Are our languages more beautiful with lexical borrowing? (2023)

For the linguistic materials that may pass from one language into another there is no boundary; however, some materials are more likely to pass than others. Linguistic borrowing could be a common issue which is intently studied and examined in individual languages. Hoffer (2005) has stated that “one of the most easily observable results of intercultural contact and communication is the set of loanwords that is imported into the vocabulary of each language involved”.The spread of English as the language of the Internet and the emphasis placed on English in schools and education suggest that more and more English loanwords will be imported in other countries over the next few decades (See also Long term languages).

Grant (2015) believes that lexical borrowing is “the commonest form of contact-induced linguistic change”. He adds that “loanwords can (but need not) also act as conduits for the transmission and subsequent integration of new phonemes or inflectional and derivational morphemes into the recipient language”. According to Bernard Comrie, “the nature of the morphological systems in contact and how they relate to one another” underlie the formal determining factors in the process of borrowing (Comrie, 2002).

It is pointed by Iweta Kalinowska (former Communication Trainee at TermCoord) that “the simplest of all linguistic processes used to create new words, is that of borrowing, where words from other languages enter common use”. Although the process of borrowing would seem the simplest among all linguistic processes, managing and monitoring these forms are not easy tasks.


Loanwords are a very distinguished cluster of borrowings and a series of recent publications analyzes their integration into the recipient languages. Einar Haugen (1950), one of the most important American linguists, has presented athreefold distinction applied to borrowings and to him “loanword” is the vaguest of the group because “it may include practically any of the others”:

  1. Loanwords (e.g. AmE shivaree from Fr. charivari)
  2. Loanblends: hybrid borrowings which consist of partly borrowed material and partly native material (e.g. Fr.couronne jacket from Engl. jacket crown).
  3. Loanshifts: Loan translations [calque] and loan meaning [semantic borrowing] (e.g. Fr. presqu’île modeled on Latin paeninsula)

There is also another categorization by Hughes (2000), Professor of the History of the English Language at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, according to which three groups of lexical borrowings are distinguished:

  1. Guest word: Word that retains its original pronunciation, spelling, and meaning. Examples are passé from French, diva from Italian, and leitmotiv from German.
  2. Foreign word: Word that has undergone partial assimilation, as have French garage and hotel.
  3. Loanword: Word that has become a virtual native in the source language with no distinguishing characteristics. Loanword is thus an example of itself.

Suzanne Kemmer, associate professor of linguistics at the Rice University describes loanwords as follows:

(Video) Language Contact and Lexical Borrowing

Loanwords are words adopted by the speakers of one language from a different language (the source language). A loanword can also be called a borrowing. The abstract noun borrowing refers to the process of speakers adopting words from a source language into their native language. “Loan” and “borrowing” are of course metaphors because there is no literal lending process. (Kemmer, 2003)

Martin Haspelmath, senior scientist at the linguistics department at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, and well-known researcher in the fields of comparative syntax, morphology, language contact, and linguistic universals, in his article Lexical borrowing: Concepts and issues (2009) describes that the term borrowing has been used in two different senses:

(i) As a general term for all kinds of transfer or copying processes, whether they are due to native speakers adopting elements from other languages into the recipient language, or whether they result from non-native speakers imposing properties of their native language onto a recipient language.

(ii) In a more restricted sense, “to refer to the incorporation of foreign elements into the speakers’ native language” (Thomason & Kaufman 1988:21), i.e. as a synonym of adoption.

The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics defines lexical borrowing as “the adoption of individual words or even large sets of vocabulary items from another language or dialect”.

It can also include roots and affixes, sounds, collocations, and grammatical processes. It has profound implications for various aspects of applied linguistics, including sociolinguistics and foreign-language learning (Daulton, 2012).

(Video) 10 English Words BORROWED From Other Languages (French, Japanese, Chinese etc.)

