How the language we speak determines the transmission of COVID-19

Georgios P. Georgiou, Chris Georgiou, Ahmad Kilani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Little body of research has focused on the epidemic transmissibility and language interface. Aims: In this paper, we aim to investigate whether (i) the feature of aspiration found in the phonological inventory of several languages and (ii) the frequency of occurrence of stop consonants are associated with the transmission of COVID-19 among humans. Methods: The study’s protocol was based on a corpus of countries infected by COVID-19 and of which the linguistic repertoire includes a widely spoken language in individuals’ everyday communication. We tested whether languages with and without aspiration differ in terms of COVID-19 reproduction number, and whether the frequency of occurrence of stop consonants in several languages correlates with the virus reproduction number. Results: The results demonstrated no significant effect of aspiration on the transmission of the virus, while a positive correlation between the frequency of occurrence and transmissibility was observed only for the consonant /p/; this might suggest that languages that use /p/ more frequently might spread the virus more easily. Conclusions: The findings of this study can offer a tentative picture of how speaking specific sounds can be associated with COVID-19 transmissibility.

Original languageEnglish
JournalIrish Journal of Medical Science
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • Aspiration
  • Consonants
  • COVID-19
  • Transmission

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