Borrowings: Definition/types of Borrowings/ Example

What are borrowings?

Borrowings refers to a word or phrase which has been taken from one language to use in another language. It is also known as ‘loanword’.

Borrowings are very common source of new words in language. Since historical period English has borrowed a number of words from other languages.

For example :-  croissant from French, dope from Dutch, lilac from Persian, piano from Italy etc.

The most common languages that has been borrowing in English are from Latin, Greek, German and French.

Types of Borrowing

There are two different types of borrowings

  1. Loanword – (this word is itself has been borrowed from German word as ‘Lehnwart’
  2. Loan Translation – It occurs when the elements of a word are directly translated from the loaning language to borrowing language.

For Example ‘superman’ word has been borrowed from German word ‘Ubermensch’, actually the word has not been borrowed but translated as uber means super in English and mensch means man in English.

Now the question arises, why do we need borrowings? Or what is the reason for borrowings?

The main reason for borrowings words or phrases is that;

  • To contact with other culture through conquest and collaboration
  • To collaborate socially and politically around the world
  • To deal with the political circumstances and conflicts
  • To the presentation and explanation of new ideas

Basically, borrowings are not just happen in English but every other languages borrow words or phrases to each other to present the new form of idea to the society, and additionally and more importantly we can say that, to enhance the meaning and keep the language community grow in future for the longer period of time borrowings are necessary.

To make it convenient History of English language has been divided into three main periods, where borrowings takes place the most.

  1. Old English period (450 AD- 1150 AD)
  2. Middle English period (1150 AD- 1500 AD)
  3. Modern English period (1500 AD to onwards)

During this period, there are many evidences available of borrowings foreign words, which help in the growth and development of the English language over the time.

Let’s discuss the various foreign sources that has played a major role in development of English language.

Celtic borrowings :-  The celtic conquest of the celts by the Teutons not only brought the mixture of two races but their languages too.

Celtic influence on English language is mostly apparent through place names i.e. ‘Kent’ owes its name to the celtic word ‘Canti’ or ‘Cantion’, whose meaning is unknown.

Other place words are; Cornwell, Cumberland are few words originated from Celtics.

Even the name ‘London’ most likely to goes back to celtic. Because celtic people who earlier invaded Britain are believed to have integrated with the people who previously inhabited the Island, absorbing elements of the language spoken by this group, that is why for generations the language of celts was referred to as “British”, which is the language of “Britons” the native inhabitants of the land.

Their influence not only limited to the place name but outside of it such as; ‘hills’ and ‘rivers’ in England have celtic origins, Thames (river in England) is a celtic river name.

Outside of place names such as; ‘binn’ (basket, crib), ‘braft’ (clock), ‘brocc’ (brock on badger) are all these words introduced in English due to everyday contact of the people of both races.

Latin borrowings :-  It is one such language that is influencing English language over the period of time.  About 70% of English words or phrase has derived from Latin.

The influence is so much that in English since, the old English period till modern English period, Latin has taken a place in compare to any other foreign language.

Let’s discuss the Latin borrowings in English according to the period;

Latin borrowings (in Old English period) :–   The Latin influence on English was heralded by England’s contact with Latin civilization, approximately 600 words were borrowed from Latin during this period only.

For example– words related to agriculture field and war was heavily borrowed in this period.

such as; camp (battle), segan (banner), pil (pointed sick, javeline), pytt (pit), mil (mile) milester (courtsman) etc.

except for the above mention fields, many words borrowed associated with different fields such as,

  • Trade fields- ceap (cheap, bargain), pund (pound), mynet (coin), sean (burden, load) etc.
  • Wine Trade fields– win (wine), must (new wine), eced (vinegar) flase (flask) etc.
  • Domestic fields– cytel (kettle), mise (table), scamol (bench, stool), cycone (kitchen), cup (cup) etc.

Besides these borrowings, in initial phase of old English, a few of Latin words entered in English language through Celtic transmission,

For example- the word ‘ceaster’ means ‘camp’ is a typical example of celtic transmission.

This word is a common designation in old English for a town or enclosed community. It forms a familiar place names such as, Dorchester, Manchester, Winchester and so on.

