Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login

New from Cambridge University Press!


Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

New from Wiley!


We Have a New Site!

With the help of your donations we have been making good progress on designing and launching our new website! Check it out at!
***We are still in our beta stages for the new site--if you have any feedback, be sure to let us know at***

Review of  Borrowing

Reviewer: Simon Musgrave
Book Title: Borrowing
Book Author: Jan Tent Paul Geraghty
Publisher: Pacific Linguistics
Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics
Issue Number: 17.1393

Discuss this Review
Help on Posting
EDITORS: Tent, Jan; Geraghty, Paul
TITLE: Borrowing
SUBTITLE: A Pacific perspective
SERIES: Pacific Linguistics
PUBLISHER: Pacific Linguistics
YEAR: 2004

Simon Musgrave, Linguistics Program, Monash University


This volume is a collection of sixteen papers all (except perhaps one -
see below) concerned with lexical borrowing in languages spoken in
the Pacific region. Most of the papers deal with borrowing into
languages from the Oceanic sub-group of the Austronesian language
family, but two papers discuss borrowing in non-Austronesian
languages spoken in Fiji. In the following discussion, all languages
referred to are Oceanic languages, unless specifically identified as
belonging to some other grouping. Three of the papers have been
published previously (Biggs, Clark and Milner), the remainder are
either new or represent a substantial reworking of previously
published material.

Biggs' paper (originally published in Lingua vol.14:383-415 [1965])
remains a classic in the literature on Oceanic languages. Its
meticulous examination of directly and indirectly inherited words in the
Rotuman language is an object lesson in how it is possible to identify
borrowed words even when they come from related languages.

Clark (originally published in Halim et al 1982) examines borrowing in
the Ifira-Mele language (Vanuatu), and addresses the question of why
borrowing takes place. Clark suggests that some borrowing
is 'necessary', in the sense that contact between cultures causes the
need for words to denote new artefacts and concepts. Other
borrowing is, however, 'unnecessary', in that the needed words
already exist in the target language but a new word is nevertheless
borrowed. Clark suggests that this second type of borrowing still
requires explanation, although he is unable to provide a solution.

Crowley's paper is a response to the argument of Mühlhäusler (1996),
that the structural integrity of Pacific languages is threatened by
borrowing, and that the languages which survive will become local
relexifications of European structures. Crowley presents evidence
from the Sye language (Vanuatu) to show that restructuring has
indeed been caused by loan words, but that it is not necessarily in the
direction of English, the main source for borrowings. He also points
out that attempting to protect minority languages from outside
influences means preventing the speakers from interacting with the
modern world on their own linguistic terms.

Early discusses the strategies by which borrowed verbs are integrated
into the language of Epi Island (Vanuatu). Loan words which were
originally verbs or adjectives are treated consistently in these
languages. Across the six languages of the island, borrowed verbs
are barred from appearing in the structure typical of native verbs, in
which the verb has an obligatory subject-referencing prefix and
optional suffixes. Instead, borrowed verbs always follow a native
copula, which carries any morphology needed. Early notes the parallel
with the behaviour of borrowed nouns, which are also barred from
appearing in a structure which would require them to be
morphologically modified, the so-called directly-possessed form (see
Crowley 1996 for discussion of possession in Oceanic languages). He
further suggests that the remarkable parallelism across the six
languages in their treatment of loans should be attributed to borrowing
amongst the languages, most likely by way of one acting as a lingua

The paper by Geraghty uses linguistic evidence to establish which
plant names in Polynesian languages, especially Fijian, are loan
words. These borrowings in turn are argued to support the idea that in
prehistoric times there was greater mobility amongst Pacific
populations than is often thought to be the case. Geraghty gives
convincing evidence that a sizeable number of Polynesian plant
names are indeed loans. He follows Clark in distinguishing
between 'necessary' and 'unnecessary' borrowings, and offers
examples of both types. Methodologically, Geraghty suggests that 'the
most valuable service provided to the study of prehistory by historical
linguistics is not reconstruction per se, but the detection of borrowings
that is made possible by reconstruction' (p65).

