Sources of the new words in modern English


As it is to be expected in the light of the English disposition to borrow words from other languages in the past, many of the new words have been taken over ready-made from French, Italian, Spanish, and many other languages. It should be noted that the wholesale borrowing of words from other languages did not meet with universal favour in the past. The strongest objection to the new words was on the score of their obscurity. The opposition to obscure new words was at its height in the middle of the 16th с. but at the end of this century it had largely spent its force. By this time borrowing had gone so far that the attack was rather directed at the abuse of the process of borrowing than at borrowing itself. The use of unfamiliar words could easily be overdone. The attitude of most men seems to have been one of compromise. Indeed the surprising thing about the movement is the number of words that seem now to be indispensable. Many of such borrowings are in such "common use today that it is hard for us to realize that some hundred years ago they were so strange and obscure as to be a subject of controversy.

In entering the language, some words retained their original forms and others underwent changes. Sometimes the same word has been borrowed more than once in the course of time. А word when introduced а second time often carries а different meaning. There are some things about language that we cannot explain. One of them is why certain words survive while others, apparently as good, do not.For instance, in Shakespeare's day no one could have told whether one should sау "effectuous, effectfu1, effectuating, effective, or effectual". Two of these five options have survived. It was necessary for time to do the sifting

Sixteenth-century purists objected to three classes of strange words, which they characterized as "ink horn terms, oversea language, and Chaucerisms″. For the foreign borrowings in this period were by no means confined to learned words from Latin and Greek. The English vocabulary at this time shows words taken from more than fifty languages, the most important of which (besides Latin and Greek) were French, Italian, and Spanish. In order to appreciate the importance of the Renaissance in enriching the English vocabulary it is worth to form some idea of the number of new words added, at this time. А calculation gives а figure somewhat above 12,000.About half of the total number has become а permanent part of the language.

In 1755 Samuel Johnson published his famous dictionary in two volumes. It exhibited the English vocabulary much more fully than had ever been done before. It offered а spelling that could be accepted as standard, it supplied thousands of quotations illustrating the use of words. In the latter half of the 18th century we find the beginning of the modern doctrine that "every language has its peculiarities; they are established by usage, and whether right or strong, they must be complied with" (Chesterfield). At the same time we see strong attempts to reform the vocabulary and further objections to foreign borrowings in the 18th and 19th centuries. Most of the words criticized are still in use, and. these misguided efforts to ban them show the futility of trying to interfere with the natural course of linguistic history. The expansion of the British empire which began towards the end of the 16th century and reached its height in the end of the last century is to be seen in the vocabulary New colonies mean new experiences, new activities, new products, all of which are in time reflected in the language. Thus, one of the reasons for the cosmopolitan character of the English vocabulary today is seen to be the multitude of contacts the English language has had other languages in widely scattered parts of the world.

The most striking thing about our present-day civilization is probably the part, which science and technology have played in bringing it to pass. In every field of science, pure and applied, there has been need in the last hundred years for thousands of new terms. The great majorities of these are technical words known only to specialist, but а certain number of them in time become familiar and pass into general use.

А second source of new words is represented in the practice of making self-explaining соmpounds, one of the oldest methods of word-format1on in the Engl1sh language. Of recent origin are "teenage, teen-ager, know-how, lipstick, speedboat, searchl1ght", etc' The same method may be employed in forming words from elements derived from Lat1n and Greek, and this has long been а favourite source of scientific terms. А few minutes spent in looking up recent scientific words in any dictionary will supply а lot of illustrations of th1s common method of English word-formation.

Another method of enlarging the vocabulary is by appending familiar prefixes and suffixes to existing words on the pattern of similar words in the language, Thus in the period under discussion there have appeared "transcontinental, trans-Siberian, transliterate, transformer" etc.

А considerable number of new words must be attributed to invention or coinage, Thus а trade mark like "Kodak" seems to be pure invention, while "nylon" contains recognizable elements "New York" and "London".Another source from where many English words have been derived in the past the names of persons and places. Cf. such words as "sandwich, boycott, lynch, raglan, quisling" etc.

