Globally Speaking: Motives for Adopting English Vocabulary in Other Languages

Globally Speaking: Motives for Adopting English Vocabulary in Other Languages


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781847690517
Publisher: Multilingual Matters Ltd.
Publication date: 04/15/2008
Series: Multilingual Matters Series , #140
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

For almost a decade, Prof. Judith Rosenhouse and Prof. Rotem Kowner have led a multi-member research project on the motives for borrowing foreign lexicon, culminating with the publication of this book. Rosenhouse is a noted Israeli linguist specialized in Arabic and Hebrew, who recently retired from the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology and has joined Swantech Ltd.

Kowner is an Israeli Japanologist who focuses on Japanese attitudes and response to foreign culture, the West in particular, in modern times. Currently he serves as the chair of the Department of East Asian Studies at the University of Haifa.

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Globally Speaking

Motives for Adopting English Vocabulary in Other Languages

By Judith Rosenhouse, Rotem Kowner

Multilingual Matters

Copyright © 2008 Judith Rosenhouse, Rotem Kowner and the authors of individual chapters
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-84769-052-4


The Hegemony of English and Determinants of Borrowing from Its Vocabulary


Since the second half of the 20th century English has become a global lingua franca. Whereas Mandarin remains the world's most widely spoken first language, English has emerged as the world's first choice as a second language; more importantly, it is by now the principal means for international communication. The effect of English does not end with its wide usage. With its rise, English has come to serve many languages as a source for intensive lexical borrowing, reflecting the importance and status it holds as a leading language. This ongoing process, however, has not been uniform. Certain societies have offered resistance to the spread of English and a reluctance to borrow its vocabulary. Others have embraced English, making English loan words an important part of their vocabulary, using it in codeswitching, and even adopting it as their main language.

The Italian phrase lingua franca (literally Frankish language), which now denotes English as a leading language, referred originally to the hybrid language created and used in the Mediterranean area. From early times, seamen and merchants in certain Mediterranean ports used a mixture of languages, predominantly Italian, but with many lexical elements from Greek, Spanish, Arabic, Turkish and French, for communicating with each other (Cifoletti, 1989; Schuchardt, 1980). Although the term means literally 'European language', it arguably narrowed down to Romance-based pidgin (e.g. Minervini, 1996). Evidently, there was nothing distinctive about the Mediterranean lingua franca, and other hybrid languages, often linguistically defined as pidgins and creoles, emerged in many other places where people speaking different languages intermingled for a prolonged length of time (Gilbert, 2002; Jahr and Broch, 1996; Mühlhäusler, 1986; Sebba, 1997).

These forms of mixed and simplified language were not the only means of intergroup communication. In many places where speakers of different languages met they chose to speak one language. Usually it was the language of the majority, although in some cases numerical advantage did not play a crucial role, but the importance of the culture or nation to which the speakers belonged did. Over the years, the term lingua franca gained an additional meaning: now, it also denotes a leading language, not a hybrid but a proper language, which serves as a medium of communication between speakers of different languages in a given region or setting. In the Middle East it was Accadian, then Aramaic, then Arabic and finally the Ottoman Turkish; in some parts of Eurasia and North Africa Greek was the lingua franca for more than a millennium after the death of Alexander the Great. In East Asia classical Chinese played a similar role for thousands of years, mainly in a written form, until the late 19th century, whereas throughout much of the American continent, from California to Patagonia, Spanish has been used since the age of exploration. After the Napoleonic wars French served as the lingua franca of imperial diplomacy, as well as the principal choice of communication among the European aristocracy. More recently, for a short period (about four decades starting from 1945) Russian enjoyed similar importance in the Soviet bloc, stretching from East Germany to Mongolia. While virtually not a spoken tongue, Latin served as a key language of religion, government and scholarship throughout Europe of the medieval era, and as late as 1687 Isaac Newton wrote his first major work, Principia, in this language – but not his second!

