Имя материала: Лексикология английского языка

Автор: Антрушина Галина Борисовна

Chapter 4 the etymology of english words (continued)


Why Are Words Borrowed?


This question partially concerns the historical circumstances which stimulate the borrowing process. Each time two nations come into close contact, certain borrowings are a natural consequence. The nature of the contact may be different. It may be wars, invasions or conquests when foreign words are in effect imposed upon the reluctant conquered nation. There are also periods of peace when the process of borrowing is due to trade and international cultural relations.

These latter circumstances are certainly more favourable for stimulating the borrowing process, for during invasions and occupations the natural psychological reaction of the oppressed nation is to reject and condemn the language of the oppressor. In this respect the linguistic heritage of the Norman Conquest seems exceptional, especially if compared to the influence of the Mongol-Tartar Yoke on the Russian language. The Mongol-Tartar Yoke also represented a long period of cruel oppression, yet the imprint left by it on the Russian vocabulary is comparatively insignificant.

The difference in the consequences of these evidently similar historical events is usually explained by the divergency in the level of civilization of the two conflicting nations. Russian civilization and also the level of its language development at the time of the Mongol-Tartar invasion were superior to those of the invaders. That is why the Russian language successfully resisted the influence of a less developed language system. On the other hand, the Norman culture of the 11th c. was certainly superior to that of the Saxons. The result was that an immense number of French words forced their ^pay into English vocabulary. Yet, linguistically speaking, this seeming defeat turned into a victory. Instead of being smashed and broken by the powerful intrusion of the foreign element, the English language managed to preserve its essential structure and vastly enriched its expressive resources with the new borrowings.

But all this only serves to explain the conditions which encourage the borrowing process. The question of why words are borrowed by one language from another is still unanswered.

Sometimes it is done to fill a gap in vocabulary. When the Saxons borrowed Latin words for "butter", "plum", "beet", they did it because their own vocabularies lacked words for these new objects. For the same reason the words potato and tomato were borrowed by English from Spanish when these vegetables were first brought to England by the Spaniards.

But there is also a great number of words which are borrowed for other reasons. There may be a word (or even several words) which expresses some particular concept, so that there is no gap in the vocabulary and there does not seem to be any need for borrowing. Yet, one more word is borrowed which means almost the same, — almost, but not exactly. It is borrowed because it represents the same concept in some new aspect, supplies a new shade of meaning or a different emotional colouring (see Ch. 10). This type of borrowing enlarges groups of synonyms and greatly provides to enrich the expressive resources of the vocabulary. That is how the Latin cordial was added to the native friendly, the French desire to wish, the Latin admire and the French adore to like and love.


Do Borrowed Words Change or Do They Remain the Same?


The eminent scholar Maria Pei put the same question in a more colourful way: "Do words when they migrate from one language into another behave as people do under similar circumstances? Do they remain alien in appearance, or do they take out citizenship papers?" [39]

Most of them take the second way, that is, they ad. just themselves to their new environment and get adapted to the norms of the recipient language. They undergo certain changes which gradually erase then-foreign features, and, finally, they are assimilated, Sometimes the process of assimilation develops to the point when the foreign origin of a word is quite unrecognizable. It is difficult to believe now that such words as dinner, cat, take, cup are not English by origin. Others, though well assimilated, still bear traces of their foreign background. Distance and development, for instance, are identified as borrowings by their French suffixes, skin and sky by the Scandinavian initial sk, police and regime by the French stress on the last syllable.

Borrowed words are adjusted in the three main areas of the new language system: the phonetic, the grammatical and the semantic.

The lasting nature of phonetic adaptation is best shown by comparing Norman French borrowings to later ones. The Norman borrowings have for a long time been fully adapted to the phonetic system of the English language: such words as table, plate, courage, chivalry bear no phonetic traces of their French origin. Some of the later (Parisian) borrowings, even the ones borrowed as early as the 15th c., still sound surprisingly French: regime, valise, matinee, cafe, ballet. In these cases phonetic adaptation is not completed.

The three stages of gradual phonetic assimilation of French borrowings can be illustrated by different phonetic variants of the word garage:


gq`rRZ > gxrRZ > `gxridZ (Amer.).