It is necessary to say something about the way in which words gradually change their meaning. Words can undergo extension of meaning, narrowing of meaning, degeneration and regeneration. By extension of meaning it meant the widening of а word's signification until it covers much more that the idea originally conveyed. The tendency 1s sometimes called generalization. The opposite tendency is for а word gradually to acquireа more restricted sense or to be chiefly used in one special connection. Degeneration of meaning may take several forms; the opposite process is known as regeneration. Thus the word "lovely" (worthyto be loved) is now an example of extension of meaning; "doctor", "thank" and "to park" are cases of narrowing of meaning; cases of degeneration of meaning are words for а woman's under-clothes (degraded euphemisms: "smock" (18th century), "shift, chemise" (19th century), "combinations, step-ins" etc (20th century); examples of regeneration are "smock" (an outer garment) in the 20th century, "snob" and "sham" (former slang words) in the 19th century.

The greatest dictionary of any language in the world - The Oxford English Dictionary - (the first volume appeared in 1884 and the last one in 1933) - treats more 250,000main words of the English language embracing the Old, Middle and Modern periods and exhibiting the history of each word — its forms, its various spellings, and all its uses and meanings, past and present.The last-named feature is shown by а full selection of quotations from the whole range of English writings. The influence of this great publication has been far-reaching and its authority is recognized throughout the world. Another great dictionary meeting the requirements of the English-speaking world is Webster's New International Dictionary, which contains 600,000 entries.

We have seen, then, how Modern English has developed а vocabulary of great extent and richness, drawn from many languages of the world. The Renaissance period is noted for its great influx of vocabulary, making the vocabulary of English perhaps the largest of and language. Thus English has extensive resources to satisfy various kinds of users and various goals.

It goes without saying, that the frontiers of language advance more precipitously in vocabulary than in any other area, and the introduction of new words – and of new meanings for old ones - reflects developments and innovations in the world at large and in society.

In the late 1980s on the wider international scene it wasthe era of 'perestroika'. М.Gorbachev's reforms so captured the Western imagination that the two key Russian terms (glasnost and perestroika) developed wider metaphorical meanings in English and were used with English adjectival endings (glasnostian and perestroikan).

Reflecting its continuing vigour, the financial sector remains а prodigal coiner of neologisms (circuit breaking, fan clubs, foothold buying, rocket scientists, tin parachutes, etc.). Nor far behind wealth as а word-creator comes computing (electronic virus, phantom bug, earcon, exput, etc.). AIDS has а strong impact, lexically as well as socially (condomania, homophobia, Lyme disease). The verbal turnover in the pop scene is as frentic as ever (beach music, goth, sceed-metal, psychobilly, etc.) Crime is as innovative ever (death star, survivalist, home pаrо1е, receiver-dialler, etc.).

The perennial urge to euphemism is as marked as ever. Weapons of unparalleled destructive capacity have become "assets", spying on one's business rivals is "competitor analysis", and if something gets worse is "disimproves", (cf. also downsizing, physically different, etc.).

The bread-and-butter routes to the formation of new words in Modern English are compounding and the addition of prefixes and suffixes, and especially blending, in which parts of two distinct words are joined together to form а third (e.g. affluence + influenza = affluenza, fertilize + irrigation =fertigation, magazine + catalogue = magalog). Next in popularity to blends is the omnipresent acronym (Erops, Hero, NIC, PINC, etc.).Conversion - the reallocation of а word to а different part of speech - continues vigorously, producing mainly verbs, from nouns and adjectives (feeder, flan, gender, office, rear-end, silicone, source, stiff, wide) but also transforming verbs into nouns (spend). А related phenomenon, typically originating in American English, is the reversal of а verb from transitivity to intransitivity and vice versa (air, commit, lag). Currently thriving affixes include -aholic (clothesahc1ic, milkaholic), -ati (jiazzerati, numerati), cross- (cross-marketing, cross-selling), -eur (arbitrageur. conplomerateur), -ie, 'an obsessive enthusiast (Cuppie, winie), -ism/

-ist (fattyism, genderist), must-(must-buy, must-see), and -nomies (Reaganomics). Backformation ( words coined by removing an affix from an existing word) includes "accreditate", "bezzle", "flake", "gram" and "tack".

English continues to borrow words from other languages.

This does not happen only between different languages, but also between varieties of the same language. The best known instance of this is the borrowing of American English words and meanings into British English (cf. advance man, gofer, honcho, off-limits, patsy, preschooler).


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