Spreading Like a Virus: Conceptual Integration and Discourse Viewpoint in Internet Memes about the Covid-19 Pandemic

Adi Maslo, Sofia Kefalidou


This paper analyzes internet memes pertaining to Covid-19. We analyzed more than 200 memes over nine months. By utilizing Blending Theory and Discourse Viewpoint, we attempt to explain the creative inner workings of memes as well as how meaning is negotiated on the internet. We were clearly able to detect memes synchronously following the actual development of Covid-19. We show that meme makers use visuals metonymically to address the current state of Covid-19 while the overall message of memes is driven by simile. As much as memes draw on the concept of Covid-19, they also feed back to it in a loop of self-reference. Along with their underlying metaphoric nature, memes convey a feels-like attitude with two main phases emerging from their usage, i.e., the Observer Phase and the Experiencer Phase. The former showed memes at a stage where Covid-19 was not yet a pandemic (but perceived through media coverage from elsewhere) while the latter, the Experiencer Phase, clearly showed that meme creators had experienced the virus themselves. As for the timeframe covered, however, we conclude that memes do not show full conceptual integration as Covid-19 was not yet fully entrenched.


Covid-19; conceptual integration; discourse viewpoint; memes; cognitive linguistics

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.51558/2490-3647.2023.8.3.231


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