English as a Lingua Franca

The rise of English during the last two centuries to its present position has been nothing less than spectacular. In 1780 the second American president, John Adams, predicted that English is destined 'to be the next and succeeding centuries more generally the language of the world than Latin was in the past or French in the present time' (quoted from McCrum et al., 1986: 239). Adams reasoned that the increasing population in America, its inhabitants' universal connection with their mother countries, and the global influence of England would inevitably make English a leading language. The realisation of this prophecy was not as self-evident as it seems in retrospect today, even for the mere fact that in 1780 English had fewer than 15 million speakers, spread sparsely over England, Scotland, Ireland, the USA, Canada and the Caribbean. Half a century later the German linguist Jacob Grimm stated that English 'may with all right be called a world language; and, like the English people, appears destined hereafter to prevail with a sway more extensive even than its present over all the portions of the globe' (quoted in Trench, 1881: 44). Neither Adams nor Grimm lived to see their prophecies come true, but a few decades later some early but promising precursors of English linguistic hegemony were more than visible.

During the late 19th century English began to replace French as the lingua franca of Western Europe, and while Russian aristocrats regarded the latter as their language of choice well into the Bolshevik Revolution, their ruler, Tsar Nicholas II, displayed a clear preference for the former. Earlier, during the 18th and the 19th centuries, English had already established its position as the lingua franca of North America and the Indian subcontinent. Whereas in North America most of the population used English as their first language, in the Indian subcontinent only a small fraction did so. In the latter case English was the language of the British rulers but was gradually adopted by the multilingual locals for intergroup communication. British imperial hegemony and huge colonial possessions during the late 19th century were undoubtedly a major determinant in facilitating the spread of English at that time, but not the only one. After WWI, and particularly after WWII, American economic hegemony and growing political and cultural importance proved the main spur for the spread of English, and the USA became the cultural and linguist harbinger of the English language.

In the postwar era the combined impact of these two nations has brought English to a new and unprecedented position, not only for its geographical spread and the number of its speakers, but for its overall significance. It has assumed the role of the world's lingua franca. Today English is the preferred language of communication at virtually any international meeting hosting representatives of more than a number of nations, and at many regional meetings as well. English speakers can be found in almost any corner of the globe and English is now the dominant or at least one of the official languages in over 75 states and territories (Conrad & Fishman, 1977; Crystal, 2003b) in which at least 1.6 billion people live (Sullivan, 1991). More than 70% of scientific publications and the vast majority of the leading scientific publishers are at present in English (Ammon, 1996).

Similarly, about 80% of Internet sites are in English, and most of the programming languages used are based on English. Furthermore, although the number of English speakers as a first language is approaching 400 million, and a similar number of speakers use it as a second language (mainly in the Indian subcontinent), it is possible that in sum nearly two billion of the approximately six billion people who inhabit the globe are able to communicate in English in varying levels of competence (Crystal, 2003b; Dalby, 2004). In this sense, English can be viewed, as McArthur (2002) suggested, as the sole representative of 'a universalizing complex' – a new and extreme category on a continuity where the world's languages are arranged. While English has many variants, it has emerged recently also in a new and generalised form known as International Standard English, which offers a standard and secured pattern of communication to all English speakers (McArthur, 2002). This pattern can be found on many of the services offered on the Internet (e.g. Google, America Online), in global media services (e.g. CNN, BBC), at airports and other locations where English is used in a multilingual context.

Research on the Global Spread of English: From World Englishes to English Loan Words

In the last three decades much research has been conducted on the position of English as the world's lingua franca and the processes associated with it. Many linguists have focused on description and analysis of the large number of varieties of Englishes used, in predominantly English-speaking countries, in places where English is still used as part of the British or American legacy, and in any other culture (e.g. Crystal, 2003b; Kachru, 1982, 1986, 1992; Viereck et al., 1984; Watts & Trudgill, 2002). The growing interest and academic importance of this topic is evident in the activity of two academic journals, both established in the early 1980s: English World-Wide: A Journal of Varieties of English and World Englishes. The former focuses on the dialectology and sociolinguistics of the English-speaking communities (native and second-language speakers), while the latter is committed to the study of varieties of English in their distinctive cultural, sociolinguistic and educational contexts, with emphasis on cross-cultural perspectives and identities.

