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Visiting Professor to study COVID through language

Published:10 May 2022

Professor Heronides Moura

Brazilian Professor Heronides Moura is on visiting fellowship with CQUniversity’s Centre for Indigenous Health Equity Research (CIHER) in Cairns, where he will study how COVID through language intermingles with the wellness of vulnerable populations.

Dr Moura is from the Federal University of Santa Catarina and joins a group of other language experts at CIHER including Adjunct Professor and highly regarded linguist, Alexandra Aikhenvald (also known as Sasha).

“My project aims to describe metaphors used to depict COVID-19 viruses,” Dr Moura explained.

“My corpus is formed by metaphors collected in Brazilian newspapers. I intend to show that these metaphors are rooted in a social perception of the pandemic as temporally unbounded and of the virus as an intentional agent,” he said.

The research is founded in the assumption that human cognition is not restricted to ‘in the head’ representations, but it also expands into language and social contexts.

“In this sense, language itself is also part of the cognitive and social content,” Dr Moura said.

“Another important aspect of this research is that a better understanding of the metaphors about the coronavirus may enlighten how the pandemic affects the well-being of a population.

“Metaphors are a window to social perceptions and to better understanding of what they reveal is an important initial step to address the dramatic effects of COVID-19 on vulnerable communities.”

Dr Moura said he would discuss his research with the CIHER team, in order to better understand how the use of language intermingles with the wellness of vulnerable populations.

“I intend to share my expertise on the study of figurative language, particularly when it is used to express the fears and anguish associated with the COVID pandemic.

“Another expected outcome of my appointment is to compare the Brazilian reactions to COVID, expressed through the metaphors collected and studied in my research, with the reactions to COVID inside the Indigenous communities studied by CIHERs research groups,” he said.

“An interdisciplinary approach to this problem (the emotional response to the pandemic) would be very interesting to my research and, I hope, to all the communities involved.”

The substantive contributions of the research are expected to lead to academic publications.

Dr Moura’s visiting fellowship appointment with CQUniversity will run until September 2022.