Types of borrowings

Contemporary English is a unique mixture of Germanic & Romanic elements. This mixing has resulted in the international character of the vocabulary. In the comparison with other languages English possesses great richness of vocabulary.

All languages are mixtures to a greater or lesser extent, but the present day English vocabulary is unique in this respect.

A brief look on various historical strata of the English vocabulary:

1) Through cultural contacts with Romans partly already on the continent and all through the influence of Christianity a very early stratum of Latin-Greek words entered the language.

Their origin is no longer felt by the normal speaker today in such word: pound, mint, mustard, school, dish, chin, cleric, cheese, devil, pepper, street, gospel, and bishop.

The same can be said about some Scandinavian words (from about the 10th century) that today belong to the central core of the vocabulary.

It means that their frequency is very high.

They, their, them, sky, skin, skill, skirt, ill, dies, take...

They partly supersede the number of OE words


· heofon – heaven (sky)

· Niman – take

· Steorfan – die

A more radical change & profound influence on the English vocabulary occurred on 1066 (Norman Conquest). Until the 15th cent., a great number of French words were adopted. They belong to the areas of court, church, law, and state.

Virtue, religion, parliament, justice, noble, beauty, preach, honour...

The influx of the words was the strongest up to the 15th cent., but continued up to the 17th cent.

Many French borrowings retained their original pronunciation & stress

· Champagne, ballet, machine, garage...

· Separate, attitude, constitute, introduce...

Adjectives in English – arrogant, important, patient

Sometimes with their derivatives:

· Demonstrative – demonstration

· Separate – separation

17-18 cc. due to the establishing of cultural, trade relations many words were borrowed from Italian, Spanish, Dutch, French.

Italian: libretto, violin, opera

Spanish: hurricane, tomato, tobacco

Dutch: yacht, dog, landscape

French: bouquet, buffet

From the point of view of their etymology formal words are normally of classical Romanic origin, informal – Anglo-Saxon.

Nowadays many Americanisms become familiar due to the increase of transatlantic travel & the influence of broadcast media.

Even in London (Heathrow airport) “baggage” instead of “luggage”

The present day English vocabulary is from being homogeneous.

Borrowing – 1) (process) resorting to the word-stock of other languages for words to express new concepts, to further differentiate the existing concepts and to name new objects, etc.; 2) (result) a loan word, borrowed word – a word taken over from another language and modified in phonemic shape, spelling, paradigm or meaning according to the standards of the English language. – See Assimilation, Source of borrowing, Origin of borrowing. The following types of borrowings can be distinguished:

· - loan words proper – words borrowed from another language and assimilated to this or that extent;

· - loan translation – 1) (process) borrowing by means of literally translating words (usu. one part after another) or word combinations, by modelling words after foreign patterns; 2) (result) translation loans (calques) – 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 word-for-word or morpheme-for-morpheme translation: e.g. chain smoker::Germ Kettenraucher; goes without saying::Fr. va sans dire; summit conference:: Germ. Gipfel Konferenz, Fr. conférence au sommet;

    - semantic borrowings/loans – the term is used to denote the development in an English word of a new meaning due to the influence of a related word in another language (e.g. policy).


There are the following groups: phonetic borrowings, translation loans, semantic borrowings, and morphemic borrowings.

Phonetic borrowings are most characteristic in all languages; they are called loan words proper. Words are borrowed with their spelling, pronunciation and meaning. Then they undergo assimilation, each sound in the borrowed word is substituted by the corresponding sound of the borrowing language. In some cases the spelling is changed. The structure of the word can also be changed. The position of the stress is very often influenced by the phonetic system of the borrowing language. The paradigm of the word, and sometimes the meaning of the borrowed word are also changed. Such words as: labour, travel, table, chair, people are phonetic borrowings from French; apparatchik, nomenklatura, sputnik are phonetic borrowings from Russian; bank, soprano, duet are phonetic borrowings from Italian etc.

Translation loans are word-for-word (or morpheme-for-morpheme) translations of some foreign words or expressions. In such cases the notion is borrowed from a foreign language but it is expressed by native lexical units, «to take the bull by the horns» (Latin), «fair sex» (French), «living space» (German) etc. Some translation loans appeared in English from Latin already in the Old English period, e.g. Sunday (solis dies). There are translation loans from the languages of Indians, such as: «pipe of peace», «pale-faced», from German «masterpiece», «homesickness», «superman».