Geraghty is also co-author of a paper, with Tent, which establishes
that a small number of Dutch words (six or seven) were borrowed into
Polynesian languages in the early stages of contact with Europeans.
The authors provide convincing evidence that the earliest European
linguistic influence in Polynesia is not English but Dutch (both are
West Germanic languages), and that such influence predates Cook's
voyages by at least a century. The authors also present evidence
which shows that the borrowed words then spread through Polynesia,
again before Cook's arrival, and therefore provide additional evidence
for Geraghty's position (discussed above) that inter-island voyaging
was extensive in Polynesia before European contact.

Harlow's paper provides a survey of borrowing as it has affected the
Maori language. He examines three periods in detail: the arrival of
Polynesian people in New Zealand about 1000 years ago, the period
of contact with Europeans (effectively from the latter half of the
eighteenth century), and the revitalization activities since about 1980
(which Harlow calls 'the Maori renaissance'). Harlow shows that
different pressures acted on the language in each of these periods,
and that outcomes were therefore different. Adaptation of existing
lexical resources was the common strategy in the first period, while
borrowing was the dominant strategy in the second period, with many
English words being adopted. In more recent times, there has been a
conscious purism operating in Maori language planning. This has
meant that borrowing from English has not been favoured as a
strategy for expanding vocabulary in the third period, and Harlow also
briefly discusses some of the alternative strategies.

Hollyman's brief paper examines names used in New Caledonia which
contain some reference to the putative origin of the item. An example
of such a name is the French (Romance) _persil chinois_
for 'coriander'. With examples from local French varieties as well as
indigenous Pacific languages, Hollyman shows that these names
emphasize exoticism, but exoticism understood in a non-European

In his fascinating paper, Langdon examines the linguistic evidence for
the presence of non-Polynesian people on Futuna (north east of Fiji)
before European contact. The impetus for such a study comes from a
well-established tradition on Futuna concerning the Tsiaina people,
the name clearly being an adaptation of 'China'. Langdon shows that
there is good linguistic evidence to give this tradition an historical
foundation, as well as evidence from cultural innovations. He argues
that the Tsiaina had nothing at all to do with China, but possibly came
from the Sangir Islands close to Sulawesi. A consequence of this
research for linguists is that evidence from Futuna used in
reconstructing Proto-Polynesian may not be as reliable as previously

Studies of borrowing, unsurprisingly, concentrate on actual instances
where a word has been taken from one language into another
language. Lynch's paper, in contrast, discusses two situations in
which, on the basis of the historico-social situation, extensive
borrowing might have been expected but did not eventuate. The
Melanesian creole Bislama underwent much of its development as a
result of recruitment of people from Vanuatu for plantation labour,
ships' crews and the sandalwood trade. Many people from southern
Melanesia, particularly the Loyalty Islands and the current Tafea
province, were recruited, but the languages of these two areas have
had negligible impact on the lexicon of Bislama. Again, German
presence in Samoa was significant, but there are only small numbers
of German (West Germanic) loans in Samoan, either in the current
language or as obsolete words previously recorded. In the first case,
Lynch suggests that the phonologies and phonotactics of the possible
source languages were such as to make borrowing difficult. He
suggests that the southern people were also looked down on and that
therefore words from their languages would have had low prestige. In
the Samoan case, the difference in linguistic attitudes of the German
administrators and the contemporary English missionaries led to
English being a significant source of new words in preference to

Milner (originally published in Lingua, vol 14:416-430 [1965])
examines some sets of doublets in Oceanic languages. He considers
first the reflexes of palatal consonants, which posed problems for
Dempwolff (1934-38). The doublets seem amenable to explanation as
reflexes of pairs of words in the proto-language with consonants
which either are pre-nasalised or are not. However, Dempwolff
rejected this explanation due to the more limited distribution of
homorganic nasal clusters in his reconstructed Proto-Indonesian in
comparison to Oceanic. Milner gives additional evidence, and extends
the argument to other (non-palatal) consonants in order to suggest
that pre-nasalisation appears to have been an option for all
consonants, at least in initial position, at some stage in
the history of the Austronesian languages. His position is that the
languages of the Oceanic branch, and also Malagasy (Western
Malayo-Polynesian), are conservative in this respect. Dempwolff's
tendency to place greater weight on evidence from the western
branch of the family misled him in dealing with this problem.

