Russian borrowings in english language

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Though borrowed words undergo changes in the adopting language they preserve some of their former peculiarities for a comparatively long period. This makes it possible to work out some criteria for determining whether the word belongs to the borrowed element.

In some cases the pronunciation of the word (strange sounds, sound combinations, position of stress, etc.), its spelling and the correlation between sounds and letters are an indication of the foreign origin of the word. This is the case with waltz (G.),. psychology (Gr.), soufflé (Fr.), etc. The initial position of the sounds [v], [dз], [з] or of the letters x, j, z is a sure sign that the word has been borrowed, e.g. volcano (It.), vase (Fr.), vaccine (L.), jungle (Hindi), gesture (L.), giant (OFr.), zeal (L.), zero (Fr.), zinc (G.), etc.

The morphological structure of the word and its grammatical forms may also bear witness to the word being adopted from another language. Thus the suffixes in the words neurosis (Gr.) and violoncello (It.) betray the foreign origin of the words. The same is true of the irregular plural forms papyra (from papyrus, Gr.), pastorali (from pastorale, It.), beaux (from beau, Fr.), bacteria, (from bacterium, L.) and the like.

Last but not least is the lexical meaning of the word. Thus the concept denoted by the words ricksha(w), pagoda (Chin.) make us suppose that we deal with borrowings.

These criteria are not always helpful. Some early borrowings have become so thoroughly assimilated that they are unrecognisable without a historical analysis, e.g. chalk, mile (L.), ill, ugly (Scand.), enemy, car (Fr.), etc. It must also be taken into consideration that the closer the relation between the languages, the more difficult it is to distinguish borrowings.

Sometimes the form of the word and its meaning in Modern English enable us to tell the immediate source of borrowing. Thus if the digraph ch is sounded as [∫], the word is a late French borrowing (as in echelon, chauffeur, chef); if it stands for [k], it came through Greek (archaic, architect, chronology); if it is pronounced as [t∫], it is either an early-borrowing (chase, OFr.; cherry, L., OFr.; chime, L.), or a word of Anglo-Saxon origin (choose, child, chin).


      There are the following groups: phonetic borrowings, translation loans, semantic borrowings, and morphemic borrowings.

      Phonetic borrowings are most characteristic in all languages; they are called loan words proper. Words are borrowed with their spelling, pronunciation and meaning.  Then they undergo assimilation, each sound in the borrowed word is substituted by the corresponding sound of the borrowing language. In some cases the spelling is changed. The structure of the word can also be changed. The position of the stress is very often influenced by the phonetic system of the borrowing language. The paradigm of the word, and sometimes the meaning of the borrowed word are also changed. Such words as: labour, travel, table, chair, people are phonetic borrowings from French; apparatchik, nomenklatura, sputnik are phonetic borrowings from Russian; bank, soprano, duet are phonetic borrowings from Italian etc.

      Translation loans are word-for-word (or morpheme-for-morpheme) translations of some foreign words or expressions. In such cases the notion is borrowed from a foreign language but it is expressed by native lexical units, «to take the bull by the horns» (Latin), «fair sex» (French), «living space» (German) etc. Some translation loans appeared in English from Latin already in the Old English period, e.g. Sunday (solis dies). There are translation loans from the languages of Indians, such as: «pipe of peace», «pale-faced», from German «masterpiece», «homesickness», «superman».

      Semantic borrowings are such units when a new meaning of the unit existing in the language is borrowed. It can happen when we have two relative languages which have common words with different meanings, e.g. there are semantic borrowings between Scandinavian and English, such as the meaning «to live» for the word «to dwell’ which in Old English had the meaning «to wander». Or else the meaning «дар», «подарок» for the word «gift» which in Old English had the meaning «выкуп за жену».

      Semantic borrowing can appear when an English word was borrowed into some other language, developed there a new meaning and this new meaning was borrowed back into English, e.g. «brigade» was borrowed into Russian and formed the meaning «a working collective», »бригада». This meaning was borrowed back into English as a Russian borrowing. The same is true of the English word «pioneer».

      Morphemic borrowings are borrowings of affixes which occur in the language when many words with identical affixes are borrowed from one language into another, so that the morphemic structure of borrowed words becomes familiar to the people speaking the borrowing language, e.g. we can find a lot of Romanic affixes in the English word-building system, that is why there are a lot of words - hybrids in English where different morphemes have different origin, e.g. «goddess»,  «beautiful» etc. 


      It is now essential to analyse the changes that 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, Ptolemy of Greek origin were simplified into [n], [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 L. Caesar>OE. Casere, L. sutor>OE. sūtere.

      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 lазu, (MnE. law), fēōlaza (MnE. fellow), stræt (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 11th 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.


      Phonetic assimilation comprising changes in sound-form and stress is perhaps the most conspicuous.

      Sounds that were alien to the English language were fitted into its scheme of sounds. For instance, the long [e] and [ε] in recent French borrowings, alien to English speech, are rendered with the help of [ei] (as in the words communiqué, chaussée, café).