Semantic borrowings are such units when a new meaning of the unit existing in the language is borrowed. It can happen when we have two relative languages which have common words with different meanings, e.g. there are semantic borrowings between Scandinavian and English, such as the meaning «to live» for the word «to dwell’ which in Old English had the meaning «to wander». Or else the meaning «дар», «подарок» for the word «gift» which in Old English had the meaning «выкупзажену».

Semantic borrowing can appear when an English word was borrowed into some other language, developed there a new meaning and this new meaning was borrowed back into English, e.g. «brigade» was borrowed into Russian and formed the meaning «a working collective«,»бригада». This meaning was borrowed back into English as a Russian borrowing. The same is true of the English word «pioneer».

Morphemic borrowings are borrowings of affixes which occur in the language when many words with identical affixes are borrowed from one language into another, so that the morphemic structure of borrowed words becomes familiar to the people speaking the borrowing language, e.g. we can find a lot of Romanic affixes in the English word-building system, that is why there are a lot of words - hybrids in English where different morphemes have different origin, e.g. «goddess», «beautiful» etc.


The degree of assimilation of borrowings depends on the following factors: a) from what group of languages the word was borrowed, if the word belongs to the same group of languages to which the borrowing language belongs it is assimilated easier, b) in what way the word is borrowed: orally or in the written form, words borrowed orally are assimilated quicker, c) how often the borrowing is used in the language, the greater the frequency of its usage, the quicker it is assimilated, d) how long the word lives in the language, the longer it lives, the more assimilated it is.

Accordingly borrowings are subdivided into: completely assimilated, partly assimilated and non-assimilated (barbarisms).

Completely assimilated borrowings are not felt as foreign words in the language, if the French word «sport» and the native word «start». Completely assimilated verbs belong to regular verbs, e.g. correct -corrected. Completely assimilated nouns form their plural by means of s-inflexion, e.g. gate- gates. In completely assimilated French words the stress has been shifted from the last syllable to the last but one.

Semantic assimilation of borrowed words depends on the words existing in the borrowing language, as a rule, a borrowed word does not bring all its meanings into the borrowing language, if it is polysemantic, e.g. the Russian borrowing «sputnik» is used in English only in one of its meanings.

Partly assimilated borrowings are subdivided into the following groups: a) borrowings non-assimilated semantically, because they denote objects and notions peculiar to the country from the language of which they were borrowed, e.g. sari, sombrero, taiga, kvass etc.

b) Borrowings non-assimilated grammatically, e.g. nouns borrowed from Latin and Greek retain their plural forms (bacillus - bacilli, phenomenon - phenomena, datum -data, and genius - genii etc.

c) Borrowings non-assimilated phonetically. Here belong words with the initial sounds /v/ and /z/, e.g. voice, zero. In native words these voiced consonants are used only in the intervocal position as allophones of sounds /f/ and /s/ (loss - lose, life - live ). Some Scandinavian borrowings have consonants and combinations of consonants which were not palatalized, e.g. /sk/ in the words: sky, skate, ski etc (in native words we have the palatalized sounds denoted by the digraph «sh», e.g. shirt); sounds /k/ and /g/ before front vowels are not palatalized e.g. girl, get, give, kid, kill, kettle. In native words we have palatalization , e.g. German, child.

Some French borrowings have retained their stress on the last syllable, e.g. police, and cartoon. Some French borrowings retain special combinations of sounds, e.g. /a:3/ in the words : camouflage, bourgeois, some of them retain the combination of sounds /wa:/ in the words: memoir, boulevard.

d) borrowings can be partly assimilated graphically, e.g. in Greak borrowings «y» can be spelled in the middle of the word (symbol, synonym), «ph» denotes the sound /f/ (phoneme, morpheme), «ch» denotes the sound /k/(chemistry, chaos),«ps» denotes the sound /s/ (psychology).

Latin borrowings retain their polisyllabic structure, have double consonants, as a rule, the final consonant of the prefix is assimilated with the initial consonant of the stem, (accompany, affirmative).

French borrowings which came into English after 1650 retain their spelling, e.g. consonants «p», «t», «s» are not pronounced at the end of the word (buffet, coup, debris), Specifically French combination of letters «eau» /ou/ can be found in the borrowings: beau, chateau, troussaeu. Some of digraphs retain their French pronunciation: ‘ch’ is pronounced as /sh/, e.g. chic, parachute, ‘qu’ is pronounced as /k/ e.g. bouquet, «ou» is pronounced as /u:/, e.g. rouge; some letters retain their French pronunciation, e.g. «i» is pronounced as /i:/, e,g, chic, machine; «g» is pronounced as /3/, e.g. rouge.

