Nerlich, B.
    (2005) Disease metaphors in new epidemics: The UK media framing of the 2003 SARS epidemic. Social Science & Medicine, 60(11), 2629–2639. 10.1016/j.socscimed.2004.11.031
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2004.11.031 [Google Scholar]
  53. Wang, P., & Catalano, T.
    (2022) Social media, right-wing populism, and Covid-19: A multimodal critical discourse analysis of reactions to the ‘Chinese virus’ discourse. InA. Musolff, R. Breeze, K. Kondo, & S. Vilar-Lluch (Eds.), Pandemic and Crisis Discourse: Communicating COVID-19 and Public Health Strategy (pp.323–338). Bloomsbury. 10.5040/9781350232730.ch‑018
    https://doi.org/10.5040/9781350232730.ch-018 [Google Scholar]
  54. Welch, M., Price, E. A., & Yankey, N.
    (2002) Moral panic over youth violence: Wilding and the manufacture of menace in the media. Youth and Society, 34(1), 3–30. 10.1177/0044118X02034001001
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0044118X02034001001 [Google Scholar]
  55. Yu, Y.
    (2022) Legitimizing a global fight for a shared future: A critical metaphor analysis of the reportage of Covid-19 in China Daily. InA. Musolff, R. Breeze, K. Kondo, & S. Vilar-Lluch (Eds.), Pandemic and Crisis Discourse: Communicating COVID-19 and Public Health Strategy (pp.241–254). Bloomsbury. 10.5040/9781350232730.ch‑013
    https://doi.org/10.5040/9781350232730.ch-013 [Google Scholar]
  56. Zottola, A.
    (2018) Transgender identity labels in the British press: A corpus-based discourse analysis. Journal of Language and Sexuality, 7(2), 237–262. 10.1075/jls.17017.zot
    https://doi.org/10.1075/jls.17017.zot [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error