Friday, September 7, 2012

Loanwords: Whose Word Is It Anyway?

One of the great things about languages is that they adapt. They change with the times. If you think about the last 20 years there are so many words that didn't exist but due to ever-advancing technology we've had to make up some words

I imagine you're reading this because you're a language "aficionado" or perhaps even a "connoisseur". Maybe loanwords are easier than making up your own words for something.

The interesting thing about English is its vocabulary. English is a Germanic language as I'm sure you all know. Yet, more than half of the words are of either French or Latin origin. This is hardly surprising once you consider that for the last 2000 years England was a popular destination for anyone looking to conquer places. Romans, Jutes, Angles, Saxons, Normans all had a turn at raping and pillaging as well as telling the locals how to speak.

Has English forgotten its roots?

Once the lexicon had been bastardised beyond all recognition, a thirst for blood, money, power and better food meant the British Empire took English all over the world. It was then given to the Americans who in turn churned out blockbuster films, global pop stars and sent back some hamburgers, only after asking the Germans what they should call their new sandwich. English went worldwide and its global influence meant a large number of people had to grow up trying to learn it.

Nobody decides whether or not to have loanwords, as long as people hear them, use them and pass them on they'll only become more and more common in the global society. Thanks to television, radio and especially the internet, languages are always getting new words, if not necessarily from their own languages.

Even though they are called "loan" words, just like library books, you don't really have to give them back.