Студопедия — Words of native Origin and Borrowings
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Words of native Origin and Borrowings

The most characteristic feature of English is usually said to be its mixed character. Many linguists consider foreign influence, especially that of French, to be the most important factor in the history of English. This wide-spread viewpoint is supported only by the evidence of the English word-stock, as its grammar and phonetic systems are very stable and not easily influenced by other languages.

To comprehend the nature of the English vocabulary and its historical development it is necessary to examine the etymology of different layers, the historical causes of their appearance, their volume and role and the comparative importance of native and borrowed elements in enriching the English vocabulary.

According to their origin words can be native and borrowed.

A native word is a word which belongs to the original English stock as known from the earliest available manuscripts of the Old English period.

Native words are further subdivided into the words of the Indo-European stock and those of the Common Germanic origin. The words having cognates in the vocabularies of different Indo-European languages form the oldest layer. It has been noticed that they readily fall into definite semantic groups. Among them we find terms of kinship (mother, father, son, daughter), names of animals and birds (cat, wolf, goose), parts of human body (arm, eye). Some of the most frequent verbs belong to this word stock: come, sit, stand. Most numerals are also of the Indo-European origin.

A bigger part of the native vocabulary consists of the words of the Common Germanic word stock. Such nouns as summer, winter, rain, ice, hat; the verbs to bake, to buy, to make, to meet; the adjectives deaf, dead, deep are of the Common Germanic origin. Most adverbs and pronouns also belong here.

Together with the words of the Common Indo-European stock the Common Germanic words form the bulk of the most frequent elements used in any style of speech.

Characteristic Features of the Native Vocabulary

1. The words are monosyllabic: sun, wood, break.

2. They are polysemantic: hand – 1. Part of the human body. 2. Power, possession, by a responsibility.3. Influence. 4. Person from whom news comes. 5. Skill in using one’s hands. 6. Person who does what is indicated by the context, performer. 7. Workman. 8. Share in activity. 9. Pointer, indicator. 10. Position or direction. 11. Handwriting. 12. Signature. 13. Number of cards held by a player. 14. Unit of measurement. 15. Applause by clapping.

3. They are characterised by high frequency.

4. Native words are usually found in set-expressions.

5. Verbs with post-positions are usually native: to look for, to look after.

6. They are characterised by a wide range of lexical and grammatical valency.

7. If words begin with wh, wr, tw, dw, sw, sh. th; if at the end they have dge, tch,nd, ld; if the roots have ng, aw, ew, ee, oo they are native.


Borrowing words from other languages is characteristic of English throughout its history. More than two thirds of the English vocabulary are borrowings. Mostly they are words of Romanic origin (Latin, French, Italian, Spanish). Borrowed words are different from native ones by their phonetic structure, by their morphological structure and also by their grammatical forms. It is also characterisitic of borrowings to be non-motivated semantically.

English history is very rich in different types of contacts with other countries, that is why it is very rich in borrowings. The Roman invasion, the adoption of Cristianity, Scandinavian and Norman conquests of the British Isles, the development of British colonialism and trade and cultural relations served to increase immensely the English vocabulary. The majority of these borrowings are fully assimilated in English in their pronunciation, grammar, spelling and can be hardly distinguished from native words.

English continues to take in foreign words, but now the quantity of borrowings is not so abundunt as it was before. All the more so, English now has become a «giving» language, it has become Lingva franca of the twentieth century.

Borrowings can be classified according to different criteria:

a) according to the aspect which is borrowed,

b) according to the degree of assimilation,

c) according to the language from which the word was borrowed.

(In this classification only the main languages from which words were borrowed into English are described, such as Latin, French, Italian. Spanish, German and Russian.


Causes and ways of borrowings

In its 15 century long history recorded in written manuscripts the English language happened to come in long and close contact with several other languages, mainly Latin, French and Old Norse (or Scandinavian). The great influx of borrowings from these sources can be accounted for by a number of historical causes. Due to the great influence of the Roman civilization Latin was for a long time used in England as the language of learning and religion. Old Norse was the language the conquerors who were on the same level of social and cultural development and who merged rather easily with the local population in the 9th, 10th ant the first half of the 11th century.

French (to be more exact its Norman dialect) was the language of the other conquerors who brought with them a lot of new notions of a higher social system - developed feudalism, it was the language of upper classes, official documents and school instruction from the middle of the 11th century to the end of the 14th century.

