Your attitudes towards “purity” and loan-words

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felix ahlner
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Your attitudes towards “purity” and loan-words

Postby felix ahlner » 2005-09-27, 13:08

I am doing a little paper on things like neologisms and loan-words in different languages. I wanted to find out about the attitude towards “language purity”, neologisms, and loan-words from speakers of various languages.

Is language purity an important matter? Why, or why not? Can too many loan-words somehow “destroy” a language? Should neologisms be preferred over loan-words, and are there any cases where loan-words are OK?

I hope we can get a little discussion going here :)

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Postby wsz » 2005-09-27, 13:19

My opinion is actually described in Babel Babble No. 6, Editorial. And as for precisely English influence (also loanwords) on Polish, being my mother tongue, see Babel Babble No. 20, Modern Polish :)

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Re: Your attitudes towards “purity” and loan-words

Postby Saaropean » 2005-09-27, 13:38

felix_ahlner wrote:Is language purity an important matter?

No. Languages evolve with influences from outside (foreign languages) and inside (once informal structures become accepted).

felix_ahlner wrote:Can too many loan-words somehow "destroy" a language?

No, but they can alter it as much as native neologisms.

On the other hand, you could say that the Swedish spoken 100 years ago was a different language because some of its vocabulary changed (and probably also bits of its pronunciation and grammar). Swedish (of 1905) is dead, long live Swedish (of 2005)!

felix_ahlner wrote:Should neologisms be preferred over loan-words, and are there any cases where loan-words are OK?

IMHO that's ridiculous.

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Postby Karavinka » 2005-09-27, 13:42

Well, more than 2/3 of Korean vocabularies are Sino-Korean already. There's nothing to talk about purity of Korean language from the beginning. 8)

There have been a number of new loanwords, especially from English, to Korean spoken in South Korea and I don't oppose it at all. Those loanwords allow more neologisms and they give more variety and color to the language.
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Postby ego » 2005-09-27, 13:51

I hate foreign loan words. Yes, I think they destroy a language. It may sounds linguistically immature to claim this, but I feel a pitty for English. If you compare it to Old English then you have the impression that Old English is a real language and modern is just a creole. 52% of the English words are of latin origin (through French). If you add the Greek, Danish and all other words there is almost nothing left. And this uncovers a general xenomania of the natives.
As a coincidence, yesterday I was reading online news in Greek. Reading a text on basketball news I found the word "option" written in Greek letters instead of the Greek equivalent. It was the first time in my life I saw this word and it really annoyed me much. I wrote a mail to the editor about it. They replied and they said they agree with me and corrected it although they were somehow ironic saying "we congratulate you for writting a whole letter for just a single word". I replied that I could write a whole book. I really dislike xenomania and I find no sufficient reason for one to use an english or other word instead of the greek equivalent. And I am really annoyed by Cypriots who as a result of their colonial past mix several English words in their daily talk. It sounds rediculous when they call the ambulance "ambula"

amoeba

Postby amoeba » 2005-09-27, 14:14

I think it's interesting that some people consider only 40% of Ancient Greek vocabulary to be of Indo-European origin. The rest must come from the previous inhabitants of Greece. A creole language if there ever was one, but no one would argue that Ancient Greek was soiled with loanwords and barbarisms. I think that language influence is fine, because the 'host' language will always make the new words 'fit' with its own sounds, grammar, etc.

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Postby Mantaz » 2005-09-27, 14:23

I prefer original words, if they exists rather than loan-words that makes the vocabulary less original.

Lithuanian is pretty lucky on this since our language has really good opportunities in word building and this opportunity is often used. As an historically issolated language, it has a pretty ritch inherited vocabulary of original words as well.

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Postby Gormur » 2005-09-27, 14:46

I feel the same as ego. Why is this even a question here? - That we want to or think it's okay to adopt foreign words when we have perfectly good words already? I don't want to sacrifice my language and culture for being a careless moron! I follow the example of Icelandic, which has stayed "pure" in the best sense of the word for over 1000yrs. What has English got to say for itself? Sure, a lot of people speak it, so what? We can hardly even read the works of Shakespeare without taking a course in it (i.e. I had a course in Shakespearean lit). And Icelanders are able to read the sagas dating back nearly 800 yrs.

I mean, if you have such an inferiority complex towards your own language (and culture) then why are you even living there? You think words like "boycott", "talkshow", "stereo", "walkman", "shopping", "party", etc are hip and cool...give me a break! It would be cool if we had more diversity in such areas, I think. But there seems to be this odd idea that American English is hip, and at the same time that "America" really sucks...

I just don't get it. :lol:

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Postby Gormur » 2005-09-27, 14:51

Mantaz wrote:I prefer original words, if they exists rather than loan-words that makes the vocabulary less original.

Lithuanian is pretty lucky on this since our language has really good opportunities in word building and this opportunity is often used. As an historically issolated language, it has a pretty ritch inherited vocabulary of original words as well.


Glad to hear that there's still hope.

