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ASSIMILATION OF BORROWINGS

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  1. BORROWED WORDS, THEIR ASSIMILATION
  2. Established and accidental assimilation.
  3. Etymological survey of the English vocabulary. Native words VS borrowings.
  4. Latin Borrowings in English

Words when they migrate from one language into another adjust to the norms of the recipient language. They undergo certain changes which gradually erase their foreign features and finally they are assimilated. Professor A. Nikolenko points out that assimilation of a loan word is used to demote a partial or total confirmation to the phonetic, graphic, morphological standards of the receiving language and its semantic system. Phonetic assimilation comprises changes in stress and sound form. Sounds that were alien to the English language were fitted into it. The stress in borrowings is usually transferred to the first syllable. Phonetic adaptation is a very lasting process. If we compare the Norman borrowings (table, plate, courage, chivalry) that have long been present in the system of the English language and later Parisian borrowings (regime, ballet, café, valise) the latter still sound French, though some of them were borrowed as early as in the 15-th century. The degree of phonetic adaptation depends on the period of borrowing.

Grammatical adaptation of a loan wordconsists in a complete change of its grammatical paradigm (the system of grammatical forms peculiar to it as a part of speech). It is also a lasting process. So, the word datum of the period of English Renaissance has the plural data, phenomenon-phenomena, criterion-criteria, whereas the earlier Latin borrowings cup, plum, street, wall are fully assimilated.

By semantic assimilation is meant an adjustment to the system of meanings of the vocabulary. Borrowings are usually caused either by the necessity to fill the gap in the vocabulary or to add a synonym conveying a new shade of meaning. Yet, the process of borrowing is not always so logical clear and purposeful and efficient as it might seem. Sometimes the word may be borrowed without any obvious reason. Quite a number of such borrowings are soon rejected by the language and forgotten. But there are others which manage to take root by semantic adaptation. So, the word large was borrowed from French in the meaning of “wide”. Then it entered another synonymic group with the meaning of “having vast horizontal dimensions”. Now it is used in the meaning of “big in size”. The adjective “nice” was borrowed from French with the meaning of “silly”. The English change of meaning started with phrase “a nice distinction”, that is, a very small distinction, then precise, then nice as we know it.

The process of semantic assimilation has many forms:

1. Narrowing the meaning (poly-semantic words are borrowed in one of their meanings).

2. Specialization of generalization of meaning.



3. Acquiring new meanings in the recipient language.

4. Shifting the primary meaning to the position of the secondary meaning.

The degree of assimilation depends upon the length of the period the word has been used by the receiving language, upon its importance for communication process and its frequency. Oral borrowings due to personal contacts are assimilated more completely and more rapidly, than literary borrowings.

According to the degree of assimilation borrowings fall into such groups: a) completely assimilated loan words; b) partially assimilated loan words, c) unassimilated loan words. The group of partially assimilated word may be subdivided according to the aspect that remains unaltered: spelling, pronunciation, morphology, denotation (when the word demotes some specific realia).

Completely assimilated loan words in English can be found in all layers of borrowings: the 1-st layer of Latin borrowings: cheese, wine; Scandinavian loan words: husband, fellow, gate; call, die, like, take; happy, ill, odd, wrong; French loan words are: chair, table, face, figure, finish, matter. Latin loans of the revival period are: animal, article. The number of completely assimilated words is much greater than partially assimilated ones. They follow the phonetic, syntactic, morphological standards of the recipient language. Being frequent in use and stylistically neutral, they are often found as the dominant words in the synonymic groups. They take an active part in word formation. Their morphological structure and motivation remain transparent and they supply the English language with bound forms as affixes are easily recognized and separated. For example, the French suffixes –ment, -ance, -age and the English modification of French –esse, -fier provide speech material to produce speech hybrids such as shortage, goddess etc. The free forms are readily combined with native affixes, e.g.: pained, painful, painless. These words are formed from pain Fr. peine –Latin pvena – Gr. “poine”, meaning “pemalty” (Rus. пеня). Completely assimilated loan words are indistiguished phonetically. A loan word never brings into the receiving language the whole of its semantic structure if it is polysemantic in its original language.

