New words have been pouring into the English language throughout its entire history. The sources of new words into the English language can vary, but the main factor that has contributed in improving the growth of its vocabulary is borrowing, which R.L.Trask (1996) states “ is the most obvious source of all”. Moreover borrowing is the introduction of foreign linguistic material into a language.
But why borrow words from other languages?
The reasons for borrowing are various and depend on different factors; nevertheless we can identify three main motives that led to borrowing:
Linked to the first factor is prestige. French loans were adopted after the Norman Conquest in 1066, because they offered English speakers the opportunity to express themselves in a more elaborate and sophisticated way.
An example of the second main factor could be the English adoption of loan words for the purpose of rhyme. Authors like Chaucer for instance, adopted words because there was a need for rhyme in poetry. Finally, necessity is the most common objective because borrowing introduces so many new words, therefore new concepts aroused and had to be denoted but most of the times there were no terms to do so the concept was taken over with its foreign word.
Nine words will be analysed to try and find out the language of origin of each word, why it was borrowed and when.
Word | Word meaning and word origin | First use | Why borrowed |
Aardvark | A large nocturnal African mammal that has a long nose and that eats ants and other insects. The word comes from Afrikaans (aard) meaning earth and (vark), meaning pig. | 1785 when an unknown animal was seen during a voyage to South Africa. | It was probably borrowed to describe a type of animal that didn’t live in the UK and so there wasn’t a word to describe it. |
Bamboo | Bamboo is a woody or treelike semitropical grass from the subfamily Bambusoideae having...