Grammatical adaptation consists in a complete change of the former paradigm of the borrowed word (i. e. system of the grammatical forms peculiar to it as a part of speech). If it is a noun, it is certain to adopt, sooner or later, a new system of declension; if it is a verb, it will be conjugated according to the rules of the recipient language. Yet, this is also a lasting process. The Russian noun пальто was borrowed from French early in the 19th c. and has not yet acquired the Russian system of declension. The same can be said about such English Renaissance borrowings as datum (pi. data), phenomenon (pi. phenomena}, criterion (pi. criteria) whereas earlier Latin borrowings such as cup, plum, street, wall were fully adapted to the grammatical system of the language long ago.

By semantic adaptation is meant adjustment to the system of meanings of the vocabulary. It has been mentioned that borrowing is generally caused either by the necessity to fill a gap in the vocabulary or by a chance to add a synonym conveying an old concept in a new way. Yet, the process of borrowing is not always so purposeful, logical and efficient as it might seem at first sight. Sometimes a word may be borrowed "blindly", so to speak, for no obvious reason, to find that it is not wanted because there is no gap in the vocabulary nor in the group of synonyms which it could conveniently fill. Quite a number of such "accidental" borrowings are very soon rejected by the vocabulary and forgotten. But there are others which manage to take root by the process of semantic adaptation. The adjective large, for instance, was borrowed from French in the meaning of "wide". It was not actually wanted, because it fully coincided with the English adjective wide without adding any new shades or aspects to its meaning. This could have led to its rejection. Yet, large managed to establish itself very firmly in the English vocabulary by semantic adjustment. It entered another synonymic group with the general meaning of "big in size". At first it was applied to objects characterized by vast horizontal dimensions, thus retaining a trace of its former meaning, and now, though still bearing some-features of that meaning, is successfully competing with big having approached it very closely, both in frequency and meaning.

The adjective gay was borrowed from French in several meanings at once: "noble of birth", "bright, shining", "multi-coloured". Rather soon it shifted its ground developing the meaning "joyful, high-spirited" in which sense it became a synonym of the native merry and in some time left it far behind in frequency and range of meaning. This change was again caused by the process of semantic adjustment: there was no place in the vocabulary for the former meanings of gay, but the group with the general meaning of "high spirits" obviously lacked certain shades which were successfully supplied by gay.

The adjective nice was a French borrowing meaning "silly" at first. The English change of meaning seems to have arisen with the use of the word in expressions like a nice distinction, meaning first "a silly, hair-splitting distinction", then a precise one, ultimately an attractive one. But the original necessity for change was caused once more by the fact that the meaning of "foolish" was not wanted in the vocabulary and therefore nice was obliged to look for a gap in another semantic field.


International Words


It is often the case that a word is borrowed by several languages, and not just by one. Such words usually convey concepts which are significant in the field of communication.

Many of them are of Latin and Greek origin. Most names of sciences are international, e. g. philosophy, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, linguistics, lexicology. There are also numerous terms of art in this group: music, theatre, drama, tragedy, comedy, artist, primadonna.

It is quite natural that political terms frequently occur in the international group of borrowings: politics, policy, revolution, progress, democracy, communism, anti-militarism.

20th c. scientific and technological advances brought a great number of new international words: atomic, antibiotic, radio, television, sputnik. The latter is a Russian borrowing, and it became an international word (meaning a man-made satellite) in 1961, immediately after the first space flight by Yury Gagarin.

The English language also contributed a considerable number of international words to world languages. Among them the sports terms occupy a prominent position: football, volley-ball, baseball, hockey, cricket, rugby, tennis, golf, etc.

Fruits and foodstuffs imported from exotic countries often transport their names too and, being simultaneously imported to many countries, become international: coffee, cocoa, chocolate, coca-cola, banana, mango, avocado, grapefruit.

It is important to note that international words are mainly borrowings. The outward similarity of such Words as the E. son, the Germ. Sohn and the R. сын should not lead one to the quite false conclusion that they are international words. They represent the Indo-European group of the native element in each respective language and are cognates, i. e. words of the same etymological root, and not borrowings.


