DO BORROWED WORDS CHANGE OR
DO THEY REMAIN THE SAME?
When words migrate from one language into another they adjust themselves to their new environment and get adapted to the norms of the recipient language. They undergo certain changes which gradually erase their 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 (Parisian) 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 century, still sound surprisingly French: "regime", "valise", "matinee", "cafe", "ballet". In these cases phonetic adaptation is not completed.
Grammatical adaptation consists in a complete change of the former paradigm of the borrowed word. 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 century and has not yet acquired the Russian system of declension. The same can be said about such English Renaissance borrowings as "datum" (pl. data), "phenomenon" (pl. phenomena), "criterion" (pl. 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. Sometimes a word may be borrowed "blindly" for no obvious reason: they are not wanted because there is no gap in the vocabulary nor in the group of synonyms which it could fill. Quite a number of such "accidental" borrowings are very soon rejected by the vocabulary and forgotten. But some "blindly" borrowed words managed to establish itself due to 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". Still bearing some features of its former meaning it is successfully competing with "big" having approached it very closely, both in frequency and meaning.
It is often the case that a word is borrowed by several languages, not just by one. Such words usually convey concepts which are significant in the field of com-munication. 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, etc.; and the sports terms: football, volley-ball, baseball, hockey, cricket, rugby, tennis, golf, etc. It is quite natural that political terms frequently oc-cur in the international group of borrowings: politics, policy, revolution, progress, democracy, communism, anti-militarism. 20th century scientific and technological advances brought a great number of new international words: atomic, antibiotic, radio, television, sputnik (a Russian borrowing). Fruits and foodstuffs imported from exotic countries often transport their names too and become international: coffee, cocoa, chocolate, banana, mango, avocado, grapefruit.
The similarity of such words as the English "son", the German "Sohn" and the Russian "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.
The words 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 consist of a native word and a borrowed word: "shrew", n. (E.) - "screw", n. (Sc.). Others are represented by two borrowings from different languages: "canal" (Lat.) - "channel" (Fr.), "captain" (Lat.) - "chieftain" (Fr.). Still others were borrowed from the same language twice, but in different periods: "travel" (Norm. Fr.) - "travail" (Par. Fr.), "cavalry" (Norm. Fr.) - "chivalry" (Par. Fr.), "gaol" (Norm. Fr.) - "jail" (Par. Fr.).
A doublet may also consist of a shortened word and the one from which it was derived: "history" - "story", "fantasy" - "fancy", "defence" - "fence", "shadow" - "shade".
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.).
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). Each stem was translated separately: "masterpiece" (from Germ. "Meisterstuck"), "wonder child" (from Germ. "Wunderkind"), "first dancer" (from Ital. "prima-ballerina").
ARE ETYMOLOGICAL AND STYLISTIC CHARACTERISTICS
OF WORDS INTERRELATED?
The answer must be affirmative. Among learned words and terminology the for-eign 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 style, especially slang and dialect, abounds in native words even though it is possible to quote numerous exceptions.
In point of comparing the expressive and stylistic value of the French and the English words the French ones are usually more formal, more refined, and less emotional. "to begin" - "to commence", "to wish" - "to desire", "happiness" - "felicity".
English words are much warmer than their Latin synonyms, they don't sound cold and dry: "motherly" - "maternal", "fatherly" - "paternal", "childish" - "infantile", "daughterly" - "filial", etc.
1. Г.Б.Антрушина, О.В.Афанасьева. Лексикология английского языка. - М. Изд. Дрофа. 1999
2. F.R.Palmer. Semantics. A new outline. - M. V.Sh. 1982