As it can be seen from these arguments, “some linguists define borrowing in a narrow way that excludes the effects of shift-induced interference or substrate” (Stolz, T., Bakker, D., & Palomo, R. S., 2008).

Loanwords and Terminology

When languages are in contact, they enrich their vocabulary through the cultural, technological and scientific exchanges. These exchanges can influence the recipient language to the extent that new concepts and consequently new terms and new coinage strategies could enter the linguistic system of the language. It is also probable that these new terms become integrated into the target language as its own components. It is also worth mentioning that among all linguistic patterns, nouns are more likely to be borrowed than others.

With the ever increasing pace of progress in science and technology, there is a large variety of loanwords in various subject fields that require being verified whether or not can be adopted or if they need to be replaced by native alternative terms. Therefore, it is desirable to manage and monitor these lexical exchanges to a particular level so as to ensure their correct accommodation within the general system of the language as well as the specialized scopes.

Loanwords in specialized contexts are also called “borrowed terms” or “loan terms”. According to ISO [1087-1 Terminology work — Vocabulary —Part 1: Theory and application], borrowed term is:

borrowed term

term (3.4.3) taken from another language or from another subject field (3.1.2)

(Video) How language shapes the way we think | Lera Boroditsky

Nevertheless, languages do not perform the same attitude towards borrowed terms either for the diverse internal characteristics of the languages (e.g. morphological and phonetic systems) or for the distinct criteria and policies (e.g. purism). For instance, while in Italian the term “chat” is admitted as an adopted term, in Catalan the term “xat” is proposed as an adapted term and in Quebec French “clavardage” is a preferred French term designating the concept in Informatics. According to Varga & Orešković Dvorski (2011), “France exerts a far greater institutional effort to preserve its native language than does Italy”.

The process of borrowing also depends on the domains and subject fields. Some technical and knowledge domains tend to borrow more than some other domains. For instance in Russian, the most frequent lexical borrowings have occurred in business, industry, politics, art, fashion, entertainment and technology (Styblo Jr., 2007). It is worth mentioning that borrowing can be observed as a part of a wider linguistic phenomenon which is neology.

In “Metodología del trabajo en neología: criterios, materials y procesos” (Cabré 2004), borrowing is considered as a type of neologisms. The other types are formal neologism, syntactic neologism, semantic neologism and others (i.e. neologisms that cannot be categorized in any of the defined categories). In this document, lexical borrowing (préstamo) is a category including not-adapted words from another language or orthographically adapted words. In this sense, borrowing from another subject field in the same language (as it is defined by ISO) is not accounted.

Why do we use loanwords?

It is admitted that not only there is nothing wrong in using loanwords but also the flexibility in borrowing from other languages (donor languages) enriches the vocabulary of the target language. Interestingly, English, as one of the most prominent languages, is among those flexible languages that its vocabulary has developed and enriched significantly through borrowing processes. However, structurally, all languages have adequate productive resources to form up new words for new notions. Thus, so as to clarify the widespread use of loanwords, we might need to search for the roots in the convenience of applying the loanword in bilingual or multilingual circumstances (Haspelmath, 2009).

The use of loanwords is not problematic per se, but the consequences of the process might be. The problems arise when loanwords conflict with the linguistic characteristics of the target language. “If loanwords are to be incorporated into the utterances of a new language, they must be fitted into its grammatical structure” (Haugen, 1950). The study of borrowing and loanwords in technical languages is one of the key subjects in terminology. It is a common practice for terminologists to extract frequent formation resources and patterns to analyze the adaptability and receptivity of scientific language in order to design appropriate criteria for the borrowings in certain languages or domains (Read more about “terminological analysis” here).

