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Pragmatic impairment and COVID-19

Authors
  • Cummings, Louise
Type
Published Article
Journal
Intercultural Pragmatics
Publisher
De Gruyter
Publication Date
May 11, 2022
Volume
19
Issue
3
Pages
271–297
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1515/ip-2022-3001
Source
De Gruyter
Keywords
Disciplines
License
Green

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic is the greatest global health threat in over 100 years. Its impact is seen in large numbers of premature deaths and the loss of economic stability for many millions of people. A significant number of people who contract the SARS-CoV-2 virus – the virus that causes COVID disease – experience symptoms many months after their acute illness. So-called Long COVID is now a recognized condition, with many affected individuals unable to return to work and engage in other daily activities. Among the complex symptoms of this condition is “brain fog”, a constellation of cognitive-linguistic problems that manifest as forgetfulness, word-finding difficulty, a lack of attention and concentration, and problems engaging in conversation. In this paper, I examine two women who had moderate COVID-19 infection during the first wave of the pandemic in Belgium and the UK. Both participants reported cognitive-linguistic difficulties several months after first becoming unwell. The UK participant is a native English speaker while the participant in Belgium speaks English as a second language. Case studies are used to examine their pre-morbid functioning and lifestyle, the onset and course of their COVID illness, and its impact on their language skills. It is argued that Long COVID has the potential to disrupt pragmatic and discourse skills even as structural language skills are intact. As such, this condition requires further systematic study by clinical linguists and speech-language pathologists.

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