Etymological Doublets


The words shirt and skirt etymologically descend from the same root. Shirt is a native word, and skirt (as the initial sk suggests) is a Scandinavian borrowing. Their phonemic shape is different, and yet there is a certain resemblance which reflects their common origin. Their meanings are also different but easily associated: they both denote articles of clothing.

Such words as these two originating from the same etymological source, but differing in phonemic shape and in meaning are called etymological doublets.

They may enter the vocabulary by different routes Some of these pairs, like shirt and skirt, consist of £ native word and a borrowed word: shrew, n. (E.) -— screw, n. (Sc.).

Others are represented by two borrowings from different languages which are historically descended from the same root: senior (Lat.) — sir (Fr.), canal (Lat.) — channel (Fr.), captain (Lat.) — chieftan (Fr.).

Still others were borrowed from the same language twice, but in different periods: corpse [kO:ps] (Norm. Fr.) — corps [kO:] (Par. Fr.), travel (Norm. Fr.) — travail (Par. Fr.), cavalry (Norm. Fr.) — chivalry (Par. Fr.), gaol (Norm. Fr.) — jail (Par. Fr.).

Etymological triplets (i. e. groups of three words of common root) occur rarer, but here are at least two examples: hospital (Lat.) — hostel (Norm. Fr.) — hotel (Par. Fr.), to capture (Lat.) — to catch (Norm. Fr.) — to chase (Par. Fr.).

A doublet may also consist of a shortened word and the one from which it was derived (see Ch. 6 for a description of shortening as a type of word-building): history — story, fantasy — fancy, fanatic — fan, defence — fence, courtesy — curtsy, shadow — shade.




The term loan-word is equivalent to borrowing. By translation-loans we indicate borrowings of a special kind. They are not taken into the vocabulary of another language more or less in the same phonemic shape in which they have been functioning in their own language, but undergo the process of translation. It is quite obvious that it is only compound words (i. e. words of two or more stems) which can be subjected to such an operation, each stem being translated separately: masterpiece (from Germ. Meisterstuck), wonder child (from Germ. Wunderkind), first dancer (from Ital. prima-ballerina), collective farm (from R. колхоз), five-year plan (from R. пятилетка).

The Russian колхоз was borrowed twice, by way of translation-loan (collective farm) and by way of direct borrowing (kolkhoz).

The case is not unique. During the 2nd World War the German word Blitzkrieg was also borrowed into English in two different forms: the translation-loan lightning-war and the direct borrowings blitzkrieg and blitz.


Are Etymological and Stylistic Characteristics of Words at All Interrelated?


Is it possible to establish regular associations between any of the groups of etymological classification (see p. 52) and the stylistic classification of English vocabulary (Ch. 2)? The answer must be in the affirmative.

It is quite natural to expect to find a considerable number of native words in the basic vocabulary, if we remember that the latter comprises words denoting essential objects and phenomena. Yet, one should keep in Blind that among basic vocabulary words there are also rather numerous Latin and French borrowings.

In general, we should not be misled into thinking that all short common words are native, and that only three- and four-syllable words came from foreign sources. Words like very, air, hour, cry, oil, cat, pay, box, face, poor, dress are of foreign origin despite their native appearance and common use. So it would be correct. to state that, though native words prevail in the basic vocabulary, this stratum also comprises a considerable number of old borrowings which have become so fully adapted to the English language system that they are practically indistinguishable from the native stock.

The centre of gravity of borrowed words in the stylistic classification is represented by two groups: learned words and terminology. In these strata the foreign element dominates the native. It also seems that the whole opposition of "formal versus informal" is based on the deeper underlying opposition of "borrowed versus native", as the informal strata, especially slang and dialect, abound in native words even though it is possible to quote numerous exceptions.

Comparing the expressive and stylistic value of the French and the English words in such synonymic pairs as to begin — to commence, to wish — to desire, happiness — felicity, O. Jespersen remarks: "The French-word is usually more formal, more refined, and has a less strong hold on the emotional side of life." [29]

The truth of this observation becomes even more obvious if we regard certain pairs within which a native word may be compared with its Latin synonym: motherly — maternal, fatherly — paternal, childish — infantile, daughterly — filial, etc. Motherly love seems much warmer than maternal feelings — which sounds dutiful but cold. The word childish is associated with all the wonder and vivid poetry of the earliest human age whereas infantile is quite dry. You may speak about childish games and childish charm, but about infantile diseases, whereas infantile mind implies criticism?

