Assimilation of borrowings.

Sources of borrowings.

Types of borrowings.

Causes and ways of borrowings.



The notion of etymology means the origin of a word, its primary meaning and its connection with its counter-parts in other languages. According to the origin the English word-stock (vocabulary) may be subdivided into two main groups: native elements and borrowings. A n a t i v e w o r d is a word which belongs to the original English stock of the old English period (up to 7th cent.). A b o r r o w e d w o r d (or b o r r o w i n g) is a word taken from another language and modified in phonetic shape, spelling and meaning according to the standards of the English language. The very fact that up to 70% of the English vocabulary is borrowings and only 30% are native is due to the specific conditions of the English language development.


1. Causes and ways of borrowings.


The part played by borrowings in the vocabulary of a language depends upon the history of each given language. The great number of borrowings in English (70%) is due to the linguistic and extralinguistic causes.

E x t r a l i n g u i s t i c causes of borrowings are political, economic and cultural relationship between nations. English history contains innumerable occasions for all types of such contacts. The Roman invasion, the introduction of Christianity, the Danish and Norman conquests, and, in modern times, the development of British colonialism and imperialism cause important changes in the vocabulary. It is the vocabulary system of each language that is responsive to every change in the life of the speaking community. The number and character of borrowed words tell us of the relations between the peoples, the level of their culture, etc. It is for this reason that borrowings are called the milestones of history.

Purely l i n g u i s t i c causes for borrowings are still open to investigation. Some of them are: need of new words for new phenomena, need of naming peculiar phenomena of other countries, a tendency to accurate speech, emotional expressiveness, need of expressing some shades of meaning, etc.

Borrowings enter the language in two ways: through oral speech (by immediate contact between the peoples) and through written speech (by indirect contact through books, literature). Oral borrowing took place chiefly in the early periods of history, whereas written borrowing has become important in more recent times. Words borrowed orally are usually short (Lat. inch, mill, street) and they are successfully assimilated to the English language and are usually hardly recognizable as foreign. Written borrowings (e.g., Fr. communiqué, belles-lettres, naiveté) preserve their spelling and some peculiarities of their sound-form.

2. Types of borrowings.

Though borrowed words undergo changes in the adopting language they preserve some of their former peculiarities for a comparatively long period. There are various degrees of foreignness (H. Marchand) which differentiate various types of borrowings:

1) L o a n w o r d s p r o p e r (or a l i e n words) words borrowed from a foreign language without any change of the foreign sound and spelling. These words are immediately recognizable as foreign. They retain their sound-form, graphic peculiarities and grammatical characteristics. E.g., ballet, bouquet, chauffeur, coup détat, phenomenon, table dhôte, vis-à-vis, etc.

2) T r a n s l a t i o n l o a n s are words and expressions formed from the material already existing in the British language but according to patterns taken from another language, by way of word-for-word translation, e.g., mother-tongue (from Lat. lingua materna), wall newspaper (from Russian), by heart (from Fr. par coeur), a slip of the tongue (from Lat. lapsus linguae). Most of the given words are international in character, e.g., Procrustean bed , Sword of Damocles , Heel of Achilles . Translation-loans are not less characteristic in phraseology: either Caesar or nothing Lat. aut Caesar aut nihil ( ).

3) S e m a n t i c b o r r o w i n g s is the appearance in an English word of a new meaning due to the influence of a related word in another language. E.g., propaganda and reaction acquired their political meanings under the influence of French. The word pioneer meant explorer, now under the influence of the Russian word it means a member of the Young Pioneers Organization. Deviation and bureau entered political vocabulary under the influence of Russian (political bureau, right and left deviations).

The majority of the borrowings are remodeled according to the system of the English language system, so it is sometimes difficult to tell an old borrowing from a native word (e.g., cheese, street, wall, wine and other words belonging to the earliest layer of Latin borrowings). But there are loan words, on the other hand, that in spite of changes they have undergone, retain some peculiarities in pronunciation, spelling and morphology.


3.Sources of borrowings.

The term s o u r c e o f b o r r o w i n g is applied to the language from which the loan word was taken. It should be distinguished from the term o r i g i n o f b o r r o w i n g which refers to the language to which the word may be traced. Thus, the word paper < Fr. papier < Lat. papyrus < Gr. papyros has French as its source of borrowing and Greek as its origin; the word table < Fr. table < Lat. tabula has French source and is Latin by origin. It should be remembered that whereas the immediate source of borrowing is as a rule known, the actual origin of the word may be rather doubtful. The immediate source of borrowing is naturally of greater importance for language students because it reveals the extralinguistic factors responsible for the act of borrowing.

As a matter of fact, three languages contributed a great number of words to the English word-stock, they are: Greek, Latin and French. Together they account for much greater number of borrowings than all other languages put together.

L a t i n borrowings can be subdivided into 4 layers:

1) Early Latin loans when the Germanic tribes, of which the Angles and Saxons formed part, had been in contact with Roman civilization and had adopted several Latin words. These words are typical of the early Roman commercial penetration. E.g., wine (Lat. vinum), disc (discus), pepper (piper), cup (cuppa), kettle (catillus), etc.

2) In the 6th and 7th cent. due to Christianity altar, chapter, candle, cross, feast, disciple, creed, etc. To this period belong the names of many articles of foreign production which were brought into England by Romans marble, chalk, linen, etc.