      Familiar sounds or sound combinations the position of which was strange to the English language, were replaced by other sounds or sound combinations to make the words conform to the norms of the language, e.g. German spitz [∫pits] was turned into English [spits]. Substitution of native sounds for foreign ones usually takes place in the very act of borrowing. But some words retain their foreign pronunciation for a long time before the unfamiliar sounds are replaced by similar native sounds.

      Even when a borrowed word seems at first sight to be identical in form with its immediate etymon as OE. skill < Scand. skil; OE. scinn < < Scand. skinn; OE. ran < Scand. ran the phonetic structure of the word undergoes some changes, since every language as well as every period in the history of a language is characterised by its own peculiarities in the articulation of sounds.

      In words that were added to English from foreign sources, especially from French or Latin, the accent was gradually transferred to the first syllable. Thus words like honour, reason were accented on the same principle as the native father, mother.


      Grammatical Assimilation. Usually as soon as words from other languages were introduced into English they lost their former grammatical categories and paradigms and acquired hew grammatical categories and paradigms by analogy with other English words, as in

      им. спутник  Com. sing. Sputnik

      род. спутника  Poss. sing. Sputnik’s

      дат. спутнику  Com. pl. Sputniks

      вин. спутник  Poss. pl. Sputniks’

      вин. спутником

      предл. о спутнике

      However, there are some words in Modern English that have for centuries retained their foreign inflexions. Thus a considerable group of borrowed nouns, all of them terms or literary words adopted in the 16th century or later, have preserved their original plural inflexion to this day, e.g. phenomenon (L.) phenomena; addendum (L.) — addenda; parenthesis (Gr.) parentheses. Other borrowings of the same period have two plural forms — the native and the foreign, e.g. vacuum (L.) — vacua, vacuums, virtuoso (It.) — virtuosi, virtuosos.

      All borrowings that were composite in structure in their native language appeared in English as indivisible simple words, unless there were already words with the same morphemes in it, e.g. in the word saunter the French infinitive inflexion -er is retained (cf. OFr. s'aunter), but it has changed its quality, it is preserved in all the other grammatical forms of the word (cf. saunters, sauntered, sauntering), which means that it has become part of the stem in English. The French reflexive pronoun s- has become fixed as an inseparable element of the word. The former Italian diminishing suffixes -etto, -otta, -ello(a), -cello in the words ballot, stiletto, umbrella cannot be distinguished without special historical analysis, unless one knows the Italian language. The composite nature of the word portfolio is not seen either (cf. It. portafogli < porta — imperative of ‘carry’ + fogli — ’sheets of paper’). This loss of morphological seams in borrowings may be termed simplification by analogy with a similar process in native words.1

      It must be borne in mind that when there appears in a language a group of borrowed words built on the same pattern or containing the same morphemes, the morphological structure of the words becomes apparent and in the course of time their word-building elements can be employed to form new words.2 Thus the word bolshevik was at first indivisible in English, which is seen from the forms bolshevikism, bolshevikise, bolshevikian entered by some dictionaries. Later on the word came to be divided into the morphological elements bolshev-ik. The new morphological division can be accounted for by the existence of a number of words containing these elements (bolshevism, bolshevist, bolshevise; sputnik, udarnik, menshevik).

      Sometimes in borrowed words foreign affixes are replaced by those available in the English language, e.g. the inflexion -us in Latin adjectives was replaced in English with the suffixes -ous or -al: L. barbarus > > E. barbarous; L. botanicus > E. botanical; L. balneus > E. balneal.


      Lexical Assimilation. When a word is taken over into another language, its semantic structure as a rule undergoes great changes.

      Polysemantic words are usually adopted only in one or two of their meanings. Thus the word timbre that had a number of meanings in French was borrowed into English as a musical term only. The words cargo and cask, highly polysemantic in Spanish, were adopted only in one of their meanings — ‘the goods carried in a ship’, ‘a barrel for holding liquids’ respectively.

      • In some cases we can observe specialisation of meaning, as in the word hangar, denoting a building in which aeroplanes are kept (in French

      it meant simply ’shed’) and revue, which had the meaning of ‘review’ in French and came to denote a kind of theatrical entertainment in English.

      In the process of its historical development a borrowing sometimes acquired new meanings that were not to be found in its former semantic structure. For instance, the verb move in Modern English has developed the meanings of ‘propose’, ‘change one’s flat’, ‘mix with people’ and others that the French mouvoir does not possess. The word scope, which originally had the meaning of ‘aim, purpose’, now means ‘ability to understand’, ‘the field within which an activity takes place, sphere’, ‘opportunity, freedom of action’. As a rule the development of new meanings takes place 50 — 100 years after the word is borrowed.

      The semantic structure of borrowings changes in other ways as well. Some meanings become more general, others more specialised, etc. For instance, the word terrorist, that was taken over from French in the meaning of ‘Jacobin’, widened its meaning to ‘one who governs, or opposes a government by violent means’. The word umbrella, borrowed in the meaning of a ’sunshade’ or ‘parasol’ (from It. ombrella <ombra — ’shade) came to denote similar protection from the rain as well.

