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A loanword (also loan word or loan-word) is a "word adopted from one "language (the donor language) and incorporated into another language without "translation. This is in contrast to "cognates, which are words in two or more languages that are similar because they share an "etymological origin, and "calques, which involve translation.


Examples and related terms[edit]

A loanword is distinguished from a "calque (loan translation), which is a word or phrase whose "meaning or "idiom is adopted from another language by "translation into existing words or word-forming roots of the recipient language.

Examples of loanwords in the "English language include "café (from French café, which literally means "coffee"), "bazaar (from Persian bāzār, which means "market"), and "kindergarten (from German Kindergarten, which literally means "children's garden").

In a bit of "heterological irony, the word calque is a loanword from the French "noun, derived from the "verb calquer (to trace, to copy);[1] the word loanword is a calque of the "German word Lehnwort;[2] and the phrase "loan translation" is a calque of the German Lehnübersetzung.[3]

Loans of multi-word phrases, such as the English use of the French term "déjà vu, are known as adoptions, adaptations, or lexical borrowings.[4][5]

Strictly speaking, the term loanword conflicts with the ordinary meaning of loan in that something is taken from the donor language without it being something that is possible to return.[6]

From the arts[edit]

Most of the technical vocabulary of "classical music (such as "concerto, "allegro, "tempo, "aria, "opera, and "soprano) is borrowed from "Italian,[7] and that of "ballet from "French.[8]

Linguistic classification[edit]

The studies by Werner Betz (1949, 1939), "Einar Haugen (1950, also 1956), and "Uriel Weinreich (1953) are regarded as the classical theoretical works on loan influence.[9] The basic theoretical statements all take Betz’s nomenclature as their starting point. Duckworth (1977) enlarges Betz’s scheme by the type “partial substitution” and supplements the system with English terms. A schematic illustration of these classifications is given below.[10]

The expression "foreign word" used in the illustration below is, however, an incorrect translation of the German term Fremdwort, which refers to loanwords whose pronunciation, spelling, and possible inflection or gender have not yet been so much adapted to the new language that they cease to feel foreign. Such a separation of loanwords into two distinct categories is not used by linguists in English in talking about any language. In addition, basing such a separation mainly on spelling as described in the illustration is (or, in fact, was) not usually done except by German linguists and only when talking about German and sometimes other languages that tend to adapt foreign spellings, which is rare in English unless the word has been in wide use for a very long time.

According to the linguist Suzanne Kemmer, the expression "foreign word" can be defined as follows in English: "[W]hen most speakers do not know the word and if they hear it think it is from another language, the word can be called a foreign word. There are many foreign words and phrases used in English such as bon vivant (French), mutatis mutandis (Latin), and Schadenfreude (German)."[11] This is however not how the term is (incorrectly) used in this illustration:

""Loanword classification tree 3.gif

On the basis of an importation-substitution distinction, Haugen (1950: 214f.) distinguishes three basic groups of borrowings: “(1) Loanwords show morphemic importation without substitution.... (2) Loanblends show morphemic substitution as well as importation.... (3) Loanshifts show morphemic substitution without importation”. Haugen later refined (1956) his model in a review of Gneuss’s (1955) book on Old English loan coinages, whose classification, in turn, is the one by Betz (1949) again.

Weinreich (1953: 47ff.) differentiates between two mechanisms of lexical interference, namely those initiated by simple words and those initiated by compound words and phrases. Weinreich (1953: 47) defines simple words “from the point of view of the bilinguals who perform the transfer, rather than that of the descriptive linguist. Accordingly, the category ‘simple’ words also includes compounds that are transferred in unanalysed form”. After this general classification, Weinreich then resorts to Betz’s (1949) terminology.

Popular and learned loanwords[edit]

There is a distinction between "popular" and "learned" loanwords. Popular loanwords are transmitted orally. Learned loanwords are first used in written language, often for scholarly, scientific, or literary purposes.[12]

In English[edit]

The English language has often borrowed words from other cultures or languages:

Spanish definition English definition
"hat" "a wide-brimmed festive Mexican hat"
Other examples of words borrowed by English
from Hindi from Afrikaans from Malay
  • jungle
  • dacoit
  • loot
  • juggernaut (from Sanskrit '"Jagannath')
  • syce/sais
  • dinghy
  • chutney
  • pundit
  • wallah
  • bangle
  • cheetah
  • cot
  • blighty
  • shampoo
  • thug
  • karma (from Sanskrit)
  • sari
  • bungalow
  • jodhpurs
  • [from Persian origin]
  • pajama/pyjamas
  • bazaar
  • Khaki
[via Afrikaans from Malay]

Some English loanwords remain relatively faithful to the donor language's phonology even though a particular "phoneme might not exist or have contrastive status in English. For example, the "Hawaiian word "ʻaʻā is used by geologists to specify lava that is relatively thick, chunky, and rough. The Hawaiian spelling indicates the two "glottal stops in the word, but the English pronunciation, "/ˈɑː(ʔ)ɑː/, contains at most one. In addition, the English spelling usually removes the "ʻokina and "macron diacritics.[13]

The majority of English affixes, such as un-, -ing, and -ly, were present in older forms in Old English. However, a few English affixes are borrowed. For example, the English verbal suffix "-ize (American English) or ise (British English) comes from Greek -ιζειν (-izein) via Latin -izare.

