LINGUIST List 9.872

Sat Jun 13 1998

Disc: Recent Change in English

Editor for this issue: Martin Jacobsen <>


  1. Dick_Watson, Re: 9.845, Disc: Recent Change in English
  2. Christiane Bongartz, Disc: Recent Change in English/Stress in English Noun Combination
  3. bwald, Re: 9.849, Disc: Recent Change in English: Borrowing proper names

Message 1: Re: 9.845, Disc: Recent Change in English

Date: Wed, 10 Jun 1998 12:07 -0500 (EST)
From: Dick_Watson <>
Subject: Re: 9.845, Disc: Recent Change in English


I believe the matter of translated names is both interesting and
important and am happy to see the trend away from them. On the one
hand, it can be very normal to translate names into our own languages,
just as we need to translate the rest of the information. However, it
can also be, or at least be taken as, an indication of our
ethnocentrism or imperialism. I am thinking especially of the names
people groups call themselves, and their place names.

Some years ago I had a warm discussion with a British colleage who
took the strong position that we should stick to the forms of names
found in the literature and ignore people's own names or spellings of
them, or at most include them in parentheses. I felt that this was a
reflection on Britain's imperial tradition of anglicizing everything
(which is often not true of French loans), and I argued that we should
do whatever we could to popularize the people's own names, especially
as the names given by outsiders were often derogatory. I have been
encouraged in the last couple of years to see this same colleague
giving priority to people's own names, and I'm sure it was not a
result of anything I said.
Then, just last week, I read a lengthy newspaper article by a southern
Sudanese decrying the loss of cultural identity caused by the
imperialism of the British and Arabs who either renamed people and
places with their own names or corrupted the spelling and
pronunciation of the local names. He also referred to discussion
going on amongst some southerners as to what they should name their
new state when it comes into being and, eventually, the need for
returning to original names for peoples and their places, since those
names are the names of their history, culture, songs, stories and
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Message 2: Disc: Recent Change in English/Stress in English Noun Combination

Date: Thu, 11 Jun 1998 12:26:09 -0500
From: Christiane Bongartz <>
Subject: Disc: Recent Change in English/Stress in English Noun Combination


	Attached below are some references for those interested in the
_apple pie_ versus _apple cake_ issue. I have found the Liberman &
Sproat (1992) article very helful. Based on empirical data, the
authors suggest an algorithm to calculate the probability of stress
placement in a string of two adjacent nominals such as _rubber boot_
or _party table_. Their evidence is compelling, and for those
linguists without much use for algorithms (including myself), the
article provides a good review of the common arguments (i.e.,
lexicalization; FCA; semantics) and why they are problematic.
 	I'd appreciate to hear from you if you know of other helpful sources. 

Chris Bongartz
Department of English
University of Wisconsin-Madison

	Bauer, L. (1983). Stress in compounds: a rejoinder. English
Studies, 64(1), 47-53.
	Bolinger, D. (1972). Accent is predictable (if you're a mind
reader). Language, 48, 633-644.
	Chomsky, N., & Halle, M. (1968). The sound pattern of
English. New York: Harper and Row.
	Cinque, G. (1993). A null theory of phrase and compound
stress. Linguistic Inquiry, 24, 239-297.
	Farnetani, E., Torsello, C., & Cosi, P. (1988). English
compound versus non-compound noun phrases in discourse. Language and
Speech, 31(2), 157-180.
	Lees, R. (1963). The grammar of English
nominalization. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
	Levi, J. (1978). The syntax and semantics of complex
nominals. New York: Academic Press.
	Liberman, M., & Sproat, R. (1992). The stress and structure of
modified noun phrases in English. In I. Sag & A. Szabolcsi (Eds.),
Lexical Matters (pp. 131-182). Stanford, CA: Center for Study of
Language and Information.
	Marchand, H. (1969). Categories and types of present-day
English word-formation (2). Muenchen: C.H. Beck'sche
	Marchand, H. (1974). On the analysis of substantive compounds
and suffixal derivatives not containing a verbal element. In
D. Kastovsky (Ed.), Studies in syntax and word-formation
(pp. 292-322). Muenchen: Wilhelm Fink.
	Pennanen, E. (1989). On the function and behavior of stress in
English noun compounds. English Studies, 61, 252-263.
	Sampson, R. (1980). Stress in English N+N phrases: a further
complicating factor. English Studies, 61, 264-270.
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Message 3: Re: 9.849, Disc: Recent Change in English: Borrowing proper names

