Jeanine Treffers-Daller
Table of contents

Borrowing – the incorporation of features of one language into another – has been studied by researchers working in a wide range of areas, from a diachronic as well as a synchronic perspective. In a diachronic research tradition that focuses on the historical development and the genetic classification of languages, it is clearly of central importance to be able to distinguish borrowed features from non-borrowed or native features of a language. The importance of the role of lexical and structural borrowing for language change has however only fairly recently been recognised, as until the publication of Thomason and Kaufman's (1988) book on contact-induced change, historical linguists used to emphasise internal causes of language change. Interest in the synchronic analysis of borrowing emerged towards the turn of the century. The main focus of the synchronic analyses has been to identify the grammatical constraints on borrowing, and to describe the phonological, syntactic and morphological integration of borrowed words. In addition, researchers have tried to delimit borrowing from other language contact phenomena, such as code-switching and transfer, and they have developed different classifications of borrowing. The social correlates of borrowing have received attention in more quantitatively oriented studies. Put differently, researchers have mainly focused on what Weinreich, Herzog and Labov (1968) have called the embedding problem and the constraints problem. The embedding problem, when applied to the study of borrowing, concerns on the one hand the embedding or integration of source language features in the borrowing language. On the other hand, it deals with the embedding of these features in the social structure: to what extent do social factors influence the quantity and the quality of the borrowing process. The constraints problem deals with the question of determining the set of possible borrowings and with the discovery of the structural constraints on the borrowing process. Other questions have received less systematic attention. The actuation problem and the transition problem (how and when do borrowed features enter the borrowing language and how do they spread through the system and among different groups of borrowing language speakers) have only recently been studied. The evaluation problem (the subjective evaluation of borrowing by different speaker groups) has not been investigated in much detail, even though many researchers report that borrowing is evaluated negatively. Apart from the issues raised above, in more recent studies, pragmatic and psycholinguistic aspects of borrowing have been studied in some detail.

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