Are our languages more beautiful with lexical borrowing? (1)

(Video) lexical borrowingDiglossia, Pidgins, Creole Lecture 13 , sociolinguistics


  • Bennasar, A. (2017). Long term languages. Terminology Coordination Blog. WordPress. Available at: (Accessed: 17 May 2017).
  • Cabré, M. T. (2004). Metodología del trabajo en neología: criterios, materials y procesos. Observatori de Neologia, Cabré, M. Teresa (Dir.). Institut Universitari de Lingüística Aplicada. Available at: (Accessed: 17 May 2017).
  • Comrie, B. (2002). Linguistic Borrowing in Bilingual Contexts. John Benjamins.
  • Daulton, F. E. (2012). Lexical borrowing. In The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics. Blackwell Publishing.
  • Grant, A. P. (2015). Lexical borrowing. In The Oxford Handbook of the Word. John R. Taylor (ed.). Oxford University Press.
  • Haspelmath, M. (2009). Lexical borrowing: concepts and issues.In Loanwords in the world’s languages: A comparative handbook, 35-54.
  • Haugen, E. (1950). The Analysis of Linguistic Borrowing. Language. 26 (2), pp. 210-231.
  • Hoffer, B. L. (2005). Language Borrowing and the Indices of Adaptability and Receptivity.Intercultural Communication Studies XIV (2), pp. 53-72.
  • Hughes,G. (2000). A History of English Words.Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.
  • Kang,Y. (2013). Loanwords. Oxford Bibliographies. Available at (Accessed: 9 May 2017).
  • Kalinowska, I. (2016). Neologisms – their origin and how they reinvigorate language. Terminology Coordination Blog. WordPress. Available at (Accessed: 17 May 2017).
  • Kemmer, S. (2003). Borrowed words. Words in English. Available at (Accessed: 9 May 2017).
  • Nordquist,R. (2017). What are Loanwords? Definition and Examples. Languages. ThoughtCo. Available at (Accessed: 9 May 2017).
  • Stolz, T., Bakker, D., & Palomo, R. S. (Eds.) (2008).Aspects of language contact: new theoretical, methodological and empirical findings with special focus on Romancisation processes(Vol. 35). Walter de Gruyter.
  • Styblo Jr., M. (2007). English loanwords in modern Russian language. Master’s dissertation. University of North Carolina.
  • Varga, D.; Orešković Dvorski, L. (2011). English Loanwords in French and Italian Daily Newspapers. SRAZ LVI, pp.71-84.


Are our languages more beautiful with lexical borrowing? (2)

(Video) Where did English come from? - Claire Bowern

Author: BesharatFathi

Terminologist, researcher, learner, teacher,...View all posts by BesharatFathi


What is the importance of borrowing words from other languages? ›

Sometimes, however, a language does not possess all the words necessary for it to capture all its experiences. At such times, it has to borrow words and expressions from other languages that come in contact with it. Such borrowed items help in enriching, expanding and developing the language.

Are some languages more prone to borrowing? ›

Some languages are more prone to borrowing, while others borrow less, and different domains of the vocabulary are unequally susceptible to borrowing. Languages typically borrow words when a new concept is introduced, but languages may also borrow a new word for an already existing concept.

How do Borrowed words help us learn a foreign language? ›

Over time, loanwords become such an essential part of the language that even native speakers can't say where the word originated. Loanwords make language learning a bit easier because the odds are that you already know some of the words based on your existing language skills!

What is lexical borrowing in linguistics? ›

Lexical borrowing typically is the adoption of individual words or even large sets of vocabulary items from another language or dialect. It can also include roots and affixes, sounds, collocations, and grammatical processes.

Which language borrows most words? ›

Here is a brief summary of where many borrowed words in English come from: Latin–29%, French–29%, Greek–6%, other languages–6%, and proper names–4%.

What language borrows the most from other languages? ›

The rich blend of loanwords that makes up the English language as we know it today is comprised of at least 80% borrowed, loaned, and kept words. English was once considered the common tongue of peasants, while Latin and French were spoken in church and in court.

Why does lexical borrowing happen? ›

Another reason for lexical borrowing is that some words do not translate into another language. This forces the speaker to borrow. For example, many langauges do not have a word for computer or internet. Therefore, these words are borrowed when speaking.