Partially assimilated loan wordscan be subdivided into 4 subgroups:

1). Loan words not assimilated semantically because they denote objects and notions peculiar to the country from which they come. For example: clothing (mantilla, sombrero); titles and professions (shah, rajah, toreador, bei); vehicles (rickshaw); food and drinks (pilaw, sherbet); currency (euro, rupee, rouble).

2). Loan word not assimilated grammatically for example, nouns borrowed from Greek and Latin: bacillus-bacilli; crisis-crises, formula-formulae, index-indices, phenomenon-phenomena. Some of these words take also English plural forms. There can be a difference in meaning.

3). Loan words not completely assimilated phonetically.Some of the French words borrowed after 1650 keep accent on the final syllable: machine, cartoon, police. Others, alongside with peculiarities in stress, contain sounds or combinations of sounds that are not standard for the English or Ukrainian languages: bourgeois, camouflage, prestige, sabotage, regime, memoir, mélange. In some cases it is not the sounds but the whole patterns of the world’s phonetic make-up that is different from the rest of the vocabulary, as in some of the Italian and Spanish borrowings: confetti, incognito, macaroni, spaghetti, sonata, opera, soprano, tomato, potato, tobacco.

The pronunciation of the words where the process of assimilation is phonetically incomplete may vary: foyer and boulevard.

4). Loan words not completely assimilated graphically.This group is very large and variegated. There are word borrowed from French in which the last sound is not pronounced: ballet, buffet, corps. Some keep the diacritic mark: café, cliché. Specifically French digraphs (ch, qu, ou) may be retained in spelling. In the Ukrainian language most of the words of this group are assimilated: в буфеті, під час балетної вистави.

The 3-d group of borrowings comprises the so-called barbarisms,i.e. word from other languages which are used in English or Ukrainian but not assimilated in any way: chiao, coup d’Etat, at libitum (at pleasure), N.B., P.S.

The incompleteness of assimilation results in some specific features which permit us to judge of the origin of words: Latin, Greek, French. They may serve as formal indicators of loan words.

Both English and Ukrainian have a common Indo-European origin and a part of the vocabulary coincides. Both have suffered a deep influence of a language of another nation. Russian words of the Soviet period entered the Ukrainian language very aggressively. It happened because the origin of these languages is close and such likeness made the process of penetration easier. The process of integration of different languages is natural. In the Ukrainian language there are a lot of “legal” borrowings from Russian, Polish, German and other European languages. It is considered that about 10% of the Ukrainian language are loan words.

Partially assimilated words in the Ukrainian language have little phonetic difference from the original ones except the stress. Most of them still preserve the stress of the original language, e.g.: кіно, село. They may have grammatical peculiarities: метро, галіфе, портмоне, парвеню. The borrowings can have some restrictions in word-building. It is very difficult if not impossible to form any derivative from the words: хакі, от кутюр, прет-а-порте, but some others provide good opportunities for word- building: бордо – бордовий, темно-бордовий.

There is a group of words that have been borrowed from English and partially assimilated in the Ukrainian language. They do not belong to the native English wordstock and preserve the traces of their foreign origin, e.g.: terrace (Portugese), banana (via Spanish from African languages), chocolate, cocoa (via Spanish from the language of Red Indians living in Central America). Khaki comes from Urdu, ikebana, judo, karaoke from Japanese.

A special group of borrowing constitutes terminological formations made from morphemes of Latin and Greek origin. They are used in all spheres of culture, science, politics. Their peculiarity is that there were no such words in the Greek or Latin languages: телефон, організація, інаугурація, консиліум.

Among international words and borrowings from the English to the Ukrainian language there is a group of words which have a number of meanings and have been borrowed into the Ukrainian language only in one of them. The rest ones differ in the contrasted languages and thus may cause difficulties in the process of translation. E.g.: idiom means ідіома in the Ukrainian language but in English it means both style and speech. Such pseudo-international words that coincide in one meaning and differ in the other one are: construction, address, operation, stress, technical, concern etc. There are words that completely differ in their meaning in the contrasted languages: accurate, academic, technique, familiar, faculty, scholar, intelligence, composition, figure, data, order.

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