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Do Borrowed Words Change or Do They Remain the Same?

The eminent scholar Maria Pei put the same question in a more colourful way: "Do words when they migrate from one language into another behave as people do under similar circumstances? Do they remain alien in appearance, or do they take out citizenship papers?" [39]

Most of them take the second way, that is, they adjust themselves to their new environment and get adapted to the norms of the recipient language. They undergo certain changes which gradually erase their foreign features, and, finally, they are assimilated. Sometimes the process of assimilation develops to the point when the foreign origin of a word is quite unrecognisable. It is difficult to believe now that such words as dinner, cat, take, cup are not English by origin. Others, though well assimilated, still bear traces of their foreign background. Distance and development, for instance, are identified as borrowings by their French suffixes, skin and sky by the Scandinavian initial sk, police and regime by the French stress on the last syllable.

Borrowed words are adjusted in the three main areas of the new language system: the phonetic, the grammatical and the semantic.

The lasting nature of phonetic adaptation is best shown by comparing Norman French borrowings to later ones. The Norman borrowings have for a long time been fully adapted to the phonetic system of the English language: such words as table, plate, courage, chivalry bear no phonetic traces of their French origin. Some of the later (Parisian) borrowings, even the ones borrowed as early as the 15thc., still sound surprisingly French: regime, valise, matinee, cafe, ballet. In these cases phonetic adaptation is not completed.


The three stages of gradual phonetic assimilation of French borrowings can be illustrated by different phonetic variants of the word garage:

(Amer.).

Grammatical adaptation consists in a complete change of the former paradigm of the borrowed word (i. e. system of the grammatical forms peculiar to it as a part of speech). If it is a noun, it is certain to adopt, sooner or later, a new system of declension; if it is a verb, it will be conjugated according to the rules of the recipient language. Yet, this is also a lasting process. The Russian noun was borrowed from French early in the 19th c. and has not yet acquired the Russian system of declension. The same can be said about such English Renaissance borrowings as datum (pl. data), phenomenon (pl. phenomena), criterion (pl. criteria) whereas earlier Latin borrowings such as cup, plum, street, wall were fully adapted to the grammatical system of the language long ago.

By semantic adaptation is meant adjustment to the system of meanings of the vocabulary. It has been mentioned that borrowing is generally caused either by the necessity to fill a gap in the vocabulary or by a chance to add a synonym conveying an old concept in a new way. Yet, the process of borrowing is not always so purposeful, logical and efficient as it might seem at first sight. Sometimes a word may be borrowed "blindly", so to speak, for no obvious reason, to find that it is not wanted because there is no gap in the vocabulary nor in the group of synonyms which it could conveniently fill. Quite a number of such "accidental" borrowings are very soon rejected by the vocabulary and forgotten. But there are others which manage to take root by the process of semantic adaptation. The adjective large, for instance, was borrowed from French in the meaning of "wide". It was not actually wanted, because it fully coincided with the English adjective wide without adding




any new shades or aspects to its meaning. This could have led to its rejection. Yet, large managed, to establish itself very firmly in the English vocabulary by semantic adjustment. It entered another synonymic group with the general meaning of "big in size". At first it was applied to objects characterised by vast horizontal dimensions, thus retaining a trace of its former meaning, and now, though still bearing some features of that meaning, is successfully competing with big having approached it very closely, both in frequency and meaning.

The adjective gay was borrowed from French in several meanings at once: "noble of birth", "bright, shining", "multi-coloured". Rather soon it shifted its ground developing the meaning "joyful, high-spirited" in which sense it became a synonym of the native merry and in some time left it far behind in frequency and range of meaning. This change was again caused by the process of semantic adjustment: there was no place in the vocabulary for the former meanings of gay, but the group with the general meaning of "high spirits" obviously lacked certain shades which were successfully supplied by gay.

The adjective nice was a French borrowing meaning "silly" at first. The English change of meaning seems to have arisen with the use of the word in expressions like a nice distinction, meaning first "a silly, hair-splitting distinction", then a precise one, ultimately an attractive one. But the original necessity for change was caused once more by the fact that the meaning of "foolish" was not wanted in the vocabulary and therefore nice was obliged to look for a gap in another semantic field.

