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Lend Us a Word: Investigating the Phenomenon of Linguistic Borrowing


Admission requirements

A relevant BA degree and basic linguistic skills.


“English: A language that lurks in dark alleys, beats up other languages and rifles through their pockets for spare vocabulary.” (James Nicol)

Given that languages do not develop in isolation, they tend to be influenced by other languages. Upon examining the example of Greek, Latin and French, each of which attained the elite status of a lingua franca, one can see how their influence is still reflected worldwide; they were important donors of vocabulary items and structural elements and as such contributed numerous loanwords, or borrowings, to different world languages. At present, contrary to its history of extensive borrowing from e.g. Latin and French, the English language is the most dominant lexical donor language that numerous other languages extensively borrow from – or actually steal from, as loanwords seem to be on loan infinitely and what gets borrowed is never again returned. The process of borrowing is one of the most common – as well as one of the most intriguing – results of language contact, a situation of mutual influence between languages or dialects that is studied within the framework of contact linguistics.

Contact linguistics is known for its cross-disciplinary approach that aims to merge both the linguistic and the social in order to shed light on all relevant aspects of linguistic borrowing. Taking contact linguistics as its starting ground, the Lend Us a Word course focuses on both linguistic and social factors involved in the process of borrowing. The linguistic aspects cover theoretical contributions dealing with the concept of borrowing, its forms (e.g. lexical and structural borrowing), types of borrowings, the adaptation and integration of borrowings and the semantico-pragmatic approach to borrowing. The social aspects discussed include the perspective of the speaker/language user in terms of one’s motives for borrowing (language choice) and language attitudes, which may vary based on, for example, the age of the speakers. A detailed insight into Anglicisms will shed light on a particularly relevant group of contemporary borrowings, while the discussion of some of the most interesting examples of dictionaries of borrowings will add a lexicographical angle to the course. The final sessions will examine reactions to borrowings recorded in both public and academic discourse as well as formal, institutionalized reactions to borrowing as stated in various language policies.

Course objectives

Students become familiar with the field of contact linguistics and the position of borrowing within it.
Students are able to explain as well as critically contrast and compare the main theoretical contributions to the field of borrowing.

Students are able to analyse borrowings and other language contact phenomena in their own language (e.g. analyse and interpret the adaptation and integration of borrowings).
Students critically examine and assess the most common methods used in research on borrowing.
Students devise their own methodology, carry out research related to borrowing and compile a research report.


The timetable will be available by June 1st on the website.

Mode of instruction


Course Load

  • time spent on attending lectures and seminars: 26 hours

  • time for studying the compulsory literature: 85 hours

  • time to prepare for the exam and/or write a paper(including reading/research): 169 hours

Assessment Method

  • Participation 40%

  • Final Paper 60%

Resit: students who fail the course may resit final paper.


This course is supported by Blackboard.

Reading list

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


Students should register through uSis. If you have any questions, please contact the departmental office, tel. 071 5272144 or mail


MA Linguistics departmental office, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 102C. Tel. 071 5272144;