Date: Thu, 11 Jun 1998 19:22:36 -0700 (PDT)
From: bwald <bwaldHUMnet.UCLA.EDU>
Subject: Re: 9.849, Disc: Recent Change in English: Borrowing proper names

Alexis MR raised an interesting issue in asking whether English and
various other European languages are undergoing a change from calquing
(translating) foreign proper nouns to borrowing them in their native
form, e.g., as Wilhelm (as in Kaiser Wilhelm) rather than William (as
in William of Orange). Anthea Fallen-Bailey implied that the
motivations for choosing between calquing or (direct) borrowing are
more complex, e.g., William of Orange consolidated his power in the
Netherlands, where he was called Willem, but later took power in
England so that he and his wife were known *locally* as William and
Mary. It remains to be seen if and when his name subsequently changed
from Willem to William in Dutch, i.e. in references to him embedded in
Dutch. This is an issue in Dutch, not English. More at issue for
English is why Spanish kings called Juan Carlos were formerly
translated into English as John Charles, but have been replaced by
direct borrowings from Spanish. If this is indeed a trend in English,
to prefer direct borrowings to translations with *new* names (proper
nouns), we would like to know what is motivating it.

There are various possibilities. On the side of translation is the
issue of familiarity with "foreign names". If foreign names are
generally unfamiliar to speakers, e.g., due to lack of frequent
contact with people bearing such names, it is *memory aid* to
translate them into more familiar names. It is difficult enough
remembering someone's name on first meeting them (esp without prior
introduction) without being struck with a totally unfamiliar and
unanlysable expression -- from a foreign language.

And it is even more of a problem the first time you hear a *place* name.
My impression of history with regard to contact with European languages is
that translation is rarely an option. If the earlier name is not adopted,
the place is completely renamed, arbitrarily from the point of view of the
older name or names. Similarly, this was done with African proper names,
among others, in "assimilating" them into a European centered cultural
empire, cf. baptismal names, given without replacing the parent-given names
in Catholic and various other liturgies.

(A rare exception with place names is the translation "Netherlands"
(now opaque, but do you know what "nether garments" are?), more
closely approaching the Dutch original 'Nederland', than the extinct
English translation "Low Countries", once commonly used, cf. French
Pays Bas. A mitigating factor in what's underlying this exception is
that originally "Low Countries" included the distinct current country
Belgium, or part of it.)

Translation of personal names, however, also often occurs in cases of
*personal* contact, sometimes even as a matter for negotation, e.g.,
in the 1950s-60s in NYC Greek bilinguals named "Jim" in English would
introduce themselves as "Jim" and comment that that is how Greek
"Dmitri" is translated into English. "Dmitri" was a common name for
Greek speaking males. Knowledge of the Jim = Dmitri equation allowed
*personal* choice, ultimately decided by the name bearer.

The public arena can be one in which there is an open struggle for who
gets to make the naming decision. In a sociopolitically symbolic
sense , the struggle is between the caller and the callee. EG In LA
in the 1970s, many Spanish-English bilinguals, in particular,
readopted their Spanish first names, e.g., "Francisco", as *public*
names, repudiating the translated names, "Francisco" > "Frank" that
they had been given by the public culture during the educational
process. Unlike baptism or total renaming, the translation
acknowledges the *private* name of the individual, as used among
family, but creates an *opposing* public name which creates a degree
of *distance* between private and public identity (= form of
self-reference). The private name "Frank" might remain as in intimate
private situations, upon negotiation with the speaker, since it may
also have already developed personal, esp familial, bonds prior to
recognition of its political signficance. At this level we can see
that trends in names are connected with larger socio-cultural trends,
e.g., reflecting "multiculturalism" in the current accomodation
practices of the standard European cultures, reflected in their

(In urban France, familiarity with Arabic names and Arabic naming
customs, far surpasses that in the US, due to the intimate large-scale
contact between Algerians and others of North African origin with
standard and various urban French cultures. The general level of
familiarity was great enough that some French speakers could
appreciate the pun in the title of a French film with a principal
Algerian character, "Achmed", English "Ahmed", for those familiar with
that common Islamic name. The title was "le the au rhum de Achmed".
Literally translated, the title reads "the tea with rum of Ahmed".
The pun is based on the similar sound of French "the theorem of
Archimedes" (dimly perceivable in the English translation). It's
important to realise that French "Archimede" sounds more similar to
"Achmed" than English "Archimedes" does. The French "ch" in "Achmed"
attempts the Arabic pharyngeal but settles for the velar /x/. English
omits this segment entirely, leaving the "h" as purely graphic
accomodation, making the pun sound even more forced.)

