Borrowings in the English Vocabulary. Main Groups of Loan Words in English. Translation Loans and Semantic Borrowings
Borrowing words from other languages has always been one of the important means of replenishing of the English vocabulary. There are many words in English that are of foreign origin. The language from which the loan word was taken into English is called the source of borrowing. The original language to which the word may be traced is called the origin of borrowing, e.g. the word “infantry” (пехота) has French as its source of borrowing and Italian is its origin. In etymological dictionaries the source comes first.
Main groups of loan words in English are represented by borrowings from Latin, Scandinavian and French. Though, a lot of other languages (Celtic, Greek, Russian, Italian, Spanish, Arabic) also contributed to the development of the English vocabulary. The history of the vocabulary of a language is closely related to the history of the people speaking the language.
Latin borrowings are numerous in English. They constitute about ¼ of the English vocabulary as to historical period of their adoption. Latin borrowings may be divided into 3 groups:
- ancient borrowings which goes back as far as the 1st century B.C. when the Anglo-Saxon tribes were still on the continent and came into contact with the Romans through trade. The Latin borrowings of this period are: dish, cup, butter, cheese, wine, cherry, plum, hare, spices, pepper and kitchen.
- Borrowings which came to Britain in the 6th-7th centuries when Christianity was introduced: abbot, alter, angel, bishop, saint, candle, monk, nun, pope, Christ, school.
- Words borrowed during the revival of Classical learning and art – the Renaissance in the 14th century and since then the invasion of classical terms has never stopped. Many of them are distinctly learned words: senior, major, minor, junior, accept, educate, basis, area, idea, aggravate. Most of them are only partially assimilated but Latin borrowings of the first two periods are completely assimilated borrowings which belong to the basic word stork now.
Scandinavian borrowings in English amount to over 650 words which denote most common objects, properties and actions and belong to the basic word stock of Modern English. Britain devastated by the inroads of different Scandinavian tribes (the Danes) for about 3 centuries from the 8th to the 11th century. The Danish invasion resulted in the occupation of a great part of the country by Scandinavian settlers, who spoke Old Norse – the Germanic language very close to Old English. The effect of the Danish conquest was the contribution of many Scandinavian words to the English vocabulary: law, husband, fellow, sky, skin, wing, root, skill, anger, finger, gate, to die, to cast, to hit, to take, to call, to want, loose, wrong, low, ill, ugly, rotten, happy, they. A characteristic feature of Scandinavian borrowings is the preservation of the initial sounds [sk]=sk=sc: skirt, skill, scatter; or [g] before front vowels: get, give, forget, anger…
French borrowings are especially numerous in English. They may be roughly divided into old, or Norman borrowings, and new, or Parisian, borrowings.
After the Norman conquest in 1066 French or rather Northern-French became the official language in England. The first French borrowings were terms connected with war, fare, court, law, soldiers, army, crown, country, piece, justice, office, government, parliament and state. There was almost no end to the French words that continued to pour into English up to the 16th century: chair, table, furniture, dinner, supper, soup, jelly, sausage, to fry, to boil, joy, pleasure, delight, comfort, dress, colour, flower, fruit, desire, castle, mention (особняк), beauty. These early Norman borrowings are usually fully assimilated words. In the 17th century there was a change in the character of French borrowings. New borrowings mainly from the Parisian dialect preserved their French forms as a rule: campaign, garage, ballet, rouge, bucket, and matinee, machine. Besides Latin, Scandinavian, French borrowings the English language contains words borrowed from almost every language on the globe.
Celtic borrowings are of primary historical importance for English. When the Anglo-Saxons came to the British Isles in the 5th century A.D. they met with the Celts or Britains – the native inhabitants of the British Isles whom they pushed away to the North and the West. The whole number of Celtic words in English whether borrowed directly or indirectly is 165 according to Walter Skeat’s counts: banner (булка домашнего хлеба), bard, glad, clad, cradle, loch/lock (lake).
Celtic elements are mostly found in place names, e.g. aber (the mouth of the river) – Aberdeen; avon (a river) – Stratford-on-Avon; inch (an island) – Inchcape.
Greek borrowings were usually adopted through Latin and French. Many Latin Christian terms were of Greek origin: abbot, bishop, school, Christ, monk; chair, police, policy, chronicle came to English from Greek through Latin and French.
The direct borrowing of the Greek words into English started only in the period of the Renaissance: literature owes the following terms – tragedy, comedy, drama… Greek elements, affixes and roots are widely used in English to create new terms: telephone, photography, telegramme etc.
Italian borrowings are mostly musical terms: allegro, aria, finale, piano, opera, solo, sonata, soprano, trill, violin, macaroni, spaghetti, influenza, umbrella, manifest etc.
The Spanish element in English like the Italian is mainly modern, e.g. cigar, embargo, junta, mosquito etc. The following words were introduced through Spanish to Europe from America: coco, chilly, chocolate, tomato, potato, tobacco, canoeing, yucca etc.
Russian borrowings may be subdivided into 2 principle groups:
- Borrowings that took place before 1917 such as: izba, ruble, kopeck, tsar, borzoi, Cossack etc.
- And borrowings after 1917. The so-called sovietisms: Bolshevik, soviet, Komsomol, udarnik; later – sputnik, lunnik; recent – perestroika, glasnost, Gorbotchov etc.
Translation loans are words and expressions formed from the material already existing in the English language but according to patterns taken from another language by way of literal (буквальный) morpheme or word-for-word translation, e.g.: world outlook (мировоззрение) – from German Weltanschauung; class struggle – Klassenkampf; wall newspaper – stennaya gazeta (Russian), a slip of the tongue – lapsus lingua (Latin); pale-faced, pipe of piece, fire-water – from Indian. Some other translation loans from Russians are: old believer, cult of personality, candidate/doctor of science, white night, Red square, Winter Palace etc.
Semantic borrowings are the expansion of the semantic structure of a word under the influence of correlated foreign one. It’s the borrowing of a meaning from the semantic structure of the correlated foreign word, e.g.: the English word pioneer (explorer) under the influence of the new meaning of the correlated Russian word (пионер) developed one more meaning: a member of a young pioneer organization; brigade (an army unit) under the influence of the new meaning developed one more meaning – active social workers; norm=standard – norm developed one more meaning – “an amount of work”.