It is interesting to note that a similar pair of words sunny — solar cannot even be regarded as synonyms though semantically they both pertain to the sun. Yet, if a fine day can be described as sunny, it certainly cannot be characterized by the word solar which is used in highly formal terminological senses (e. g. solar energy). The same is true about handy — manual, toothy e. g. a toothy grin) — dental (term again), nosy (e. g. a nosy kind of person) — nasal (e. g. nasal sounds, voice)1.




I. Consider your answers to the following.

1. Which conditions stimulate the borrowing process?

2. Why are words borrowed?

3. What stages of assimilation do borrowings go through?

4. In what spheres of communication do international words frequently occur?

5. What do we understand by etymological doublets?

6. What are the characteristic features of translation-loans?

7. How are the etymological and stylistic characteristics of words interrelated?


II. Explain the etymology of the following words. Write them out in three columns: a) fully assimilated words; b) partially assimilated words; c) unassimilated words. Explain the reasons for your choice in each case.


Pen, hors d'oeuvre, ballet, beet, butter, skin, take, cup, police, distance, monk, garage, phenomenon, wine, large, justice, lesson, criterion, nice, coup d'etat, sequence, gay, port, river, loose, autumn, low, uncle, law, convenient, lunar, experiment, skirt, bishop, regime, eau-de-Cologne.

III. Explain the etymology of the italicized words; identify the stage of assimilation.


1. Obviously, chere madame, the thief would take care to recover the money before he returned the dog. 2. Heyward went to the kitchen for a glass of milk. 3. It was a commercial coup d'etat which sent Supranational (bank) shares soaring on the New York and London markets. 4. Arriving in Paris always causes me pain, even when I have been away for only a short. while. It is a city which I never fail to approach with expectation and leave with disappointment. 5. Dave raised his hand when he saw me with the dignified gesture of a patriarch greeting the appearance of an expected sign. 6. Negotiations began but failed, not least because the students presented non-negotiable demands. After two days the administration summoned state police, later unwisely supplemented by National Guard. An assault was launched upon the building. 7. Madge seemed slimmer and more piquant, even her movements were more gracious. 8. Leaving her desk, Edwina walked a few paces to one of the large plate-glass windows, part of the street frontage of the building. What she saw amazed her. A long queue of people, four or five abreast, extended from the main front door past the entire length of the building. 9. He regretted their lost tete-a-tete. 10.1 lunched with Betty today, and she was telling me about a place they went to, on Lake Como. They had fresh peaches at every meal, and at night the fishermen go out in boats and sing under your windows. Doesn't it sound romantic?


IV. State the origin of the following etymological doublets. Compare their meanings and explain why they are called "etymological doublets".


1. captain— chieftan, canal— channel, cart— chart.

2. shirt — skirt, shriek — screech, shrew — screw.

3. gaol — jail, corpse — corps, travel — travail.

4. shadow — shade, off — of, dike -- ditch.


V. In the following sentences find one of a pair of etymological doublets and name the missing member of the pair.


1.1 led Mars (a dog) into the shadow of the building and looked around me. 2. "Unreliable", he said, "those fancy locks. Always getting jammed, aren't they?" 3. The children hung on to her skirts and asked to play with them. 4. Nurse Lawson had been sent to the hostel to clean aprons for all of us. 5. When the four O'clock race at Nottingham was won by Hal Adair, cool channels of sweat ran down my back and sides. 6. The lunch was late because Steven had had an extra big clinic at his London hospital. 7. He was attached to the ward which specialized in head injuries and was called 'Corelli'. 8. A story was sometimes told about a tear-down crew which, as a practical joke, worked in spare time to disassemble a car, belonging to one of their members. 9. Why, isn't he in jail? 10. Canvas sacks containing cash were being delivered from an armoured truck outside, the money accompanied by two armed guards.

VI. Classify the following borrowings according to the sphere of human activity they represent. What type of borrowings are these?


Television, progress, football, grapefruit, drama, Philosophy, rugby, sputnik, tragedy, coca-cola, biology, medicine, atom, primadonna, ballet, cricket, hockey, chocolate, communism, democracy.