Samoan, which is briefly discussed in Lynch's paper, is the focus of
the paper by Mosel which gives an overview of borrowing into that
language. There are two areas of variation in the language which
have interesting consequences for the phonological treatment of
borrowed words. Firstly, there are two registers of the language, one
of which consistently replaces the phoneme /t/ with /k/. The
differentiation is socio-cultural: the K-register is associated with
indigenous Samoan culture. Borrowed words therefore often have
different forms in the two registers. For example, the English
word 'teapot' becomes _tipoti_ in the T-register, but _kipoki_ in the K-
register. However, some words with an original /t/ (or /d/) are
commonly used in the T-register with a /k/. Mosel suggests that use
of /k/ hides the English origin of the word, and is used to indicate that
a word has been fully integrated into Samoan culture. Similar
considerations apply to the treatment of /r/ in loan words. Samoan
historically has no phoneme /r/, and this sound would be expected to
become /l/. However, the actual results are more complex. There is a
tendency for the T-register to retain /r/ and for the K-register to
prefer /l/, but there are words which retain /r/ in both registers and
other words which have /l/ in both. Mosel suggests that the
explanation is again cultural: /r/ is retained for words which connote
Christianity and European concepts, regardless of register, while use
of /l/ indicates that a concept is considered as part of everyday
Samoan life.

(The following summaries deviate from the published order, which is
by author's surname. Sperlich's paper therefore appears between
Schütz and Tent.)

Sperlich's paper discusses borrowing in the Niuean language under
two heads: borrowing before and after European contact. The first
topic is of interest as the position adopted by most scholars (e.g. Clark
1979) is that Niuean is a Tongic language, but with features which
suggest the possibility of other influences. Sperlich examines in some
detail the evidence proposed (especially by McEwen 1970) for
borrowings from Eastern Polynesian into Niuean, and concludes that
almost all the putative examples can be explained adequately by
factors internal to Niuean. He therefore concludes that there is little
support for extensive contact between Niue and Eastern Polynesia.
After European contact, Samoa was an important influence as
Christianity came to Niue via Samoa. Religious language therefore
shows a strong Samoan influence, but there was little impact in the
everyday language. After 1900, Niue was under the control of the
British and then of New Zealand. Influences then came from the Cook
Islands (that is Rarotonga), from Maori, and of course from English.
The first two of these have left traces in contemporary Niuean, but the
major impact is from English, to the extent that Sperlich believes that
the Niuean language is endangered.

Three papers (by Mugler, Schütz and Tent) deal with the complex
linguistic ecology of Fiji, where the indigenous Fijian language co-
exists with English and a variety of Hindi (Indo-Aryan), as well as
several other languages with small speaker communities. Mugler
discusses the role of Hindi and other Indian languages, both as
sources for borrowing and as receptors. Fijian Hindi is the dominant
language of the substantial Fijian population of Indian ethnic
background, although the Dravidian languages Tamil, Telugu and
Malayalam are also present. The imbalance between Hindi and the
others is seen in the fact that although the Dravidian languages have
borrowed some Hindi words, there has been little or no borrowing in
the opposite direction (or from Dravidian languages into Fijian or
English). Mugler also argues that loans from Fijian or English have
only reached the Dravidian languages via Fijian Hindi. Mugler's other
focus is on the vector of some early borrowings from English into
Fijian Hindi. She suggests that some of these may have occurred in
India, before the indentured Indian labourers were brought to Fiji, and
that they therefore are more properly considered as items contributed
to Fijian Hindi, viewed as a koiné, by one of its source languages.

Schütz's paper examines English words borrowed into Fijian, and
offers an account of the process of assimilation which takes prosody
to the primary consideration. Fijian favours simple syllable structures
without consonant clusters or codas; this is of course rather different
to English phonotactic patterns. Schütz argues that, in adapting
English patterns to Fijian, the crucial unit of analysis is what he
terms 'measure'. Prosodic fit is accomplished ''not with individual
consonants or vowels, or with syllables, but with a larger unit that is
determined by accent'' (p263). (This description suggests to me that
what Schütz calls 'the measure' is very similar to what many
phonologists call 'the foot'.) The process of matching between the two
languages works with these units; the assimilated Fijian word need not
have the same number of syllables as the English source, but it should
have the same number of accented units. Schütz gives numerous
examples of how this process works. He also exemplifies the
correspondences which are seen at the segmental level, and shows
that where Fijian phonotactics require an additional vowel, the quality
of the vowel can often be predicted from the preceding consonant. In
recent data, Schütz finds examples of loan words in Fijian publications
spelt more according to English phonotactics, that is with final
consonants and consonant clusters. Such data raise the question of
the relation between orthography and phonology: do these new
examples show that the Fijian system is changing under the pressure
of English?