Why does English have so many borrowed words? ›

Borrowing and lending of words happens because of cultural contact between two communities that speak different languages. Often, the dominant culture (or the culture perceived to have more prestige) lends more words than it borrows, so the process of exchange is usually asymmetrical.

Why does English borrow so much from French? ›

English has borrowed heavily from Europe, namely from French and Latin because England was invaded in the Middle Ages by William II of Normandy. This 11th century invasion is known as the Norman Conquest.

What is an example of lexical borrowing? ›

Lexical borrowing

Many terms are borrowed or coined to cover the lexical gaps which have arisen as a result of technological developments, for instance the word television derives from Greek tele 'far' + Latin visio 'thing seen.

What are the 4 types of borrowing? ›

Types of borrowing
  • Payday loans. Payday loans. ...
  • Plastic cards. ...
  • Loans. ...
  • Hire purchase and conditional sale. ...
  • Bank overdrafts. ...
  • Mortgages and secured loans. ...
  • Mail order catalogues. ...
  • Pawnbrokers.

What is the difference between lexical borrowing and code switching? ›

Borrowing is the diachronic process by which languages enhance their vocabulary (or other domains of structure), while code-switching is instances of spontaneous language mixing in the conversation of bilinguals.

Which language has the richest vocabulary? ›

English Has the Richest Vocabulary
  • Number of words in the English language: 500,000 according to the number of words in the Oxford English Dictionary. ...
  • Number of people who use English: 750 million.
  • Number of people for whom English is their mother tongue: 350 million.

What is the hardest language to learn in the word? ›


As mentioned before, Mandarin is unanimously considered the most difficult language to master in the world! Spoken by over a billion people in the world, the language can be extremely difficult for people whose native languages use the Latin writing system.

Which language has the most rich vocabulary? ›

A major uniqueness of Arabic language lies in its richness. While English, French, and Russian languages have around 500,000 words, 150,000 words, and 130,000 words in its vocabulary respectively, Arabic language has 12,3 million words in its own, making it the richest language in vocabulary, by far.

What 2 languages are the most similar? ›

The most mutually intelligible pair is Spanish and Portuguese. In some cases, TV stations don't even translate between the two languages, instead assuming that Spanish-speaking audiences would understand Portuguese and Portuguese-speaking audiences would understand Spanish.

Which language is the most closest to English? ›

The closest language to English is one called Frisian, which is a Germanic language spoken by a small population of about 480,000 people. There are three separate dialects of the language, and it's only spoken at the southern fringes of the North Sea in the Netherlands and Germany.

Why is lexical approach so helpful? ›

The lexical approach is a method of teaching foreign languages described by Michael Lewis in the early 1990s. The basic concept on which this approach rests is the idea that an important part of learning a language consists of being able to understand and produce lexical phrases as chunks.

Does borrowing make sense? ›

It's grammatically incorrect to say “borrow me” in almost every case. This is because the verb “to borrow” is a transitive verb, so the thing or item that someone is borrowing should be the direct object of the verb.

What are the disadvantages of lexical approach? ›

While the lexical approach can be a quick way for students to pick up phrases, it doesn't foster much creativity. It can have the negative side effect of limiting people's responses to safe fixed phrases. Because they don't have to build responses, they don't need to learn the intricacies of language.

Why does Japanese borrow words from English? ›

Words are taken from English for concepts that do not exist in Japanese, but also for other reasons, such as a preference for English terms or fashionability – many gairaigo have Japanese near-synonyms. In the past, more gairaigo came from other languages besides English.

Why does Chinese have so few loan words? ›

The Chinese language has historically been highly resistant to outside influence and therefore has fewer loanwords compared to some other languages. The unyielding nature of Chinese characters is the main reason for this.

Why does Japanese use English loan words? ›

The Japanese use English words to express concepts for which they have no equivalents. However, some people simply prefer to use English expressions for practically or because it is fashionable. In fact, many loan words have existing synonyms in Japanese.

