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Flouting the Truth: A Pragmatic Study of Conspiracy Beliefs at the Time of COVID-19

Gaetano Falco



Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in December 2019, a multitude of conspiracy theories have started floating around which ascribe the origins of the virus to a range of causes. Against this backdrop, the chapter aims at demonstrating how conspiracy beliefs are linguistically created in news and social media. For this purpose, adopting an approach which combines Grice’s Cooperative Maxims with the principles of Cognitive Linguistics, our study delves into a set of documents available on free online fact-checking organizations as well as Tweets, Facebook posts and speeches released by influential voices and ordinary people. The research demonstrates how unconventional metaphors and metonymies, unexpected syntactic patterns and dispreferred windowing of attention, as well as other linguistic devices, contribute to flouting or violating the Maxims of Quantity, Quality, Relevance and Manner (Grice 1975; 1989) thus constructing false claims and mis-/dis-information.


Cognitive Linguistics; conspiracy theories; COVID-19; Grice’s Cooperative Principle; social media

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/lcm-2023-002-falg

Copyright (©) 2023 Gaetano Falco – Editorial format and Graphical layout: copyright (©) LED Edizioni Universitarie

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