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Intercultural Communication Studies XIV: 2 2005

Hoffer - Language Borrowing

Language Borrowing and the Indices of Adaptability and Receptivity Bates L. Hoffer Trinity University Introduction One of the most easily observable results of intercultural contact and communication is the set of loanwords that is imported into the vocabulary of each language involved. The field of cultures and languages in contact (Weinreich 1953) has grown a great deal over the past fifty years. From the early studies, a 'Scale' or 'Index of Receptivity' has been posited for languages which more readily accept borrowings. Alongside that scale, a 'Scale of Adaptability' has been posited. The study of a language's adaptability and receptivity of borrowed words, especially those from International English, provides some interesting case studies. Major languages such as English, Spanish, Japanese and Chinese make good case studies for the discussion of the indices of adaptability and receptivity. Language Borrowing Processes Language borrowing has been an interest to various fields of linguistics for some time. (Whitney 1875, deSaussure 1915, Sapir 1921, Pedersen 1931, Haugen 1950, Lehmann 1962, Hockett 1979, Anttila 1989) In the study language borrowing, loanwords are only one of the types of borrowings that occur across language boundaries. The speakers of a language have various options when confronted with new items and ideas in another language. Hockett (1958) has organized the options as follows. (1) Loanword Speakers may adopt the item or idea and the source language word for each. The borrowed form is a Loanword. These forms now function in the usual grammatical processes, with nouns taking plural and/or possessive forms of the new language and with verbs and adjectives receiving native morphemes as well. (2) Loanshift Another process that occurs is that of adapting native words to the new meanings. A good example from the early Christian era in England is Easter, which had earlier been used for a pagan dawn goddess festival. Other Loanshifts in English include God, heaven, and hell. (3) Loan-translation A Loan-translation or Calque occurs when the native language uses an item-for-item native version of the original. "Loanword" itself is a loan-translation of the German lehnwort, marriage of convenience is from the French, and long time no see is a somewhat altered version from the Chinese. An example from the earliest Christian era is gospel, from good (good) and spella (story; book). The Latin source was related to evangelist (from good plus message plus the ending -ist for person). Good Book and Holy Writ and so on can be seen as loan-translations of the native form godspella or "gospel". 53

Intercultural Communication Studies XIV: 2 2005

Hoffer - Language Borrowing

(4) Loan-blend A Loan-blend is a form in which one element is a loanword and the other is a native element, as in the borrowed preost (priest) plus the native -had (hood) in Old English to produce preosthad (priesthood). Each of these four categories is relevant to the overall study of the scale of receptivity, but for the purposes below only the loanword category is relevant. Loanwords in Language Histories This major section provides an introduction to the study of language borrowings, beginning with a first section giving a brief history of borrowings into the English language. (Whitney 1875, Jespersen 1946, Anttila 1989, Crystal 1995). The following subsections present brief histories of the borrowing history of Spanish, Japanese, and Chinese. The History of English and American English English is one of the world's most prominent languages. Its history is interesting for many reasons, including its flexibility in borrowing from other languages, a flexibility that has enriched its vocabulary over the centuries. Many studies have been done of these foreign elements in English. Jespersen's book (Jespersen 1946) on the history and development of English...
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