Does German borrow from French? ›

German Wiktionary lists about 120,000 German words without declensions and conjugations. Of these, more than 2300 words (about 2%) are categorized as German terms derived from French.

Why does French get harder the more you learn? ›

The sequence of tenses is more complex due to the sheer number present in the French language. There are around 200 common irregular verbs in English, and regular verbs always conjugate in the same way. French has many more irregular verbs, and conjugation can be very difficult to memorize.

Where did the English language get a lot of words from? ›

English has its roots in the Germanic languages, from which German and Dutch also developed, as well as having many influences from romance languages such as French. (Romance languages are so called because they are derived from Latin which was the language spoken in ancient Rome.)

How many English words are borrowed from languages? ›

Additionally, from the 1000 most commonly used words, almost 50% have French origins Some examples of borrowed words from French are RSVP, faux pas, déjà vu, chic, parachute, detour and many more.

Is Google a borrowing word? ›

The term google itself is a creative spelling of googol, a number equal to 10 to the 100th power, or more colloquially, an unfathomable number. Googol was coined in the 1930s and is attributed to the nine-year-old nephew of American mathematician Edward Kasner.

How do you know if a word is lexical? ›

A lexical category is open if the new word and the original word belong to the same category. Nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs are open lexical categories. In contrast, closed lexical categories rarely acquire new members.

What are the 3 C's of borrowing? ›

These 3 C's of Credit are Character, Capital and Capacity based on which the lender decides on lending you. The score ranges from 300-900, and the ideal score to borrow an instant loan is 750.

What are the five C's of borrowing? ›

What are the 5 Cs of credit? Lenders score your loan application by these 5 Cs—Capacity, Capital, Collateral, Conditions and Character. Learn what they are so you can improve your eligibility when you present yourself to lenders.

What types of borrowing should you completely avoid and why? ›

6 Types of Loans You Should Never Get
  • 401(k) Loans. ...
  • Payday Loans. ...
  • Home Equity Loans for Debt Consolidation. ...
  • Title Loans. ...
  • Cash Advances. ...
  • Personal Loans from Family.

Why do bilinguals use code-switching? ›

Code-switching is a very complex linguistic tool and phenomena used by bilinguals to enhance communication. Often sub-conscious, the rule-governed behavior of code-switching exists in every bilingual speech community to create and share meaning beyond what is available to a single language.

What is the difference between borrowing and native language influence? ›

Anglo- Saxons are the ones who brought the native words to English language. Borrowing means taking words from other languages and the whole process of choosing and adopting these words in a specific language being able to see the results given of the borrowed word, thus these taken words are…show more content…

How many types of borrowing are there in linguistics? ›

3Borrowings – either non-integrated, in the process of being integrated, or integrated – are assimilated in a graphic, phonic, semantic or flexional way. As far as the contact between languages is concerned, English has a very important role to play, because mainly of Great Britain and the United States.

What is the importance of any translation of another language? ›

Translation is necessary for the spreading new information, knowledge, and ideas across the world. It is absolutely necessary to achieve effective communication between different cultures. In the process of spreading new information, translation is something that can change history.

Why is it important to know how language is acquired? ›

An understanding of the language acquisition process and levels will help teachers tailor instruction to meet the needs of a diverse group of learners. Students will benefit from everything teachers do to support the development of their language skills while teaching them grade level content.

What are the reasons for borrowing in translation? ›

Borrowing in translation is not always justified by lexical gap in the target language, but it can mainly be used as a way to preserve the local colour of the word, or be used out of fear from losing some of the semiotic aspects and cultural aspects of the word if it is translated.

What is the importance of acquiring vocabulary? ›

A robust vocabulary improves all areas of communication — listening, speaking, reading and writing. Vocabulary is critical to a child's success for these reasons: Vocabulary growth is directly related to school achievement. The size of a child's vocabulary in kindergarten predicts the ability to learn to read.