I know what the linguists are going to say...
all languages evolve through time. It's a naturally occuring process. Yeah, well this ain't about evolving when you've got people in Denmark using English everyday at work and kids reading English novels (by choice) rather than the translated versions, watching American and British shows/films everyday, mixing their own languages with English...

I mean, this is a global phenomenon, and a harmful one: even linguistically speaking, because it is a threat to linguistic diversity (and ultimately, cultural diversity).

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Postby Patricia » 2005-09-27, 15:23

I really don't mind it when words that didn't originally exist in our language are added to name new things (namely, computer-related terms). However, I absolutely hate it when people use foreign words where they could perfectly use a word in Spanish, cuz the word to name that thing actually exists in the language . For example, stores here want to be "fahionable" and use words like "sale" for "oferta" or "off" for "descuento". That really gets on my nerves!!! :evil:

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Postby Mantaz » 2005-09-27, 15:23

@Gormur Can't agree more with you ;)
Last edited by Mantaz on 2005-09-27, 15:25, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Car » 2005-09-27, 15:25

I fully agree with Gormur, there's nothing wrong with loan words per se, as long as there's really no own word for it (but very often, there is and it's just deplaced by a "cool"-sounding loan word) or can't easily form a word, and as long as there aren't masses of them, but unfortunately, that's the case in many languages.
It's also indeed a cultural attitude, seeing many things and cultural aspectsfrom a particular country (or those where the language is spoken) as "cool" or even "better" than one's own. :( So far, I've seen more loan words from English in Japanese than in Romance languages, which should be able to adapt them much better, because the languages are closer to each other...
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Postby felix ahlner » 2005-09-27, 16:14

Patricia, I agree with you about the idiotic usage of foregin words just because they are “cool”, when perfectly adequate words already exist in the language. The word “sale” has also become more and more used in Sweden, but on the other hand, our domestic word is rea(lisation), also an old loan word. :oops: :wink: However, utförsäljning is not very uncommon either ("out-for-sale-ing").

Swedish (and many other languages) was very influenced by French in the 18th and 19th century, borrowing tons of “educated” words. These are still found in the dictionaries and some have been used as technical terms.

Now, English floods us with their many “educated” Latin-rooted words. Since these words, or words that are very similar, already exist in the dictionaries, people see no reason for not using them. So the word avsikt is being replaced by intention, förbereda becomes preparera, bekräfta becomes konfirmera and many more.

- - -

To widen my original question(s):

I’ve heard that many Hindi neologism are almost only used for comical purposes (and I think that the same might be true for German, or what about lichtspiel or fernsprecher?). Nor are Tamil speakers very keen on their neologisms, they often use the English loanword instead.

On the other hand, I’ve understood that most Icelanders embrace the academy’s neologisms, and people don’t hesitate about creating new ones theirselves.

Those are two important, polarized viewpoints:

1) “Our language is indeed one of the biggest and most fundamental parts of our people, our culture, our way of life and our history. It is worthy of preservation, and we will do whatever we can to keep using it in our daily conversation, no matter how much our daily environment may change.”

2) “The most important thing about a language is to be understood, to communicate with each another. The more, the merrier. What is the point of making up new words for things that already have perfectly working names? More words are just causing unnecessary confusion.”

Of course, every single speaker of a language will not easily fall into 1 or 2. But as I said, these are the polarized viewpoints. Do you agree with me on them?

Can you place your native tongue somewhere in between 1 and 2? Or are a language’s speakers too diverse to make generalizations like these? Is it easier for smaller languages to fall into 1, while international languages tend to fall into 2?

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Postby Car » 2005-09-27, 16:35

felix_ahlner wrote:Swedish (and many other languages) was very influenced by French in the 18th and 19th century, borrowing tons of “educated” words. These are still found in the dictionaries and some have been used as technical terms.


But they weren't used by so many parts of the population, plus I haven't heard of any French words coined by speakers of other languages for their language, as it does (at least in German) happen these days. Many of the French words that were "en vogue" (;)) back then were ultimately replaced by domestic words, because people wanted that.
At the time where many Latinisms were borrowed, attitudes such as that English should follow Latin grammar rules or practising your German with Latin (that's how the nested sentences entered the language) were popular, too. I think that says a lot.

Now, English floods us with their many “educated” Latin-rooted words. Since these words, or words that are very similar, already exist in the dictionaries, people see no reason for not using them. So the word avsikt is being replaced by intention, förbereda becomes preparera, bekräfta becomes konfirmera and many more.


Those usually fit better into the language or were already adapted, that's also an important point for me, the words have to fit in. But some people are also laughed at because they use those Latinisms or Gallicisms which became popular again too often, in cases where most people wouldn't use them, we had a good laugh about a docent for talking like that all the time... This is especially true if they don't really master their usage or get them wrong.

I’ve heard that many Hindi neologism are almost only used for comical purposes (and I think that the same might be true for German, or what about lichtspiel or fernsprecher?). Nor are Tamil speakers very keen on their neologisms, they often use the English loanword instead.


"Lichtspiel" is just old-fashioned, for "Fernsprecher" and for most words, what you said is true.