Modern German borrowings also have some peculiarities in their spelling: common nouns are spelled with a capital letter e.g. Autobahn, Lebensraum; some vowels and digraphs retain their German pronunciation, e.g. «a» is pronounced as /a:/ (Dictat), «u» is pronounced as /u:/ (Kuchen), «au» is pronounced as /au/ (Hausfrau), «ei» is pronounced as /ai/ (Reich); some consonants are also pronounced in the German way, e.g. «s» before a vowel is pronounced as /z/ (Sitskrieg), «v» is pronounced as /f/ (Volkswagen), «w» is pronounced as /v/ , «ch» is pronounced as /h/ (Kuchen).

Non-assimilated borrowings (barbarisms) are borrowings which are used by Englishmen rather seldom and are non-assimilated, e.g. addio (Italian), tete-a-tete (French), dolce vita (Italian), duende (Spanish), an homme a femme (French), gonzo (Italian) etc.


Latin borrowings.

Among words of Romanic origin borrowed from Latin during the period when the British Isles were a part of the Roman Empire, there are such words as: street, port, wall etc. Many Latin and Greek words came into English during the Adoption of Christianity in the 6-th century. At this time the Latin alphabet was borrowed which ousted the Runic alphabet. These borrowings are usually called classical borrowings. Here belong Latin words: alter, cross, dean, and Greek words: church, angel, devil, anthem.

Latin and Greek borrowings appeared in English during the Middle English period due to the Great Revival of Learning. These are mostly scientific words because Latin was the language of science at the time. These words were not used as frequently as the words of the Old English period, therefore some of them were partly assimilated grammatically, e.g. formula - formulae. Here also belong such words as: memorandum, minimum, maximum, veto etc.

Classical borrowings continue to appear in Modern English as well. Mostly they are words formed with the help of Latin and Greek morphemes. There are quite a lot of them in medicine (appendicitis, aspirin), in chemistry (acid, valency, alkali), in technique (engine, antenna, biplane, airdrome), in politics (socialism, militarism), names of sciences (zoology, physics). In philology most of terms are of Greek origin (homonym, archaism, lexicography).

French borrowings
The influence of French on the English spelling.

The largest group of borrowings are French borrowings. Most of them came into English during the Norman Conquest. French influenced not only the vocabulary of English but also it’s spelling, because French scribes wrote documents as the local population was mainly illiterate, and the ruling class was French. Runic letters remaining in English after the Latin alphabet was borrowed were substituted by Latin letters and combinations of letters, e.g. «v» was introduced for the voiced consonant /v/ instead of «f» in the intervocal position /lufian - love/, the digraph «ch» was introduced to denote the sound /ch/ instead of the letter «c» / chest/ before front vowels where it had been palatalized, the digraph «sh» was introduced instead of the combination «sc» to denote the sound /sh/ /ship/, the digraph «th» was introduced instead of the Runic letters «0» and « » /this, thing/, the letter «y» was introduced instead of the Runic letter «3» to denote the sound /j/ /yet/, the digraph «qu» substituted the combination «cw» to denote the combination of sounds /kw/ /queen/, the digraph «ou» was introduced to denote the sound /u:/ /house/ (The sound /u:/ was later on diphthongized and is pronounced /au/ in native words and fully assimilated borrowings). As it was difficult for French scribes to copy English texts they substituted the letter «u» before «v», «m», «n» and the digraph «th» by the letter «o» to escape the combination of many vertical lines /«sunu» - «son», luvu» - «love»/.

Borrowing of French words.

There are the following semantic groups of French borrowings:

· a) words relating to government : administer, empire, state, government;

· b) words relating to military affairs: army, war, banner, soldier, battle;

· c) words relating to jury: advocate, petition, inquest, sentence, barrister;

· d) words relating to fashion: luxury, coat, collar, lace, pleat, embroidery;

· e) words relating to jewelry: topaz, emerald, ruby, pearl ;

· f) words relating to food and cooking: lunch, dinner, appetite, to roast, to stew.

Words were borrowed from French into English after 1650, mainly through French literature, but they were not as numerous and many of them are not completely assimilated. There are the following semantic groups of these borrowings:

· a) words relating to literature and music: belle-lettres, conservatorie, brochure, nuance, piruette, vaudeville;

· b) words relating to military affairs: corps, echelon, fuselage, manouvre;

· c) words relating to buildings and furniture: entresol, chateau, bureau;

· d) words relating to food and cooking: ragout, cuisine.

