Borrowing in theBorrowing in the
english languageenglish language
Words might be taken over from one languageWords might be taken over from one language
and are adopted to the other. This process isand are adopted to the other. This process is
The reason for borrowingThe reason for borrowing
a suitable word froma suitable word from
another language is theanother language is the
need to find a term forneed to find a term for
an unfamiliar thing,an unfamiliar thing,
animal, or culturalanimal, or cultural
Moreover, a further, oftenMoreover, a further, often
underestimated reason forunderestimated reason for
borrowing is prestige.borrowing is prestige.
On the one hand they serve toOn the one hand they serve to
enrich the language, but on theenrich the language, but on the
other hand the words makeother hand the words make
certain stylistic registers morecertain stylistic registers more
inaccessible to the masses.inaccessible to the masses.
““Hard words” (Gramley).Hard words” (Gramley).
Amongst the above mentionedAmongst the above mentioned
reasons for borrowing from foreignreasons for borrowing from foreign
languages, the most obvious andlanguages, the most obvious and
maybe also the most profound one ismaybe also the most profound one is
the introduction of new concepts forthe introduction of new concepts for
which there are no suitable words inwhich there are no suitable words in
the task language.the task language.
In the Middle Ages the Arabic worldIn the Middle Ages the Arabic world
was advanced in many sciences and thus,was advanced in many sciences and thus,
a lot of words have been passed on duringa lot of words have been passed on during
this time to other languages and also tothis time to other languages and also to
Some of the best known examples areSome of the best known examples are
alchemy, alcohol, and algebra.alchemy, alcohol, and algebra.
Direct borrowing is when a language takesDirect borrowing is when a language takes
over a term directly from another language.over a term directly from another language.
The English word omelette is an example forThe English word omelette is an example for
direct borrowing because it has been takendirect borrowing because it has been taken
over from French (French: omelette) directly,over from French (French: omelette) directly,
without any major phonological orwithout any major phonological or
orthographical changes.orthographical changes.
In contrast to that, indirect borrowing takesIn contrast to that, indirect borrowing takes
place when a certain word is passed on fromplace when a certain word is passed on from
the source language to another (as a directthe source language to another (as a direct
borrowing), and then from that language isborrowing), and then from that language is
handed over to another and from this onehanded over to another and from this one
maybe even to another. This process may gomaybe even to another. This process may go
hand in hand with the development that thehand in hand with the development that the
word, each time it is passed on from oneword, each time it is passed on from one
language to another, is adjustedlanguage to another, is adjusted
phonologically/orthographically to make it fitphonologically/orthographically to make it fit
to the phonological/orthographical system ofto the phonological/orthographical system of
the recipient language.the recipient language.
Loanwords: they have beenLoanwords: they have been
imported/adopted from anotherimported/adopted from another
language, either directly orlanguage, either directly or
indirectly, and might haveindirectly, and might have
Loanshifts (= loanLoanshifts (= loan
translations/calques): thetranslations/calques): the
borrowing is done by translatingborrowing is done by translating
the vocabulary item or rather itsthe vocabulary item or rather its
• the borrowing of a word into
another language is always a
gradual process which takes
quite some time.
This gradual might even lead
to the result that foreign
words which are borrowed
become ‘nativised’, in the case
of English then ‘anglicised’.