Similarly, some form of politically motivated accomodation can be
supposed for the change from translation to borowing for political
figures, whether royal or not. This even has a "private" aspect,
whatever that symbolises (e.g., a personal familiarity that has
knowledge beyond and behind the public poses).

Ultimately, this may even be connected with even more "personal"
linguistic symbolism, e.g., in the acceptance of "nicknames" such as
"Bill" instead of "William"as *public* names, as in "Bill Clinton".
Entertainers often have such names, e.g., "Bill Cosby" (*William
Cosby). The practice suggests a certain degree of intimacy or
"warmth" (cf. absence of *distance*: see above). However, there are
limits. While "President Carter" was referred to publicly as "Jimmy",
his brother "Billy" was not a public figure (except briefly for
derisive purposes in the media). "Clinton" is "Bill", not "Billy",
and so is "Cosby". This is a feature of the standard language, not
necessarily of all its vernaculars. "Jimmy" in the case of Carter has
a Southern origin, and in that context does not necessarily imply
younger and of inferior status in the family or larger social
hierarchy, cf. Southern adult use of "Daddy" and "(my) daddy".
However, it remains to be seen if this is part of a trend or a
momentary lapse which *overgeneralised* the public use of private
names (cf. the constantly increasing public attention given to the
"private" activities of public figures).

Returning to the question of royal names, the standard symbolism
remains quite striking. With a few interesting individual exceptions
(e.g., some artists), public figures are publicly referred to by their
last (family) names, with or without titles. But royal persons are
known by their first names, and most people who have heard of them
don't even know their last names. We see now that the standard
symbolic distinction between translation and borrowing is not the
limit to preferring a label based on "private knowledge", usually
through personal contact. More familiar first names are also
involved, and even more intimately -- seemingly beyond *public*
accomodation. The example of "Princess Di" is instructive. "Queen
Elizabeth" is not publically "Liz" for even the most disrespectful
media (though Margeret Thatcher was "Maggie" to her *enemies*, e.g.,
in hostile public graffiti, and the entertainer Elizabeth Taylor
became "Liz" as a public figure whose private life was standardly
considered publicly interesting), but "Diane" became "Di" as she was
portrayed in public as a private person; in this case, "private"
focussed on her conflict with established British royalty -- and their

My only point is that the question of the trends underlying various a
priori choices in naming processes leads almost immediately to
analysis of the social purposes associated with the choices. The most
purely linguistic question is whether the choices themselves change or
whether they are always available. At the most personal extreme are
"family words", sometimes affectionate allusions to words created
during the language acquisition process. These are
idiosyncratic. Trends in public choices for naming are much more
conventionalised. There are three choices: (1) rename (2) translate
(3) (direct) borrow, and they are ordered that way on a scale of
NON-accommodation, a purely formal characterisation which has
countless, but accountable, social purposes.

NB. The process of borrowing has various features, particularly of
phonology. Social accomodation retains some of the memory aid
features of renaming and (most obviously) translation in the case of
adaptation to the familiar phonology of the recipient language.
Various methods apply. Most distant are spelling pronunciations,
e.g., British traditional 'Don Juan' with /j/ for Spanish /hw/, quite
marked currently. More accomodating is nativisation as /dan wan/.
/dan/ 'Don' is already an English name (though a title in Spanish),
but /(h)wan/ remains a borrowing. This reflects current practice.
Most accomodating is retaining the source language phonology. That
may be beyond the abilities of many monolinguals. Nevertheless, the
symbolism remains. Thus, "Bach" as /bax/ rather than /bak/ gives the
English hearer the impression that more interest in and probably more
knowledge of Bach's music is implied. English speaking announcers on
classical music stations seem to be generally equal to the task of
pronunciation, without much additional knowledge of German. The
pronunciation /x/ remains marked in this way for most speakers of
English, and that marking feature is also understood in standard
contexts. Standard English still does not have distinct phoneme /x/.
This NB has nothing to do with the original question. It's just a
further implication of borrowing and what motivates choice -- or
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