Italian borrowings.

Cultural and trade relations between Italy and England brought many Italian words into English. The earliest Italian borrowing came into English in the 14-th century, it was the word «bank» /from the Italian «banko» - «bench»/. Italian moneylenders and moneychangers sat in the streets on benches. When they suffered losses they turned over their benches, it was called «banco rotta» from which the English word «bankrupt» originated. In the 17-th century some geological terms were borrowed: volcano, granite, bronze, lava. At the same time some political terms were borrowed: manifesto, bulletin.

But mostly Italian is famous by its influence in music and in all Indo-European languages musical terms were borrowed from Italian: alto, baritone, basso, tenor, falsetto, solo, duet, trio, quartet, quintet, opera, operetta, libretto, piano, violin.

Among the 20-th century Italian borrowings we can mention: gazette, incognito, altostrati, fiasco, fascist, dilettante, grotesque, graffitto etc.

Spanish borrowings.

Spanish borrowings came into English mainly through its American variant. There are the following semantic groups of them:

· a) trade terms: cargo, embargo;

· b) names of dances and musical instruments: tango, rumba, habanera, guitar;

· c) names of vegetables and fruit: tomato, potato, tobacco, cocoa, banana, ananas, apricot etc.


English belongs to the Germanic group of languages and there are borrowings from Scandinavian, German and Holland languages, though their number is much less than borrowings from Romanic languages.

Scandinavian borrowings.

By the end of the Old English period English underwent a strong influence of Scandinavian due to the Scandinavian conquest of the British Isles. Scandinavians belonged to the same group of peoples as Englishmen and their languages had much in common. As the result of this conquest there are about 700 borrowings from Scandinavian into English.

Scandinavians and Englishmen had the same way of life, their cultural level was the same, they had much in common in their literature therefore there were many words in these languages which were almost identical, e.g.

ON OE Modern E
syster sweoster sister
fiscr fisc fish
felagi felawe fellow

However there were also many words in the two languages which were different, and some of them were borrowed into English, such nouns as: bull, cake, egg, kid, knife, skirt, window etc, such adjectives as: flat, ill, happy, low, odd, ugly, wrong, such verbs as : call, die, guess, get, give, scream and many others.

Even some pronouns and connective words were borrowed which happens very seldom, such as: same, both, till, fro, though, and pronominal forms with «th»: they, them, their. Scandinavian influenced the development of phrasal verbs, which did not exist in Old English, at the same time some prefixed verbs came out of usage, e.g. ofniman, beniman. Phrasal verbs are now highly productive in English /take off, give in etc/.

German borrowings.

There are some 800 words borrowed from German into English. Some of them have classical roots, e.g. in some geological terms, such as: cobalt, bismuth, zink, quarts, gneiss, wolfram. There were also words denoting objects used in everyday life which were borrowed from German: iceberg, lobby, and rucksack, Kindergarten etc.

In the period of the Second World War the following words were borrowed: Volkssturm, Luftwaffe, SS-man, Bundeswehr, gestapo, gas chamber and many others. After the Second World War the following words were borrowed: Berufsverbot, Volkswagen etc.

Holland borrowings.

Holland and England have constant interrelations for many centuries and more than 2000 Holland borrowings were borrowed into English. Most of them are nautical terms and were mainly borrowed in the 14-th century, such as: freight, skipper, pump, keel, dock, reef, deck, leak and many others.

Besides two main groups of borrowings (Romanic and Germanic) there are also borrowings from a lot of other languages. We shall speak about Russian borrowings, borrowings from the language, which belongs to Slavoninc languages.

Russian borrowings.

There were constant contacts between England and Russia and they borrowed words from one language into the other. Among early Russian borrowings there are mainly words connected with trade relations, such as: rouble, copeck, pood, sterlet, vodka, sable, and also words relating to nature, such as: taiga, tundra, steppe etc.

There is also a large group of Russian borrowings which came into English through Rushian literature of the 19-th century, such as : Narodnik, moujik, duma, zemstvo. volost, ukase etc, and also words which were formed in Russian with Latin roots, such as: nihilist, intelligenzia, Decembrist etc.

After the Great October Revolution many new words appeared in Russian connected with the new political system, new culture, and many of them were borrowed into English, such as: collectivization. udarnik, Komsomol etc and also translation loans, such as: shock worker, collective farm, five-year plan etc.

One more group of Russian borrowings is connected with perestroika, such as: glasnost, nomenklatura, apparatchik etc.


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