      Usually the primary meaning of a borrowed word is retained throughout its history, but sometimes it becomes a secondary meaning. Thus the Scandinavian borrowings wing, root, take and many others have retained their primary meanings to the present day, whereas in the OE. fēolaze (MnE. fellow) which was borrowed from the same source in the meaning of ‘comrade, companion’, the primary meaning has receded to the background and was replaced by the meaning that appeared in New English ‘a man or a boy’.

      Sometimes change of meaning is the result of associating borrowed words with familiar words which somewhat resemble them in sound but which are not at all related. This process, which is termed folk etymology, often changes the form of the word in whole or in part, so as to bring it nearer to the word or words with which it is thought to be connected, e.g. the French verb sur(o)under had the meaning of ‘overflow’. In English -r(o)under was associated by mistake with round круглый and the verb was interpreted as meaning ‘enclose on all sides, encircle’ (MnE. surround). Old French estandard (L. estendere — ‘to spread’) had the meaning of ‘a flag, banner’. In English the first part was wrongly associated with the verb stand and the word standard also acquired the meaning of ’something stable, officially accepted’.

      Folk-etymologisation is a slow process; people first attempt to give the foreign borrowing its foreign pronunciation, but gradually popular use evolves a new pronunciation and spelling. 


      According to historians (Ocherki, some contacts between Russia and England might have occurred in early periods. For example, in some British and Russian chronicles there are some vague pieces of information about the presence of two princes from The British Isles at the court of Jaroslav the Wise. There is also information that in 1074 Gytha – King Harold’s daughter - married the Russian Grand Prince Vladimir Monomakh. King Harold was defeated and killed at Hastings in 1066. According to these chronicles Gytha gave her first son the double name Mstislav-Harold in honour of the grandfather.

      However, these early contacts were of an occasional character. Permanent trade and diplomatic relations between the two countries were established only in the middle of the 16th century from the moment when the British navigator Richard Chancellor was given an audience with Ivan IV (The Terrible) in Moscow. It must be mentioned that in 1553 The English Company of Merchant Adventures for the Discovery of Lands, Territories, Isles, Dominions and Seignories Unknown organized an expedition for the exploration of a possible Northeast Passage to Asia. Edward Bonaventure was the only ship to survive this expedition and all other ships were devastated by storm in the White Sea. Richard Chancellor was second in command under Sir Hugh Willoughby. However, Hugh Willoughby died during this storm. Chancellor managed to reach a fishing wharf in the mouth of Northern Dvina. His negotiations with the Russian czar paved the way for trade with Russia and the formation of Moscovy Company.

      Moscovy Company is the first important English joint-stock company and it was founded in 1555 in London. The company was granted a Russian trade monopoly. It was dissolved as late as 1917.

      In order to stimulate the growth of trade in northern Russia the czar built a large port –New Kholmogory (Archangel).

      When returning to England Richard Chancellor published a book on his voyage to Russia Anglorum navigatio ad Moscovitas. There is also information about this trip in two Russian chronicles: ‘Dvinskaja’ and ‘Nikonovskaja’.

      After Chancellor’s voyage information about Russia spread quickly in England. Moreover, some phenomena and events of Russia were depicted in William Shakespeare’s works Henry V and Macbeth and in Christopher Marlowe’s play The Massacre at Paris and Tamburlaine the Great. Russia was also mentioned in John Webster’s play The White Devil and Thomas Middleton’s comedy The Roaring Girl. Robert Green tells us about the daughter of the Russian emperor in his work Pandosto (Ocherki, Thus because of the fact that Russia was frequently mentioned in the literary works of this time people in Britain knew a great deal about the country.

The aim of this project is to study the usage of Russian borrowings in the English language, to analyze what words of Russian origin have been borrowed into English and to study their thematic groups and find out whether they have undergone some morphological and semantic changes in English or not and compare the received results with the above mentioned postulates.
Chapter I. Borrowings as a way of replenishment of the vocabulary.
1.1. The notion of borrowings.
1.2.Causes and ways of borrowings.
1.3. Criteria of borrowings.
1.4. Classification of borrowings according to the borrowed aspect.
1.5. Assimilation of borrowings.
1.5.1. Phonetic assimilation.
1.5.2. Grammatical assimilation.
1.5.3. Lexical assimililation.
Chapter II. Historical Contacts between Russia and Britain
2.1. Russian Loan Words in English
2.1.1. The Lexical Category of the Russian borrowings
2.1.2. The Meanings and the Etymological Characteristics of the Borrowings
2.1.3. Words of Foreign Origin Borrowed from Russian
2.1.4. Subcategories of Nouns
2.1.5. Folk Etymology
2.1.6. Morphological Features of the Russian Borrowings
2.1.7. Orthographic Features of the Russian Loan Words
2.1.8. Thematic Classification of the Russian Borrowings
2.2. The Meaning Changes of the Russian Borrowings