Unhealthy COVID-19 Communication: A Morphosynctactic Analysis of German AfD Party’s Counter- discourse


According to a recent statistic, in Germany 56% of the electors of the right- wing populist political party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) believe in conspiracy theories (Roose, 2020). Moreover, with reference to COVID-19, 25% of the German adult population think that Bill Gates is more powerful than the government in Germany (Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung, 2020). Against this background, it does not come as a surprise that the health discourse has been strongly politicized by the AfD party, whose electors are – in a good number – prone to welcome pseudoscientific health information and to oppose all measures which have been taken to stop the COVID-19 pandemic. This contribution investigates to what extent AfD’s COVID-19 communication exhibits conspiratorial or misinformative traits and how morphologic and syntactic mechanisms are used to deliver health counter-discourse. The analysis will be carried out on a corpus of official parliamentary speeches given by AfD parliamentarians in the period from March 2020 to April 2021 and on a corpus of Facebook posts which appeared in the AfD’s profile in the same time span. This makes it possible to draw a diamesic comparison between two different communication channels used by the AfD. It will be shown that the morphological analysis is particularly insightful to explore hostile counter-discourse. The possibilities offered by German affixation and compounding are explored also in a comparative perspective. Moreover, syntactic aspects such as personal deixis, the use of moods and deontic modality, as well as clausal linking will be examined to understand how syntactic mechanisms have been used to deliver pseudo factual narratives and oppose official health discourse.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v47p259

Keywords: COVID-19 communication; AfD; counter-discourse; morphology; syntax


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