Latin borrowings (in Middle English) :-  Although many of the words that have been borrowed during this period, didn’t borrowed directly but came through French influence, there were certain words that were directly borrowed from Latin. In middle English period, a considerate amount of Latin words derived in English through translation of literary text,

for example; through Trevia’s translation of the De Proprietatibus Rerun of Bartholomew Anglicus

The translation of the Vulgates Bible gave the English people words like generation, persecution and transmigration

During this period, words borrowed in the field of medicine, law, allegory, theology, science, literature etc.

For exampleconspiracy, custody, frustrate, genius, infinite, intellect, limbo, pulpit, secular, scripture, testify etc.

Additionally, in 15th century, some unusual words were also borrowed by the poets and writers of this period, they actually attempted to add an innovation in English language.

For Example; words like, abusion, dispone, equipollent, tenebrous etc.

Latin borrowings (in modern period) :-  This period was the revival period of classical English learning  to the modern English in the 16th century that first swelled the numbers of words borrowed from Latin to overwhelming proportions.

Although, the number of middle English loans from Latin was difficult to estimate, as many of them were indirectly borrowed from French. Great mass of borrowings in early modern English came directly from Latin.

For Example- affidavit, agenda, alibi, animal, bonus, deficit, exit, extra, fact, maximum, memorandum, omnibus, propaganda, veto etc.

Mainly the borrowings of words during this time entered in English through the medium of writing.

Greek borrowings:-  There is no direct evidence of Greek borrowings into old and middle English, only few words were borrowed but that too through Latin.

Example; church, devil, angel etc.

Later in Medieval period, words like diet, geography, logic, physic, rhetoric, surgeon, theology etc. are borrowed through Latin.

With the renaissance, however Greek words began to enter into English, great numbers of vocabulary entered and but they were Latinized in spelling and termination. Therefore, much of the modern scientific vocabulary owe their origin to Greek.

Words like; barometer, thermometer etc.

The Greek borrowings are usually learned in nature and found in discipline like, poetics, (comedytragedy), catastrophe, dialog, episode, peripety, prolog, scene, and many more. Below are few examples

Natural science words such as, bacteriology, botany, histology, physics, zoology etc.

Medicine words such as, adenoids, osteopathy, pediatrics, psychiatry, etc.

Electronic words such as, dynatron, kenatron, phanotron, atomic, cyclotron, meson, proton, isotope etc.

French borrowings :- Although, Latin and Greek have entered much earlier than French but they remained very small in compare to French until the end of the middle age. Whereas, French influence began very late but increased rapidly and by the 13th century it had interpenetrated the English language far more intimately then Latin and Greek.

Today, French words have become a very essential core of modern English, according to the scholars who pointed out that these words are popular words, because Latin and Greek words are merely learned in nature whereas the French words related to every field.

The French words entered in two ways, first from the Norman, and the second and much greater that of the Persian or central French.

The French borrowings largely made up of ideas associated with religion, law, war, society, cloth, and occupation etc.

For Example;

Religion words such as, cell, chaplain, paradise, saint, mercy, miracle etc.

Law words such as, suit, plead, judge, jury, bail, lease, perjury, Chancellor, minister etc.

War words such as, attack, corpse, march, massacre, etc.

Society words such as, chivalry, honor, grace, dinner, etc.

Cloth words such as, costume, dress, garment etc.

Occupation words such as, shepherd, shoemaker, painter, mason etc.

Eventually, it may be observed that English continues to borrow from French in any field in which the French words would do pioneer work.

Scandinavian borrowings :- Besides from Greek, Latin and French, only Scandinavian has made a really substantial contribution to the English vocabulary. Scandinavian is the language of those people whom the Anglo- Saxons called “Danes”.

For example;

Words such as, (nouns) man, wife, father, folk, house, summer, (verb) meet, come, bring, (adjective and adverb) full, wise, better, over etc.

Scandinavian influence gave a fresh lease of life to obsolete native words.

However, there are many borrowings other than the above mentioned like, Dutch, German, Italian, Arabic, Persian, American etc. which influences English language over the time.

Also Read: Inflectional vs Derivational morphology

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