Of course, every single speaker of a language will not easily fall into 1 or 2. But as I said, these are the polarized viewpoints. Do you agree with me on them?


Yes, I do.

Can you place your native tongue somewhere in between 1 and 2? Or are a language’s speakers too diverse to make generalizations like these? Is it easier for smaller languages to fall into 1, while international languages tend to fall into 2?


German definitely falls into group 2, the number of loans speaks for itself. I don't think it's a matter of speakers, but rather a matter of attitudes. French and German are completely different here, so are Swedish and Icelandic.
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Postby toffte » 2005-09-27, 16:47

Languages change and thats how it is. Of course I can find some anglicisms really strange since it would sound more natural to just use the obvious Swedish words. Recently I met a guy that sometimes used half sentences in English. It confused me but thats his way of speaking. The same confusion could arrise if I met somebody using strange dialectal/sociolectal expressions. (His way of influences from English probably should be categorized as a part of his sociolect.)

And of course I could wish that there were some influence from more than one language at a time. But that's life. Tomorrow something else will be considered "normal".

I don't think that smaller languages fall under the first category just because they are small. We can look at Swedish. Many people understand English. Therefore you can throw in a fair amount of anglicisms without hurting communication. I would put Swedish in the second category.

It should be easier for smaller languages to fall in the second category. Often a more widely used language is necessary for scientific expressions. So a greater percentage of the people are forced to learn a foreign language. I don't think there are many Swedish chemists without some knowledge in English. But it would be a lot easier for an English speaking chemist to live and die without any knowledge about any foreign language.

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Postby Saaropean » 2005-09-27, 16:58

felix_ahlner wrote:1) “Our language is indeed one of the biggest and most fundamental parts of our people, our culture, our way of life and our history. It is worthy of preservation, and we will do whatever we can to keep using it in our daily conversation, no matter how much our daily environment may change.”

I definitely don't agree with that.

felix_ahlner wrote:2) “The most important thing about a language is to be understood, to communicate with each another. The more, the merrier. What is the point of making up new words for things that already have perfectly working names? More words are just causing unnecessary confusion.”

I agree with the first part, but not about the confusion bit. Having several words for the same concept is another natural feature of human languages.

felix_ahlner wrote:Can you place your native tongue somewhere in between 1 and 2?

Speaking for German here:
Of course not. Some people (especially wannabe intellectual philologists ;-)) tend more towards #1, some (especially wannabee hip advertisers ;-)) more towards #2.

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Postby Rounin » 2005-09-27, 17:19

I feel that it's a bad idea to borrow words that clash horribly with the phonology and / or the grammar of the receiving language, for instance requiring sounds or conjugations that that language doesn't have.

However, I think it's great if languages are getting closer and closer to each other - As long as it improves communication and doesn't impede it, I don't see the harm in it.

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Postby Car » 2005-09-27, 17:52

Saaropean wrote:
felix_ahlner wrote:Can you place your native tongue somewhere in between 1 and 2?

Speaking for German here:
Of course not. Some people (especially wannabe intellectual philologists ;-)) tend more towards #1, some (especially wannabee hip advertisers ;-)) more towards #2.


Are you kidding me? How can you say it doesn't fall into a category when we shamelessly borrow so many words and people who don't use them, but use words of our language are ridiculed for it? Don't forget anyone dealing with business studies and the like for group 2...
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Postby CoBB » 2005-09-27, 17:56

I have different tolerance level for words of different origin. Unfortunately most of the new loanwords come from English, which rarely works well in Hungarian. I think I could accept Slavic or Turkish words much easier, but they don't seem to take on the world recently.

Most words of Greek and Latin origin have their well-established counterparts, and I usually prefer the Hungarian versions--when they don't feel fabricated, which is not always the case. Too many Latin words completely ruin a Hungarian text, and just make the writer look as if he'd wanted to show off their erudition. I absolutely hate forced neologisms though, I often take the third path of using a simple word to avoid both threats. E. g. I just say 'levél' ('letter') instead of 'e-mail', or 'oldal' ('page') to mean 'website'.

In the end, I can't formulate any clear-cut rule to predict my reaction to a specific word, but it's clear the decision boils down to individual words and expressions.
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Postby ego » 2005-09-27, 18:07

amoeba wrote:I think it's interesting that some people consider only 40% of Ancient Greek vocabulary to be of Indo-European origin. The rest must come from the previous inhabitants of Greece. A creole language if there ever was one, but no one would argue that Ancient Greek was soiled with loanwords and barbarisms


This is rediculous. Who are those people who say this? You can't just drop fireworks in the air. Tell me where you read that.
As far as I know only some specific words with specific endings like -inthos or -ittos are of prehellenic origin and not IE.
Let me ask you a simple question which shows what you wrote can't be true: IE words in modern Greek are the vast majority, more than 90%. Since 75% of modern Greek's vocabulary derives from ancient Greek how could what you wrote be possible?
Can you give me an example of a non-IE Greek word used in English?
Ancient Greek is not a creole language, it is actually one of the basis of all modern IE languages and I don't have to explain why


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