Japanese neologisms in Chinese: Revisiting Japanese loanwords in Chinese and implications for the general loanword theory (2023)





Chinese loanwords, Japanese loanwords in Chinese, graphic loans, World Loanword Database, meta-study, classification


Japanese loanwords in Chinese are currently not accepted as legitimate loanwords in the general loanword framework (Haspelmath and Tadmor, 2009a), mainly because they are considered to be graphic loans (Masini, 1997; Tranter, 2009) and not sound-meaning borrowings. This paper formulates a counterargument, developed mainly from the perspective of the Chinese scholarship: it focuses on how graphemic borrowing impacts the judgment of loanwordness and the types of resolving strategies that have been developed. The origin of word form, word meaning, and the pathways of historical borrowing particularly stand out as non-linguistic factors of loanwordness. Based on a metaanalysis of 25 studies of Japanese loanwords in Chinese, the authors propose a typology of Japanese loanwords in Chinese that bridges the Western and the Chinese frameworks. To put forward a concrete example, we compile a list of 2,920 Japanese loanwords in Chinese, which are discussed by at least three scholars, ordered by degrees of agreement within the Chinese scholarship. We compare this list against the vocabulary list of the World Loanword Database and demonstrate that Wiebusch and Tadmor (2009), in ignoring Japanese loanwords, also omits numerous loanwords in Chinese. We echo Tranter (2009) in arguing that Japanese loanwords in Chinese can be classified as material borrowing, putting graphemic borrowing on the same footing with phonetic borrowing, since graphemic borrowing is not limited to, though preferred by, the Chinese writing system. We demonstrate this by comparing how writing systems impact borrowing.

Author Biographies

Christian Schmidt, National Taiwan University

Christian Schmidt: PhD program in Linguistics at National Taiwan University.

Chien-shou Chen, Academia Sinica, Taiwan

Chien-shou Chen: Institute of Modern History at Academia Sinica, Taiwan.


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