In the study of the borrowed elements in English the main emphasis is as a rule placed on the Middle English period. Borrowings of the later periods became the object of investigation only in recent years. This investigations have shown that the flow of borrowings has been stead and uninterrupted. The greatest number has come from French. They refer to various fields of social - political, scientific and the cultural life. A large portion of borrowings (41%) is scientific and technical terms.

There are two causes of borrowing into English: historical and social.

Historically, on the one hand, English shares with West Germanic languages many common words and similar grammatical structures; on the other hand, more than half of the English vocabulary is derived from Latin. Some of these borrowings have been direct, but a great many came through French, some through other Romance languages, such as Italian, Spanish and Portuguese.

The influence of foreign languages on the English language has been the result of the succession of invaders who came into contact with the English people during the Middle Ages, on the one hand. On the other hand, invasions and trade by the English themselves have carried English to most parts of the world, and at the same time brought many words from foreign languages into English.

Socially, as the world develops so does the English language. Especially in the twentieth century, owing to the rapid development of the modern mass media, the international and cultural exchange and information, a great number of borrowed words have come into English. They have become a component part of the English vocabulary to satisfy needs of society.

Borrowings enter the language into ways: through oral speech (by immediate contact between the peoples) and through written speech (by indirect contact through books, etc.).

Oral borrowing took place chiefly in the early periods of history, where as in recent times written borrowing gained importance. Words borrowed orally (e.g. L. inch, mill, street) are usually short and they undergo considerable changes in the act of adoption. Written borrowings (e.g. Fr. Communiquй, belles - letters, naпvetй) preserve their spelling and some peculiarities of their sound - form, their assimilation is a long and laborious process.


Assimilation of Borrowings

It is now essential to analyze the changes that borrowings have undergone in the English language and how they have adapted themselves to its peculiarities.

All the changes that borrowed elements undergo may be divided into two large groups.

On the one hand there are changes specific of borrowed words only. These changes aim at adapting words of foreign origin to the norms of the borrowing language, e.g. the consonant combinations [pn], [ps], [pt] in the words pneumatics, psychology, Ptolemey of Greek origin were simplified into [n], [s], [t], since the consonant combinations [ps], [pt], [pn], very frequent at the end of English words (as in sleeps, stopped,etc.), were never used in the initial [ks] was changed into [z] (as in Gr. Xylophone).

The suffixes - ar,- or,- ator in early Latin borrowings were replaced by the highly productive Old English swuffix - ere,as in L. Caesar - OE., Casere;L. sutor - OE. sutere.

By analogy with the great majority of nouns that form their plural - s, borrowings, even very recent ones, have assumed this inflection instead of their original plural endings.

On the other hand we observe changes that are characteristic of both borrowed and native words. These changes are due to the development of the word according to the laws of the given language. When the highly inflected Old English system of declension changed into the simpler system of Middle English, early borrowings conformed with the general rule. Under the influence of the so-called inflexional leveling borrowings like disc (Mn.E dish) that had a number of grammatical forms in Old English acquired only three forms in Middle English: common case and possessive case singular and plural (fellow, fellowes, fellowes).

It is very important to discriminate between the two processes - the adaptation of borrowed material to the norms of the language and the development of these words according to the laws of the language.

This differentiation is not always easily discernible. In most cases it must resort to historical analysis before we can draw any definite. There is nothing in the form of the words procession and progression to show that the former was already used in England in the 11th century, the latter not till the 15th century. The history of these words reveals that the word procession has undergone a number of changes alongside with other English words (change in declension, accentuation, structure, sounds), Whereas the word progression underwent some changes by analogy with the word procession and other similar words already at the time of its appearance in the language.

Phonetic, Grammatical and Lexical Assimilation of Borrowings

Since the process of assimilation of borrowings includes changes in sound-form, morphological structure, grammar, characteristics, meaning and usage. Linguists distinguish phonetic, grammatical and lexical assimilation of borrowings.

Phonetic assimilation comprising changes in sound-form and stress is perhaps the most conspicuous.

Sounds that were alien to the English language were fitted into its scheme of sounds. For instance, the long [e] and [е] in recent French borrowings, alien to English speech, are rendered with the help of [ei] (as in the words communiquй, chaussйe, cafй).

Familiar sounds or sound combinations the position of which was strange to the English language, were replaced by other sounds or sound combinations to make the words conform to the norms of the language, e.g. German spitz [pits] was turned into English [spits]. Substitution of native sounds for foreign ones usually takes place in the very act of borrowing. But some words retain their foreign pronunciation for a long time before the unfamiliar sounds are replaced by similar native sounds.

