19 Assimilation of borrowings


It is now essential to analyse the changes borrowings have undergone in the English language and how they have adapted themselves to its peculiarities.
All the changes that borrowed elements undergo may be divided into two large groups.
On the one hand there are changes specific of borrowed words only. -These changes aim at adapting words of foreign origin to the norms of the borrowing language, e.g. the consonant combinations [pn], [ps], [pt] in the words pneumatics, psychology, Ptolemey of Greek origin were simplified into In], [s], [t], since the consonant combinations [ps], [pt], [pn], very frequent at the end of English words (as in sleeps, stopped, etc.), were never used in the initial position. For the same reason the initial [ks] was changed into [z] (as in Gr. xylophone).
The suffixes -ar, -or, -ator in early Latin borrowings were replaced by the highly productive Old English suffix -ere, as in Caesar>Casere, sutor>sutere.
By analogy with the great majority of nouns that form their plural in -s, borrowings, even very recent ones, have assumed this inflection instead of their original plural endings. The forms Soviets, bolsheviks, kolkhozes, sputniks illustrate the process.
On the other hand we observe changes that are characteristic of both borrowed and native words. These changes are due to the development of the word according to the laws of the given language. When the highly inflected Old English system of declension changed into the simpler system of Middle
English, early borrowings conformed with the general rule. Under the influence of the so-called inflexional levelling borrowings like lasu, (MnE. law), feolasa (MnE. fellow), straet (MnE. street), disc (MnE. dish) that had a number of grammatical forms in Old English
acquired only three forms in Middle English: common case and possessive
case singular and plural (fellow, fellowes, fellowes).
It is very important to discriminate between the two processes—the adaptation of borrowed material to the norms of the language and the
development of these words according to the laws of the language. This differentiation is not always easily discernible. In most cases
we must resort to historical analysis before we can draw any definite
conclusions. There is nothing in the form of the words procession and progression to show that' the former was already used in England in the llth century, the latter not till the 15th century. The history of these words reveals that the word procession has undergone a number of changes alongside with other English words (change in declension, accentuation, structure, sounds), whereas the word progression underwent some changes by analogy with the word procession and other similar words already at the time of its appearance in the language.
Even a superficial examination of borrowed words in the English word-stock snows that there are words among them that are easily recognized as foreign (such as decollete, facade, Zeitgeist, voile) and there are others that have become so firmly rooted in the language, so. thoroughly assimilated that it is sometimes extremely difficult to distinguish them from words of Anglo-Saxon origin (these are words like pupil, master, city, river, etc.).
Unassimilated words differ from assimilated ones in their pronunciation, spelling, semantic structure, frequency and sphere of application. However, there is no distinct border-line between the two groups. There are also words assimilated in some respects and unassimilated in others, they may be called partially assimilated. Such are communique, detente not yet assimilated phonetically, phenomenon (pi. phenomena), graffito (pi. graffiti) unassimilated grammatically, etc. So far no linguist has been able to suggest more or less comprehensive criteria for determining the degree of assimilation of borrowings.
The degree of assimilation depends-in the first place upon the time of borrowing. The general principle is: the older the borrowing, the more thoroughly it tends to follow normal English habits of accentuation, pronunciation, etc. It is natural that the bulk of early borrowings have acquired full English citizenship and that most English speaking people are astonished on first hearing, that such everyday words as window, chair, dish, box have not always belonged to their language. Late borrowings often retain their foreign peculiarities.
However mere age is not the sole factor. Not only borrowings long in 'use, but also those of recent date may be completely made over to conform to English patterns if they are widely and popularly employed. Words that are rarely used in everyday speech, that are known to a small .group of people retain their foreign peculiarities. Thus many 19th- century French borrowings have been completely assimilated (e.g. turbine, clinic, exploitation, diplomat), whereas the words adopted much earlier noblesse [no'bles] (ME.), ennui [S'nwi:] (1667), have not been assimilated even in point of pronunciation.
Another factor determining the process of assimilation is the way Jin which the borrowing-was taken over into the language. Words borrowed orally are assimilated more readily, they undergo greater changes, ; whereas with words adopted- through writing the process of assimilation is longer and more laborious

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