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Language Borrowings and Their Types Essay


Language borrowings occur in the event of contact of different ethnic groups speaking different languages due to social, political, economic, or cultural reasons (Sapir 15). To illustrate, when a certain ethnic minority lives in the area dominated by the host society, language assimilation, or as it is often referred to by linguists, language shift takes place (Sapir 157). The language shift in such a case is conditioned by the pragmatic considerations such as the need to acquire a job, get an education, or engage in business (Sapir 157).

The direction of language shift is always conditioned by the most influential factors that refer to the situation (Sapir 158). To illustrate, a seller will tend to shift to buyers’ language to manage to win customer trust and develop customer relations based on loyalty. This situation has been observed through human history when traveling merchants being the clients of numerous sellers in the Asian countries introduced into their local languages some of the Roman group language words (Sapir 158).

For instance, the word bank that is so common in its different phonetic variations in hundreds of modern-day languages originally comes from Italy, and it was spread by the Hebrew merchants through the entire area of countries located within the major trading road from Europe to Asia (Sapir 168).

The process of language shift is inevitably connected with the process of conventionalization. Kemmer defines conventionalization as “a gradual process in which a word progressively permeates a larger and larger speech community” (par. 5). The result of the process of conventionalization is the total loss of connections with the source language according to the perception of the community of the word borrowers (Kemmer par. 5).

In the English language, linguists had distinguished many periods of conventionalization when the language was affected by a certain culture and its language and was actively adopting new words (Kemmer par. 2). The outcome of conventionalization for the English language is the creation of its more or less stable version known by the modern-day people (Kemmer par. 12).

According to Winford, there exist three types of language contact situations as it can be seen from the following comment, “we can, in general, distinguish three broad kinds of contact situation: those involving language maintenance, those involving language shift, and those that lead to the creation of new contact languages” (11). Although this author distinguishes the three major types of language contact situations, he makes a clarification that in numerous situations, the type of a contact situation is difficult to distinguish, and at times, contact situations may have the features of more than one type of contact situations (Winford 11).

Evaluation of cultural and historical examples of language changes suggests an important conclusion. When two languages come into contact with each other, certain linguistic shift situations may occur, such as language borrowing. In this essay, language borrowing will be discussed.

Language Borrowing Types

Language borrowings may differ in their kinds and degrees from minor ones to more structural types and from casual to heavy language borrowings (Winford 12). Commenting on language borrowing types, Winford has stated that “situations involving primary lexical borrowing, that is, borrowing of content morphemes like nouns, verbs, etc., are extremely common, and most, if not all, languages have been subject to this kind of influence at some time or another” (12).

The common types of language borrowings that are distinguished by linguists are phonological, lexical, and calques (List 141). The example of phonological borrowings is [x]: yecch and [Z]: prestige (List 142). The examples of lexical loanwords are the following words coming from French and Spanish ballet, captain, chivalry, fiancé, adobe, cigar, mosquito, and rodeo (List 143). The examples of calques originating from French and Canton Pidgin English are look-see, no-go, long time no see, no can do, and chop-chop (List 143).

Language Borrowing Type 1

Language borrowing type 1 is lexical borrowing. In this case, the new language acquires the loan words or loan blends. The example of this phenomenon in the English language is borrowing from French, such as rendezvous (Winford 45). One more example of the loan words is the Dutch corner (Winford 45). Another example is loan blends originating from Pennsylvania German, such as basic (Winford 45).

A yet another example is the derivational blend that consists of an imported stem and native affix such as artillery (Winford 45). The compound blend is one more illustration of the language borrowing type 1 linguistic phenomenon. This blend implicates the creation of new loan words with the use of imported stem and native stem. The case of the compound blend is plumpie, where the reader may notice two stems plum and pie (Winford 45).

Language Borrowing Type 2

Language borrowing type 2 is the borrowing that appears in use in the new language as a result of loan shifts. To illustrate, a semantic extension from Portuguese to English is frio meaning cold infection (Winford 45). This word is formed under the impact of model of the native language usage. Another illustration is the case of phonological resemblance being the basis for shift in semantics in such English word as humorous in parallel with Portuguese word humoroso (Winford 45). A yet another illustration is the loan shift from the Norwegian language of the word wervelwind to English word whirlwind (Winford 46). More examples are French art deco or art style and rotonde or rotunda (Kemmer par. 17).

Evaluation of the particular loan shifts examples narrated above suggests a conclusion that in the case of lexical borrowing, the lower language will borrow a word with the semantic connotation absent in this language from the upper language, where people have already faced certain phenomenon and came up with the lexical term for it.

By further examining these loan shifts and historical context in which they came into use, one may observe what cultural, political, social or other factors have influenced such shift (Kemmer par.5). Overall, loan shifts in languages take place when the borrower is not willing to accept the donor’s lexical material fully but is trying to adopt the new borrowing to the peculiarities of one’s language (Kemmer par.5).

Language Borrowing Type 3

Language borrowing type 3 is loan translations. Here, the phenomenon of borrowing through direct translation takes place (Winford 44). An illustration of such phenomenon is the creation of a German word with the lexical meaning ‘skyscraper’ by means of literary translation of morphemic parts of this word from English into German (Winford 44). As a result, the German language has adopted the translational loan from English-speaking nations that became familiar with the very notion of skyscrapers earlier due to the emergence of this technological breakthrough in their territory (Sapir 163).

From this illustration, it becomes clear that loan translations are the phenomenon that takes place when the loan item is a composite form in the upper language and the borrower creates a parallel composite structure from one’s language material (Kemmer par.7)


In conclusion, it should be pointed out that the evidence shows that when two languages come into contact with each other, the language shift situations will occur including lexical and phonetic borrowings. Language contact takes place in situations in which groups of different languages speakers interact such as colonization, migration, performing trade or occupying new lands inhabited by other nations. As a result of language contact, speakers of one language adopt words from speakers of another language that is referred to as the source language. Such words are qualified by linguists as loan words or borrowings (Kemmer par. 1).

The term borrowing can be explained as the process of adoption of words from a source language. Borrowing is thus the result of cultural contact between two distinct language groups. To illustrate, when German tribes became familiar with the Latin culture, they adopted numerous words from the Latin language. The nature of borrowing is explained by numerous factors impacting the lower and upper languages.

The ethnic group borrowing language material from another language group can be motivated by a variety of factors such as economic, political, social, and cultural factors. Overall, the motivation behind borrowing is certain type of advantage that would become possible with the use of new language material. In mind with the prospective values, the borrowers adopt new linguistic materials from the upper language. The major borrowings types are lexical borrowing, loan shifts, and loan translations.

Works Cited

Kemmer, Suzanne. “.” Words in English. Web.

List, Johann‐Mattis. “Networks of Lexical Borrowing and Lateral Gene Transfer in Language and Genome Evolution.” BioEssays 36.2 (2014): 141-150. Print.

Sapir, Edward. Language, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Print.

Winford, Donald. An Introduction to Contact Linguistics, New York, N.Y.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2003. Print.

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"Language Borrowings and Their Types." IvyPanda, 8 Sept. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/language-borrowings-and-their-types/.

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IvyPanda. "Language Borrowings and Their Types." September 8, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/language-borrowings-and-their-types/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "Language Borrowings and Their Types." September 8, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/language-borrowings-and-their-types/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Language Borrowings and Their Types'. 8 September.

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