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Foreign Influence

  • Brian Foster
Chapter

Abstract

Throughout its history the English language has always been hospitable to words from other tongues and while it is doubtless true to say that all forms of human speech have to some extent borrowed from outside models there are grounds for thinking that English is more than usually open to foreign influence as compared with other great languages. The French, indeed, have set up an organization whereby they hope to stem or at all events regulate the influx of foreign words into their vocabulary, but this would probably seem a strange idea to most English speakers, who seem to believe in a species of linguistic free trade and argue that if a term of foreign origin is useful it should be put to work forthwith regardless of its parentage. In this we are helped by the nature of the language itself which very conveniently allows us to use a word as verb, noun or adjective without any change of form, unlike the other major European languages. In this way the B.B.C. has borrowed the French noun compère as both noun and verb, and has even been known to apply this masculine word to a woman, thereby unconsciously illustrating another reason why foreign expressions soon make themselves at home in English, namely the Anglo-Saxon dislike of analysis.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Some very comprehensive statistics on the subject are given by Karl-Heinz Schönfelder in his Deutsches Lehngut im amerikanischen Englisch (Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1957).Google Scholar
  2. 1.
    Moped is itself an ultimate Swedish loan-word, according to Charles Barber, p. 100 of Linguistic Change in Present-day English, Oliver and Boyd, 1964.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Brian Foster 1968

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  • Brian Foster

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