In languages other than English[edit]

Transmission in the Ottoman Empire[edit]

During more than 600 years of the "Ottoman Empire, the literary and administrative language of the empire was "Turkish, with many "Persian, and "Arabic loanwords, called "Ottoman Turkish, considerably differing from the everyday spoken Turkish of the time. Many such words were exported to other languages of the empire, such as "Albanian, "Bosnian, "Bulgarian, "Croatian, "Greek, "Hungarian, "Ladino, "Macedonian, "Montenegrin and "Serbian. After the empire fell after "World War I and the "Republic of Turkey was founded, the Turkish language underwent an extensive "language reform led by the newly founded "Turkish Language Association, during which "many adopted words were replaced with new formations derived from "Turkic roots. That was part of the ongoing cultural reform of the time, in turn a part in the broader framework of "Atatürk's Reforms, which also included the introduction of the new "Turkish alphabet.

Turkish also has taken many words from "French, such as pantolon for trousers (from French pantalon) and komik for funny (from French comique), most of them pronounced very similarly. Word usage in modern Turkey has acquired a political tinge: "right-wing publications tend to use more Arabic or Persian originated words, "left-wing ones use more adopted from European languages, while centrist ones use more native Turkish root words.[14]

Dutch words in Indonesian[edit]

Almost 350 years of Dutch presence in what is now "Indonesia have left significant linguistic traces. Though very few Indonesians have a fluent knowledge of Dutch, the Indonesian language inherited many words from Dutch, both in words for everyday life and as well in scientific or technological terminology.[15] One scholar argues that 20% of "Indonesian words can be traced back to Dutch words.[16]

Loan words in Japanese[edit]

Cultural aspects[edit]

According to "Hans Henrich Hock and Brian Joseph, "languages and dialects ... do not exist in a vacuum": there is always linguistic contact between groups.[17] The contact influences what loanwords are integrated into the lexicon and which certain words are chosen over others.

Changes in meaning and pronunciation[edit]

In some cases, the original meaning shifts considerably through unexpected logical leaps. The English word Viking became Japanese バイキング baikingu meaning 'buffet', because Imperial Viking was the first restaurant in Japan to offer "buffet-style meals.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Calque, The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.
  2. ^ Carr, Charles T. (1934). The German Influence on the English Language. Society for Pure English Tract No. 42. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 75. Retrieved 25 February 2016. 
  3. ^ Robb: German English Words
  4. ^ Chesley, Paula; Baayen, R. Harald (2010). "Predicting New Words from Newer Words: Lexical Borrowings in French". Linguistics. 48 (4): 1343–74. 
  5. ^ Thomason, Sarah G. (2001). Language Contact: An Introduction. Washington: Georgetown University Press. 
  6. ^ "Jespersen, Otto (1964). Language. New York: Norton Library. p. 208. "ISBN "0-393-00229-2. Linguistic 'borrowing' is really nothing but imitation. 
  7. ^ Shanet 1956: 155.
  8. ^ Kersley & Sinclair 1979: 3.
  9. ^ Compare the two survey articles by Oksaar (1996: 4f.), Stanforth (2002) and Grzega (2003, 2004).
  10. ^ The following comments and examples are taken from Grzega, Joachim (2004), Bezeichnungswandel: Wie, Warum, Wozu?, Heidelberg: Winter, p. 139, and Grzega, Joachim (2003), “Borrowing as a Word-Finding Process in Cognitive Historical Onomasiology”, Onomasiology Online 4: 22–42.
  11. ^ Loanwords by Prof. S. Kemmer, Rice University
  12. ^ Algeo, John (2009-02-02). The Origins and Development of the English Language. Cengage Learning. "ISBN "1428231455. 
  13. ^ Elbert, Samuel H.; Pukui, Mary Kawena (1986). Hawaiian Dictionary (Revised and enlarged ed.). Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press. p. 389. "ISBN "0-8248-0703-0. 
  14. ^ Lewis, Geoffrey (2002). The Turkish Language Reform: A Catastrophic Success. London: Oxford University Press. "ISBN "0-19-925669-1. 
  15. ^ Sneddon (2003), p.162.
  16. ^ "A Hidden Language – Dutch in Indonesia [eScholarship]". Retrieved 2015-03-29. 
  17. ^ Hock, Hans Henrich; Joseph., Brian D. (2009). "Lexical Borrowing". Language History, Language Change, and Language Relationship: An Introduction to Historical and Comparative Linguistics (2nd ed.). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. pp. 241–78. .
  18. ^ [1]["dead link]


External links[edit]

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