Does the translation affect your understanding? ›

Translating from one language to another isn't just a matter of knowing the words. Each language structures its sentences in a unique way and uses its vocabulary creatively to communicate ideas and thoughts. If you translate words or phrases literally, you can end up with awkward results.

What makes one translation better than another? ›

The quality of a translation depends to a great extent on the comprehension skills of the translator. A translator's reading behaviour and the ways in which they understand a text are central to the interpretation that is then put forward in the target language.

What is the most important feature of a good translation? ›

What is a Good Translation?
  1. It must be Accurate. ...
  2. It must be Clear. ...
  3. The Translated Material must seem Natural. ...
  4. The Translation must be Geared Culturally to the Audience.
12 Aug 2018

Is language best learned or acquired? ›

Language fluency cannot be learned, says Stephen D. Krashen, one of the theory's leading exponents. That is, conscious mastery of grammar and vocabulary–while serving an editing function in speech or writing–is an insufficient basis for effective communication. Instead, such proficiency must be acquired, Mr.

How is a language best acquired? ›

They repeat what is said to them and get a feel for what is and what is not correct. In order to acquire a language, they need a source of natural communication, which is usually the mother, the father, or the caregiver. Children who grow up with multiple languages, will acquire these languages in the most natural way.

What do psychologists know about how we acquire language? ›

To date, there is no definite scientific evidence to support the way that language is acquired and learned. It is generally agreed that it is a very complex and sophisticated process that involves mental activity that still may not be completely understood. There are many active theories on the process.

What is the importance of borrowing? ›

Another one of the advantages of borrowing money is that, depending on your debt situation, you can actually improve your credit in the process of taking a loan from a bank. If you take out a long term loan from a bank and make all of your payments on time, your credit score will improve over the life of the loan.

What languages has English been borrowing from? ›

A portion of these borrowings come directly from Latin, or through one of the Romance languages, particularly Anglo-Norman and French, but some also from Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish; or from other languages (such as Gothic, Frankish or Greek) into Latin and then into English.

What are the benefits of having a strong vocabulary? ›

Top 5 Reasons Why Vocabulary Matters
  • 1 It Improves Reading Comprehension. Research has shown that kids need to understand 98% of the words they read to understand what they are reading. ...
  • 2 It's Important to Language Development. ...
  • 3 Communicating Ideas. ...
  • 4 Expressing Yourself in Writing. ...
  • 5 Occupational Success.
29 Sept 2016

Why do students struggle with vocabulary? ›

Some kids struggle to learn new vocabulary words because they struggle with language in general. They might have trouble expressing their thoughts and ideas using spoken or written words. This is called expressive language.

Why does English have such a large vocabulary? ›

The Oxford Dictionary says it's quite probable that English has more words than most comparable world languages. The reason is historical. English was originally a Germanic language, related to Dutch and German. English shares much of its grammar and basic vocabulary with those languages.


1. THIS is the Best Book on Language Learning I've Ever Read: HERE'S WHAT IT SAYS
2. Is Italian Hard to Learn?
(Olly Richards)
3. Eitan Grossman. Typology of lexical borrowing. Part 1/3 (TyLex 2017)
(Редакция сайта Школы лингвистики)
4. 100+ Differences between British and American English | British vs. American Vocabulary Words
(7ESL Learning English)
5. 50+ words that are the same in English & Spanish
(Butterfly Spanish)
6. The Top 50 Most Beautiful French Words
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Lidia Grady

Last Updated: 01/23/2023

Views: 6346

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (45 voted)

Reviews: 84% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Lidia Grady

Birthday: 1992-01-22

Address: Suite 493 356 Dale Fall, New Wanda, RI 52485

Phone: +29914464387516

Job: Customer Engineer

Hobby: Cryptography, Writing, Dowsing, Stand-up comedy, Calligraphy, Web surfing, Ghost hunting

Introduction: My name is Lidia Grady, I am a thankful, fine, glamorous, lucky, lively, pleasant, shiny person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.