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Language Acquisition: Lend us a word: The lexicography and sociolinguistics of loanwords


Admission requirements



A loanword or borrowing is a foreign word adopted into in a language. As a lexical donor language, English is currently most dominant, while this language itself has also borrowed about half of its words from French or Latin. In history, other languages have also been active in lending and borrowing words, for instance Turkish during the Ottoman period. The reactions to loanwords are usually negative, hence the existence of ironical names for languages with many loanwords: Denglish (German/English), Spanglish (Spanish/English), Catanyol (Catalan/Spanish). In the Netherlands, as a reaction to German influences, the journal Onze Taal (‘Our Language’) was established in the 1930s, while in Turkey a language reform was set up after the First World War, during which numerous loanwords were replaced with words with Turkish roots. But despite such efforts, loanwords are usually smoothly integrated, as adjustments to their orthography and pronunciation eventually hide their foreign ancestry. In the first half of the course we will study loanwords from the lexicographer and translator’s perspectives. Some of the questions we will ask: what are loanwords precisely, and why are they called loanwords? How do loanwords enter a language? What factors predict whether a loanword is a permanent addition to a language? What is the relationship between loanwords and loan translations? How do dictionaries describe loanwords? And how does the meaning of loanwords develop? The second part of the course discusses contemporary sociolinguistic research into borrowing. What are the realities of borrowing today? What are the motivations for borrowing? What types of words are borrowed? And what are the reactions to borrowing?

Course objectives

Students will learn about the phenomenon loanword by exploring its history, the linguistic process underlying borrowing, approaches to the study of loanwords, and by looking at the current state of loaning.


The timetable will be available by June 1st at

Mode of instruction

Two-hour seminar per week and self-study.

Assessment method

  • Participation (30%)

  • Course Paper (30%)

  • Exam (40%)


This course is supported by Blackboard.

Reading list

Articles and other materials will be available from Blackboard or the cupboard on the first floor of P.N. van Eyckhof 4.


Students should register through uSis. Exchange studentens cannot register through uSis, but must see the director of studies and register with her. If you have any questions, please contact the departmental office, tel. 071 5272144 or mail:

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Contact information

Departmental Office English Language and Culture, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 102C. Tel. 071 5272144; mail:
Studentcounsellor Bachelor: Ms. S.H.J. Bollen, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 103B.
Coordinator of Studies Master: Ms. K. van der Zeeuw-Filemon, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 103C.


No remarks.