VII. Read the following text. Copy out the international words. State to what sphere of human activity they belong.


British Dramatists


In the past 20 years there has been a considerable increase in the number of new playwrights in Britain and this has been encouraged by the growth of new theatre companies. In 1956 the English Stage Company began productions with the object of bringing new writers into the theatre and providing training facilities for young actors, directors and designers; a large number of new dramatists emerged as a result of the company productions. Regional repertory theatres, too, have helped contemporary dramatists by including new plays in their programmes. Among the dramatists whose work was first produced by the English Stage Company are John Osborne, Arnold Wesker, Edward Bonds, John Arden and David Storey. Television has been an important factor in the emergence of other dramatists who write primarily for it; both the ВВС and IBA transmit a large number of single plays each year as well as drama series and serials.

(From The Promotion of the Arts in Britain)


VIII. Read the following jokes. Identify examples of international words.


1. Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. 2. A psychologist is a man who watches everybody rise when a beautiful girl enters the room. 3. An expert is a man who knows a great deal about very little; and who goes on knowing more and more about less and less until finally he knows practically everything about nothing; whereas a reviewer is a man who knows very little about a great deal and keeps on knowing less and less about more and more until finally he knows practically nothing about everything.


IX. State the origin of the following translation-loans. Give more examples.


Five-year plan, wonder child, masterpiece, first dancer, collective farm, fellow-traveller.


X. What is the difference between the words in the following pairs? Analyse the examples and prove that etymological and stylistic characteristics of words are closely interrelated.


Motherly—- maternal, fatherly— paternal, childish — infantile, daughterly — filial, womanly — feminine, brotherly — fraternal, to begin — to commence, to wish — to desire, to love — to adore, to build — to construct, to go on — to proceed, to take part in — to participate.


XI. Supply the adjectives of Latin origin corresponding to the following nouns. Comment upon their stylistic characteristics.


Nose, tooth, sun, hand, child, town, sea, life, youth.


XII. Describe the etymology of the following words. Comment upon their stylistic characteristics. If necessary use an etymological dictionary.


To rise — to mount — to ascend, to ask — to question -— to interrogate, fire — flame — conflagration, fear — terror — trepidation, holy — sacred — consecrated, time — age — era, goodness — virtue ~ Probity.


XIII. Read the following extract. State the etymology of the italicized words. Comment upon their stylistic characteristics.


The Oxford accent exists, but it defies definition. If is not, as the French think, the kind of English which is spoken within a twenty mile radius of the city. Indeed, it is not an accent at all, but a manner of speaking. In particular it is a manner of pausing in your speech, of pausing not at the end of sentences, where you might be: interrupted, but in the middle of sentences. Nobody, it is to be hoped, will be so rude as to interrupt you when you are in the middle of a sentence. So pause there, to decide what your next sentence is going to be. Then, having decided, move quickly forward to it without a moment's pause at the full stop. Yes, jumping your full stops — that is the Oxford accent. Do it well, and you will be able to talk forever. Nobody will have the chance of breaking in and stealing the conversation from you. (From Oxford Life by D. Balsden)


XIV. Read the following text. What words were borrowed into English during the period described in it? Describe the borrowings of this period. Comment upon the etymological and stylistic peculiarities of the italicized words.


Caesar Invades Britain


The first date in English History is 55 В. С., in. which year Julius Caesar (the memorable Roman Emperor) landed, like all other successful invaders of these islands, at Thanet. This was in the Olden Days, when the Romans were top nation on account of their classical education, etc.

Julius Caesar advanced very energetically, but the Ancient Britons fought as heroically under their dashing queen Woadicea [,bqVdi`sJq] as they did later under their good Queen Victoria. Julius Caesar was therefore compelled to invade Britain again the following year (54 В. С., not 56, owing to the peculiar Roman method of counting) and having defeated the Ancient Britons by unfair means, set the memorable Latin sentence 'Veni, Vidi, Vici'1 which the Romans, who were all very well educated, constructed correctly.

The Britons, however, who of course still used the old pronunciation, understanding him to have called them 'Weeny, Weedy, Weaky'2 — lost heart and gave up the struggle.

(From 1066 and All That by C. W. Sellar, R. J. Yeatman)


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