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Barbarisms and foreignisms


In the vocabulary of any language there is a considerable layer of words called barbarisms. These are words of foreign origin which have not entirely been assimilated into the language. They bear the appearance of a borrowing and are felt as something alien to the native tongue. The borrowings played an important role in the development of the literary language, and the great majority of these borrowed words have formed part of the rank and file of the vocabulary. Most of what were formerly foreign borrowings are now, from a purely stylistic position, not regarded as foreign, for example Ukrainian words факультет, стимул, процес, ситуація, флейта. But still there are some words which retain their foreign appearance to a greater or lesser degree. These words, which are called barbarisms, are, like archaisms, also considered to be on the outskirts of the literary language. Most of them have corresponding synonyms in target language; e. g. chic, bon mot, en passant, ad infinitum, alma mater, happy end, tete-a-tete and many other words and phrases.

It is very important for purely stylistic purposes to distinguish between barbarisms and foreign words proper. Barbarisms are words which have already become facts of the language, though they remain on the outskirts of the literary vocabulary. Foreign words, though used for certain stylistic purposes, do not belong to the vocabulary of the target language. They are not registered by dictionaries, except in a kind of addenda which gives the meanings of the most frequently used foreign words.

Both foreign words and barbarisms are widely used in various styles of language with various aims, which predetermine their typical functions. One of these functions is to supply local colour. They are introduced into the text in order to depict local conditions of life, facts and events, customs and habits.


Сонце щедро сипало тепло на джайляу , ласкаво усміхалося аулу... (О. Десняк).

Another function of barbarisms and foreign words is to build up the stylistic device of non-personal direct speech or represented speech. The use of a word, or a phrase, or a sentence in the reported speech of a local inhabitant helps to reproduce his actual words, manner of speech and the environment as well. Thus in James Aldridge's The Sea Eagle – "And the Cretans were very willing to feed and hide the Inglis?', the last word is intended to reproduce the actual speech of the local people by introducing a word actually spoken by them, a word which is very easily understood because of the root.

In the belles-lettres style, however, foreignisms are sometimes used as separate units incorporated in the narrative. The author makes his character actually speak a foreign language, by putting a string of foreign words into his mouth. These phrases or whole sentences are sometimes translated by the writer in a foot-note or the foreign utterance is explained in the text. But this is seldom done.

Here are examples:


Revelation was alighting like a bird in his heart, singing: "Elle est ton rêve! Elle est ton rêve!" (J. Galsworthy).


Скресались коні. Бій кипить довкола.

Горить землі прострелений квадрат.

Впав індіанець. Раптом :«Хау кола!»

А це по-індіанськи: «Здрастуй брат» (Л. Костенко).


Хай спів твій буде запахуще миро

В пиру життя, та сам ти скромно стій

І знай одно – poeta semper tiro![1] (І. Франко).


Foreign words and phrases may sometimes be used to exalt the expression of the idea, to elevate the language. This is in some respect akin to the function of elevation mentioned in the chapter on archaisms. Words which we do not quite understand sometimes have a peculiar charm. This magic quality in words, a quality not easily grasped, has long been observed and made use of in various kinds of utterances, particularly in poetry and folklore. The tendency to create the elevated atmosphere of the text using foreign elements is characteristic for different languages. In English this function is performed by French words, in Ukrainian – by the words from Old Slavonic which still constitute the majority of religious texts. The following example of T. Shevchenko’s poem is the bright example of the above mentioned statement:


Все упованіє моє

На тебе, мій пресвітлий раю,

На милосердіє твоє, все упованіє моє

На тебе, мати, возлагаю.

Святая сило всіх святих,

Пренепорочная, благая!

Молюся, плачу і ридаю

Воззри, пречистая, на їх,

Отих окрадених, сліпих

Невільників. Подай їм силу

Твойого мученика сина,

Щоб хрест-кайдани донести

До самого, самого краю (Т. Шевченко).

In publicistic and belle-lettres styles foreignisms and barbarisms are used in their direct or indirect, figurative meaning and become the bearer of imagery information of the text.


О, як було нам весело, як весело!

Жили ми на горищах і терасах.

Усе махало крилами і веслами,

і кози скубли сіно на баркасах.

І на човнах залитими кварталами,

коли ми поверталися зі школи,

дзвеніли сміхом, сонцем і гітарами

балкончиків причалені гондоли (Л. Костенко).


Very often the mixture of native and foreign words in one and the same text (so called macaronic language) is the efficient way to create the image of the character, to describe him/her through his/her speech or to reflect the author’s attitude towards the situation described, like in the following Lina Kostenko ‘s poem where the Russian words and allusions on Pushkin’s poem To the poet are artfully interwoven into the Ukrainian text:


Мимовільний парафраз

Поет, не дорожи любовію народной,

Бо не народ дає тобі чини.

Кому потрібен дар твій благородний?

На всякій случай оду сочини.

Пиши про честь і совість, а при етом

Вмочи своє перо у каламуть.

Ну, словом, так. Поет не будь поетом.

Тобі за ето ордена дадуть .

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Archaic, obsolete and historic words | Neologisms

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