A related field of research is the study of English as a foreign second language, often simply known as English Language Teaching (ELT) or Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). The main focus in this field is on teaching English to non-native speakers, and although this goal is purely educational, it enhances the diffusion of English as a global lingua franca. There are thousands of publications on this topic, including the academic journal Teaching English as a Second or ForeignLanguage (TESL-EJ) – a quarterly disseminated electronically from Berkeley, California, since 1994. The concept of 'English as a second language' represents for many its positive facet: a language bringing people together and mediating between cultures in conflict. This has been one of the major goals of teaching this language for many years at schools all over the world (cf. Block & Cameron, 2001). For others, however, the same type of English, an all-out global mode of communication, is not always seen as a blessing but as a threat. Some see it as the epitome of Anglo-American imperialism, the bridgehead of a linguistic invasion aimed at world domination, or at least a constant reminder of its ongoing postcolonial legacy (e.g. Pennycook, 1994, 1998; Phillipson, 1992).

Others regard globalising English as undemocratic since it creates a structure of linguistic hierarchy, which enhances the cultural dominance of English-speaking countries, particularly the USA and Britain (e.g. Tsuda, 1986, 2000). In the current critical milieu, it is no wonder that the spread of English is also associated with language death, a phenomenon that takes place in several forms. Contact with English-speaking people has led in some cases to marginalisation of local languages, as has occurred among speakers of various Austronesian languages in the Pacific Ocean, and in other cases to the virtual eradication of the local population, thereby bringing about the death of their language as well, as has happened in North America and Australia (e.g. Crystal, 2000; Nettle & Romaine, 2000).

Another aspect of the spread of English is research on codeswitching and codemixing, which form the actual context in which borrowings are used. Codeswitching is the use of various linguistic units, usually but not only from two participating grammatical systems within a speech event, and its usage is motivated by social and psychological factors (Ritchie & Bhatia, 2004). Codemixing is similar in form and motives to codeswitching, but whereas the former is intrasentential and is constrained by grammatical principles, the latter is intersentential and may be subject to discourse principles (Ritchie & Bhatia, 2004). In the present framework, we do not need to contrast codeswitching with codemixing. Indeed some scholars (e.g. Gumperz, 1982) consider them one entity, a 'situational shifting'. In any case, codeswitching and – mixing phenomena alike provide the theoretical linguistic basis for the use of borrowed words in the absorbing language.

The alter ego of English in this context is the plethora of all the remaining languages of the world, and indeed much research is devoted to the attitudes of other languages to English. Although there are perhaps more than 6000 of them, only a few hundred have more than one million speakers, and far fewer than a hundred languages receive academic attention regarding their current plight (cf. Flaitz, 1988 on the attitude to French). This attention focuses on one level on codeswitching, and on another level on language planning and policy regarding the incorporation of English lexicon. While the usage of English lexicon in various languages has been the focus of much research, some has been done on the rejection of English lexicon, know as purism.

The study of codeswitching and codemixing has emerged mainly due to research on its occurrence in English mixed/switched with another language (e.g. Blom & Gumperz, 1972) and is thus related to our present theme. Over time, various theories of codeswitching and mixing structures and functions have developed (MacSwan, 2004). Studies of bilingual/trilingual/multilingual language acquisition have shown that codeswitching and codemixing exist in young children's speech from a very early age (McLaughlin, 1984; Zentella, 1997) and are assumed to be due to the structuring of the language systems in the brain and the efficiency with which each language structure can be applied when necessary. This structuring operates in young and adult bilingual speakers. Based on these facts, the borrowing process and loan word use are natural, which explains their frequency in bilingual communication. As codeswitching and codemixing reflect the psycholinguistic effect of the interaction between languages on bilingual speakers' behaviour, they complement the sociolinguistic effect of societal language policy on speakers' linguistic behaviour.