Finally, Tent's paper examines borrowing into Fijian English. Although
English is the first language of only a very small proportion of the
population (less than 2%), it has disproportionate influence as the
main language of education, administration and the media, and is
widely used as a lingua franca. Tent argues that the overall structure
of the lexicon of Fijian English is similar to that of other post-colonial
varieties of English. It is, however, unique because of the mix of
sources which has contributed to its current state. In common with
other Pacific varieties of English, it has nativised many indigenous
words. And it shares the contribution of Hindi with varieties spoken in
other former colonies where indentured labour was used. But the
combination of these two factors is only found in Fiji. One
phenomenon to which Tent draws attention, and which he suggests is
often overlooked, is that of reborrowing. This occurs where a word
has been borrowed from English to Fijian and nativised, and that form
is then borrowed back into Fijian English, often with a semantic shift.
An example of this process is the English word 'threepence', which is
nativised in Fijian as _ciriveni_. This form has now been borrowed into
Fijian English with the meaning 'miserly'. Tent also notes the presence
of calques and hybrids in Fijian English and that the influence of Fijian
in Fijian English is much greater than that of Hindi, not surprising
given that the Indian community arrived in Fiji well after contact with
Europeans commenced.


This collection is a valuable source of information for scholars
interested in language contact phenomena, and especially lexical
borrowing. Although the studies here are restricted to a specific
geographical area which is populated mainly by speakers of
languages from a single family, there is nevertheless sufficient variety
in the histories and social situations of the various languages
discussed to ensure that each paper makes a distinct contribution.
There are possible contributions which one can think of and regret not
having, for example a paper on the Hawaiian situation and one on
borrowing into New Zealand English, but the range of the collection as
it stands is wide. The re-presentation of three previously-published
papers in a relatively accessible location is another excellent feature
of the book.

My only reservation about this volume is that it gives the impression of
being under-edited. By this, I do not mean that the physical
presentation is problematic (there are some distracting typographical
errors, but not a huge number); rather I mean that the editors'
intention appears to have been to minimize their presence. There is
no introduction to the collection and the contributions are arranged
according to the authors' surnames. As regards the first point, I would
have welcomed some editorial overview of the linguistic situation of
the region, as varied as it is, and some indication of the contribution
which the editors saw each paper as making. For example, I would
have been very interested in their ideas as to why the paper by Milner
was included. To this reader at least, this is an important paper on
comparative Austronesian linguistics, but one with little to say directly
about borrowing. And as to the second point, the relationships
between the papers might have been clarified by a more thematic
ordering. For example, as implied by my re-ordering for summarisation
above, in the case of the papers about Fiji, the purely alphabetical
organisation obscured the relationships between the papers. Perhaps
the reviewer's strategy of reading the volume from beginning to end is
unnatural in the case of such a book. However, if the typical reader
will approach such a collection looking for specific information relating
to a single theme, then the case for a thematic organisation is all the


Clark, Ross (1979) Language. In J. D.Jennings (ed) The prehistory of
Polynesia, 249-270. Cambridge MA/London: Harvard University Press.

Crowley, Terry (1996) Inalienable possession in Paamese grammar. In
Hilary Chappell and William McGregor (eds) The grammar of
inalienability: a typological perspective on body part terms and the
part-whole relationship, 3-30. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Halim, Amran, Lois Carrington and S.A. Wurm (eds) (1982) Papers
from the Third International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics.
Vol.3, Accent on Variety. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.

McEwen, J. M. (1970) Niue Dictionary. Wellington: New Zealand
Government Printer.

Mühlhäusler, Peter (1996) Linguistic ecology: language change and
linguistic imperialism in the Pacific region. London and New York:

Simon Musgrave is a post-doctoral fellow at Monash University,
working in the project Endangered Maluku Languages. His research
interests include the languages of Maluku, Austronesian syntax and
typology, non-derivational models of grammar, and computational
tools for linguistics.