3) The Renaissance and the Norman Conquest in 1066. Many scholars began to translate classical literature into English and as they couldnt find English word for translation, they took Latin word and transformed it in accordance with the rules. In addition to a great number of Latin words that came into English through French, there are many words taken directly from Latin without change, e.g., genius, nucleus, formula, item, maximum, minimum, superior, inferior, prior, senior, junior, etc.

4) After the Renaissance up to the present abstract and scientific words adopted exclusively through writing. A great many Latin abbreviations usually have English equivalents e.g. (exempli gratia) for example, i.e. (id est) that is to say, etc. (et cetera) and so on, v.v. (vice versa) the opposite, a.m. (ante meridiem).

G r e e k borrowings go back to an early period. In the 7th cent. with the introduction of Christianity such words as church, abbot, episcope, bishop, angel, etc. were borrowed. At the time of Renaissance the borrowing of Greek words began on a large scale. These are mostly bookish borrowings, scientific and technical terms of international currency: psychoanalysis, psychiatry, physics, philosophy, rhythm, scheme, philology, dialogue, problem, comedy, tragedy, episode, democracy. Quite a number of proper names are Greek in origin, e.g., George, Helen, Sophie, Peter, Nicholas, etc. Here are some loan-words which linguists owe to Greek: antonym, dialect, etymology, homonym, hyperbole, idiom, lexicology, metaphor, neologism, synonym, polysemy, etc.

There are numerous English compounds coined from Greek roots: autos self, chroma colour, logos discourse, phone voice, telos at a distance, etc. (autograph, phonograph, telegraph, telephone, telescope).

F r e n c h b o r r o w i n g s came into English at different times. The Norman Conquest in 1066 resulted in the fact that the important places in the government, at court and in the church were filled by French speaking adherents of the conquerors. It was spoken by the upper classes of English society.

French loans in the English vocabulary may be subdivided into two main groups:

a) early loans 12-15th century;

b) later loans beginning from the 16th cent.

The early borrowings from French were simple short words: age, arm, cage, car, case, cause, chain, chance, court, crime, etc. The French dominance is particularly felt in the vocabulary of law. E.g., accuse, court, fee, guile, judge, justice, penalty, priviledge.

Many of the terms relating to military matters were adopted from the language of the conquerors: arms, admiral, armour, battle, dragoon, navy, sergeant, soldier, troops, vessel, etc.

There is a predominance of French words in the vocabulary of cookery, such as: boil, jelly, fry, pastry, roast, sauce, soup.

Recent borrowings from French are frequent enough, and often these words carry a French appearance, but their number is far less than the number of borrowings direct from Latin.


4. Assimilation of borrowings.

The term a s s i m i l a t i o n o f b o r r o w i n g s is used to denote a partial or total conformation to the phonetic, graphical and morphological standards of the receiving language and its semantic system.

The degree of assimilation depends upon the length of period during which the word has been used in the receiving language, upon its importance for communication purpose and its frequency. Oral borrowings due to personal contacts are assimilated more completely and more rapidly than literary borrowings, i.e. borrowings through written speech.

A classification of borrowings according to the degree of assimilation can be very general. There may be suggested three groups of borrowings: completely assimilated, partially assimilated and unassimilated borrowings or barbarisms.

1) C o m p l e t e l y assimilated borrowings are found in all the layers of older borrowings. They may belong to the first layer of Latin borrowings (cheese, street, wall, wine), Scandinavian borrowings (husband, fellow, gate, die, take, want, happy, ill, low, wrong), French words (table, chair, face, figure, finish).

Completely assimilated borrowings follow all morphological, phonetical and orthographic standards. Being very frequent and stylistically neutral, they may occur as dominant words in synonymic groups, they take an active part in word-formation. Such borrowings are indistinguishable phonetically. Its impossible to say judging by the sound of the words sport and start whether they are borrowed or native. In fact start is native derived from ME sterten, whereas sport is a shortening of disport which came from OFr desporter to amuse oneself, to carry oneself away from ones work.

2) P a r t i a l l y assimilated borrowings can be subdivided into subgroups depending on the aspect that remains unaltered, according to whether the word retains features of spelling, pronunciation, morphology or meaning that are not English. They are:

a) borrowings ot assimilated semantically because they denote objects and notions peculiar to the country from which they come. They may denote foreign clothing (mantilla, sombrero), foreign titles and professions (rajah, sheik, toreador), foreign currency (krone, rupee, rouble, zloty);

b) borrowings not assimilated grammatically, e.g. Latin or Greek borrowings which keep their original plural forms (phenomenon phenomena, criterion criteria, crisis crises);

c) borrowings not completely assimilated phonetically. French words borrowed after 1650 are good examples. Some of them keep the accent on the final syllable (machine, cartoon, police), others, alongside with peculiar stress, contain sounds or combination of sounds that are not standard for English: /ჳ/ bourgeois regime, sabotage, /wa:/ memoir. The whole phonetic make-up of the word may be different from the rest of the vocabulary, e.g. Italian and Spanish borrowings opera, macaroni, tomato, potato, tobacco.

d) borrowings not completely assimilated graphically, e.g. French borrowings in which the final consonant is not pronounced (ballet, buffet); some may keep a diacritic mark (café, cliché).

3) Unassimilated borrowings or barbarisms are words from other languages used by English people in conversation or in writing but not assimilated in any way, and for which are corresponding English equivalents, e.g. Italian addio, ciao good-bye, French affiche placard, coup dEtat a sudden seizure of state power by a small group.


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