Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Second Department

Hispanic Studies

Reader 1

Carmen Fought, Ph.D.

Reader 2

David Divita, Ph.D.

Reader 3

Marina Pérez de Mendiola, Ph.D.

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Rights Information

© 2023 Katalina R Peterson


Communication inequities are known to negatively impact people from socioeconomically and linguistically disadvantaged backgrounds during public health crises (Gomez-Aguinaga et al., 2021). In the United States, Hispanics—especially those who speak Spanish—have been among the communities most disproportionately affected by COVID-19 (National Center for Health Statistics, 2022). The pandemic has underscored the importance of understanding the linguistic and discursive strategies implemented by institutions entrusted with disseminating public health information to reach diverse audiences, especially the most vulnerable. This paper analyzes the linguistic practices used to create public service announcements (PSA) produced in English and Spanish by health agencies at both the federal and local levels during the COVID-19 pandemic. Using mixed methods—including quantitative corpus analysis and qualitative discourse analysis—I examine how public health institutions produce media that engages with the perceived sociocultural contexts surrounding intended audiences. By identifying linguistic trends from a corpus of PSAs produced by government-organizations surrounding COVID-19 vaccine efforts, this discourse analysis shines light on powerful but subtle ideologies about communities of language speakers. Despite the assumption of direct translation between languages, my analysis shows there is indeed a difference between messaging in comparable government-sponsored COVID-19 PSAs in English and Spanish. Generally, PSAs in Spanish at the federal level employ familiarity, collectivism, and community-specific language more than comparable PSAs in English. This could suggest beliefs about Spanish-speakers in the United States as being more collectively-motivated than individually-motivated. This linguistic analysis has the potential to elucidate the kinds of language strategies that make public health PSAs most effective for different audiences, or to suggest how the current strategies employed by public health agencies could be better suited for culturally diverse audiences.