The spread of English is closely related to policies and attitudes of speakers of those languages, as well as some institutions designated to deal with language planning, that is, with the deliberate, systematic change of language form or use (cf. Bauman, 2004; Kaplan & Baldauf, 1997; Spolsky 2004; Wright, 2004). Such policies are an important aspect of the reception of English, either by encouraging its acceptance or by rejecting it through legal and cultural means. This issue has also benefited from the activity of the academic journal Language Problems and Language Planning (LPLP). This journal focuses on language policy and relationships within and among language communities, particularly in international contexts, and in the adaptation, manipulation and standardisation of languages for international use. Purism, a derivative and often the consequence of language policy, appears at present to have a strong association with English, at least indirectly. This is because some perceive it as a destructive check to the further spread of English, while others see it as a necessary evil (e.g. Pergnier, 1989). There have been a number of studies on policies of purism (e.g. Jernudd & Shapiro, 1989; Thomas, 1991), especially in France and Germany (e.g. de Saint-Robert, 2000; Langer & Davies, 2005; Plümer, 2000), but also in some other nations (e.g. Wexler, 1974).

Several studies have examined the dissemination of English use in general and English loan words in particular, resulting in some cases in dictionaries or other compilations, for example, in French and Japanese (e.g. Görlach, 2003; Höfler, 1982; Kamiya, 1994; Lorenzo, 1996; Miura, 1979; Picone, 1996). In a more inquisitive though less systematic manner, Fishman, Cooper and Conrad conducted the first substantial worldwide survey on the spread of English, and in 1977 published their findings (Fishman et al., 1977a). Their book comprised miscellaneous case studies, some descriptive, others more quantitative; overall, they illuminated the growing position of English. A decade later Viereck and Bald (1986) edited another wide-ranging book on the contact of English with other languages. Their impressive volume dealt with 29 societies on four continents, but it neither examined them systematically nor attempted to draw any general conclusions from the vast evidence it adduced. Later Phillipson (1992) examined the spread of English in a comparative study, but his focus on colonialism intentionally excluded the examination of other, perhaps not less important, factors that may determine attitudes to English.


Excerpted from Globally Speaking by Judith Rosenhouse, Rotem Kowner. Copyright © 2008 Judith Rosenhouse, Rotem Kowner and the authors of individual chapters. Excerpted by permission of Multilingual Matters.
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Table of Contents

Introduction 1. The Hegemony of English and Determinants of Borrowing from its Vocabulary - Rotem Kowner and Judith Rosenhouse 2. Icelandic: Phono-Semantic Matching - Yair Sapir and Ghil’ad Zuckermann 3. French: Tradition vs. Innovation as Reflected in English Borrowings - Miriam Ben-Rafael 4. Dutch: Is It Threatened by English? - Herman J. De Vries Jr. 5. Hungarian: Trends and Determinants of English Borrowing in a Market Economy Newcomer - Zsuzsa Sziklain Gombos, Zoltán Sturcz with Judith Rosenhouse and Rotem Kowner 6. Russian: From Social Realism to Reality Show - Maria Yelenevskaya 7. Hebrew: Borrowing Ideology and Pragmatic Aspects in a Modern(ized) Language - Judith Rosenhouse and Haya Fisherman 8. Colloquial Arabic (in Israel): The Case of English Loanwords in a Minority Language with Diglossia - Judith Rosenhouse 9. Amharic: Political and Social Effects on English Loanwords - Anbessa Teferra 10. Farsi: The Process of Modernization and the Advent of English - Soli Shahvar 11. Indian Languages: Hidden English in Texts and Society - Dennis Kurzon 12. Chinese in Taiwan: Cooking a Linguistic Chop Suey and Embracing English - Sufen Sophia Lai 13. Japanese: The Dialectic Relationships between 'Westerness' and 'Japaneseness' as Reflected in English Loanwords - Rotem Kowner and Michal Daliot-Bul 14. Conclusion: Features of Borrowing from English in Twelve Languages - Judith Rosenhouse and Rotem Kowner Contributors Bibliography

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