International Words

It is often the case that a word is borrowed by several languages, and not just by one. Such words usually con-


vey concepts which are significant in the field of communication.

Many of them are of Latin and Greek origin. Most names of sciences are international, e. g. philosophy, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, linguistics, lexicology. There are also numerous terms of art in this group: music, theatre, drama, tragedy, comedy, artist, primadonna.

It is quite natural that political terms frequently occur in the international group of borrowings: politics, policy, revolution, progress, democracy, communism, anti-militarism.

20th c. scientific and technological advances brought a great number of new international words: atomic, antibiotic, radio, television, sputnik. The latter is a Russian borrowing, and it became an international word (meaning a man-made satellite) in 1961, immediately after the first space flight by Yury Gagarin.

The English language also contributed a considerable number of international words to world languages. Among them the sports terms occupy a prominent position: football, volley-ball, baseball, hockey, cricket, rugby, tennis, golf, etc.

Fruits and foodstuffs imported from exotic countries often transport their names too and, being simultaneously imported to many countries, become international: coffee, cocoa, chocolate, coca-cola, banana, mango, avocado, grapefruit.

It is important to note that international words are mainly borrowings. The outward similarity of such words as the E. son, the Germ. Sohn and the R. should not lead one to the quite false conclusion that they are international words. They represent the Indo-Euron group of the native element in each respective language and are cognates, i. e. words of the same etymological root, and not borrowings.


Etymological Doublets

The words shirt and skirt etymologically descend from the same root. Shirt is a native word, and skirt (as the initial sk suggests), is a Scandinavian borrowing. Their phonemic shape is different, and yet there is a certain resemblance which reflects their common origin. Their meanings are also different but easily associated: they both denote articles of clothing.

Such words as these two originating from the same etymological source, but differing in phonemic shape and in meaning are called etymological doublets.

They may enter the vocabulary by different routes. Some of these pairs, like shirt and skirt, consist of a native word and a borrowed word: shrew, n. (E.) screw, n. (Sc.).

Others are represented by two borrowings from different languages which are historically descended from the same root: senior (Lat.) sir (Fr.), canal (Lat.) channel (Fr.), captain (Lat.) chieftan (Fr.).

Still others were borrowed from the same language twice, but in different periods: corpse [ko:ps] (Norm. Fr.) corps [ko:] (Par. Fr.), travel (Norm. Fr.) travail (Par. Fr.), cavalry (Norm. Fr.) chivalry (Par. Fr.), gaol (Norm. Fr.) jail (Par. Fr.).

Etymological triplets (i. e. groups of three words of common root) occur rarer, but here are at least two examples: hospital (Lat.) hostel (Norm. Fr.) hotel (Par. Fr.), to capture (Lat.) to catch (Norm. Fr.) to chase (Par. Fr.).

A doublet may also consist of a shortened word and the one from which it was derived (see Ch. 6 for a description of shortening as a type of word-building): history story, fantasy fancy, fanatic fan, defence fence, courtesy curtsy, shadow shade.


Translation-Loans

The term loan-word is equivalent to borrowing. By translation-loans we indicate borrowings of a special kind. They are not taken into the vocabulary of another language more or less in the same phonemic shape in which they have been functioning in their own language, but undergo the process of translation. It is quite obvious that it is only compound words (i. e. words of two or more stems) which can be subjected to such an operation, each stem being translated separately: masterpiece (from Germ. Meisterstück), wonder child (from Germ. Wunderkind), first dancer (from Ital. prima-ballerina), collective farm (from R. ), five-year plan (from R. ).

The Russian was borrowed twice, by way of translation-loan (collective farm) and by way of direct borrowing (kolkhoz).

The case is not unique. During the 2nd World War the German word Blitzkrieg was also borrowed into English in two different forms: the translation-loan lightning-war and the direct borrowings blitzkrieg and blitz.

Are Etymological

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