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LINGUIST List 20.2758

Thu Aug 13 2009

Diss: Socioling: Hoffmann: 'Language Contacts in the Age of Global...'

Editor for this issue: Di Wdzenczny <dilinguistlist.org>

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        1.    Zsuzsa Hoffmann, Language Contacts in the Age of Global Communication: English and international lexical borrowing

Message 1: Language Contacts in the Age of Global Communication: English and international lexical borrowing
Date: 13-Aug-2009
From: Zsuzsa Hoffmann <hoffmannzsuzsayahoo.com>
Subject: Language Contacts in the Age of Global Communication: English and international lexical borrowing
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Institution: University of Debrecen
Program: Doctorate School of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2009

Author: Zsuzsa Hoffmann

Dissertation Title: Language Contacts in the Age of Global Communication: English and international lexical borrowing

Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics

Dissertation Director:
Béla Hollósy

Dissertation Abstract:

The aim of my dissertation is to investigate lexical borrowing from a
sociolinguistic point of view. It is a rather novel approach to analyze
borrowing from the perspective of language users and society, as all
previous related theories belonged to the framework of historical and
contact linguistics. In my thesis, I seek an answer to the question
concerning the role of English as a lingua franca in modern lexical
borrowing by investigating how it borrows and lends elements at an
international level. My work is based on theoretical foundations on two big
topics: the role of English in today's global language system and theories
of language contacts, especially lexical borrowings. In order to analyze
the present situation of English in great depth, I relied mainly on a model
proposed by DE SWAAN (2004) to describe the present linguistic relations in
the world. I have also included two case studies: one on the role of
English in the EU and another one on the linguistic situation of
multilingual Switzerland, for I argue that it can be considered a
linguistic model of Europe from the point of view of language politics and

This theoretical background has been backed up by empirical studies, the
aim of which is to show the characteristic features of lexical transfer on
actual linguistic material. I have studied direct loans in four languages
(altogether more than 5,000), placing in the centre of my attention English
(which has been examined both as a source and as an intaking language), as
well as Spanish, German and Hungarian. My findings proved that the spread
of global English exerts a strong influence on relationships between other
languages and even on language contacts in general. The analyses have shown
that English plays a decisive role in international lexical transfer
processes, functioning as an international link language. Superimposing
itself over other languages, English creates new types of language
contacts, by enriching other languages and being enriched by others. Apart
from its international role, its intranational importance is also
increasing in certain countries, which gradually leads to the emergence of
a new type of diglossia: between international English and the national
language(s) concerned.

The global role of English is also justified by the fact that English
elements make up a significant group among borrowings in other languages.
My study has shown that supercentral languages are exposed to a somewhat
slighter English influence than those playing a less central role in the
global language system. We can also conclude that languages which stand at
a higher level of the global communication hierarchy are enriched by
lexical elements from a larger number of other languages than others. From
a semantic point of view, the main groups of borrowings in English are
connected to its global, hypercentral role: these words typically describe
other cultures, namely those with which English enters into contact
situations. The largest semantic groups among Spanish, German, as well as
Hungarian borrowings are words of computer science and technology, which is
due to the fact that these elements are almost exceptionally borrowed
directly from English and the ultimate source language in all three cases
is English. Over 90% of all analyzed borrowings in the four languages are
NPs. Concerning their integration, a clear tendency can be observed: the
smaller a language is and the lower it is situated in the global language
system, the higher the degree of integration will be.

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