Even when a borrowed word seems at first sight to be identical in form with its immediate etymon as OE. skill <;Scand. skil;OE. scinn <;Scand. skinn; the phonetic structure of the word undergoes some changes, since every language as well as every period in the history of a language is characterized by its own pedculiarities in the articulation of sounds.

In words that were added to English from foreign sources, especially from French or Latin, the accent was gradually transferred to the first syllable. Thus words like honour, reason were accented on the same principle as the native father, mother.

Grammatical Assimilation. Usually as soon as words from other languages were introduced into English they lost their former grammatical categories and paradigms and acquired new grammatical categories and paradigms by analogy with other English words.

However, there are some words in Modern English that have for centuries retained their foreign inflexions. Thus a considerable group of borrowed nouns, all of them terms or literary words adopted in the 16th century or later, have preserved their original plural inflexion to this day, e.g. phenomenon (L.) - phenomena. Other borrowings of the same period have two plural forms - the native and the foreign, e.g. vacuum (L.) - vacua, vacuums, virtuoso (It.) - virtuosi, virtuosos.

All borrowings that were composite in structure in their native language appeared in English as indivisible simple words, unless there were already words with the same morphemes in it, e.g. in the word saunter the French infinitive inflexion - er is retained, but it has changed its quality, it is preserved in all the other grammatical forms of the word (cf. saunters, sauntered, sauntering), which means that it has become part of the stem in English.

Sometimes in borrowed words foreign affixes are replaced by those available in the English language, e.g. the inflexion - us in Latin adjectives was replaced in English with the suffixes - ous or - al: L. barbarous >;E. barbarous;L. botanicus >;E. botanical.

Lexical Assimilation. When a word is taken over into another language, its semantic structure as a rule undergoes great changes.

Polysemantic words are usually adopted only in one or two of their meanings. Thus the word timbre that had a number of meanings in French was borrowed into English as a musical term only. The words cargo and cask,highly polysemantic in Spanish, were adopted only in one of their meanings - `the goods carried in a ship', `a barrel for holding liquids' respectively.

In the process of its historical development a borrowing sometimes acquired new meanings that were not to be found in its former semantic structure. For instance, the verb move in Modern English has developed the meanings of `propose', `change one's flat', `mix with people'. The word scope, which originally had the meaning of `aim, purpose', now means `ability to understand', `the field within which an activity takes place, sphere', `opportunity, freedom of action'. As a rule the development of new meanings takes place 50-100 years after the word is borrowed.

The semantic structure of borrowings changes in other ways as well. Some meanings become more general, others more specialized, etc. For instance, the word terrorist,that was takenover from French in the meaning of `Jacobin', widened its meaning to `one who governs, or opposes a government by violent means'. The word umbrella, borrowed in the meaning of a `sunshade' or `parasol' (from It. ombrella < ombra - `shade') came to denote similar protection from the rain as well.

Usually the primary meaning of a borrowed word is retained throughout its history, but sometimes it becomes a secondary meaning. Thus the Scandinavian borrowings wing, root, take and many others have retained their primary meanings to the present day, whereas in the OE. fлola e (Mn.E. fellow) which was borrowed from the same source in the meaning of `comrade, companion', the primary meaning has receded to the background and was replaced by the meaning that appeared in New English `a man or a boy'.

Sometimes change of meaning is the result of associating borrowed words with familiar words which somewhat resemble them in sound but which are not at all related. This process, which is termed f o l k e t y m o l o g y, often changes the form of the word in whole or in part, so as to bring it nearer to the word or words with which it is thought to be connected, e.g. the French verb sur(o) under had the meaning of `overflow'. In English - r(o) under was associated by mistake with round and the verb was interpreted as meaning `enclose on all sides, encircle' (Mn.E. surround).

Folk - etymologization is a slow process; people first attempt to give the foreign borrowing its foreign pronunciation, but gradually popular use evolves a new pronunciation and spelling.

The role of loan words in the formation and development of English vocabulary is dealt with in the history of the language. It is there that the historical circumstances are discussed under which words borrowed from Latin, from Scandinavian dialects, from Norman and Parisian French and many other languages, including Russian, were introduced into English. Lexicology, on the other hand, has in this connection tasks of its own, being chiefly concerned with the material and the results of assimilation.

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