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Etymological characteristics of the English Vocabulary. Definition of terms native, borrowed. Words of native origin and their characteristics.

English vocabulary contains an immense number of words of foreign origin. In the first century B.C. most of the territory of Europe was occupied by the Roman Empire. After a number of wars between the Germanic tribes and the Romans these two opposing peoples come into peaceful contact. The Germanic people gain knowledge of new and useful things. The first among to them are new things to eat. Its only product to the Germanic tribes were meat and milk. It is from the Romans that they learn to how to make butter and cheese and, as there are naturally no words for these foodstuffs in their tribal languages, they are use the Latin words to name them (butyrum, caseus).They owe the knowledge of some new fruits and vegetables: cherry – cerasum, pear-pirum, plum-prunus, pea-pisum, beet-beta, pepper-piper. It’s interesting to note that the word PLANT is also a Latin borrowing of this period.

In the fifth century A.D Several of the Germanic tribes migrated across the sea to the British Isles and there were Celts. A number of the Celtic words were assimilated: BALD, DOWN, GLEN, DRUID, BARD, CRADLE. Especially numerous among the Celtic borrowings were place names, names of rivers. Hills etc. Rivers: AVON, EXE, ESK. In the seventh century A.D. This century was significant for the Christianization of England. The spread of Christianity was accompanied by a new of Latin borrowings: PRIEST-presbyter, bishop-episcopus, monk-monachus etc

8-11th century – Scandinavian invasion: call, take, cast, die. Scandinavian borrowings by the initial SK- combination: sky, skill, skin, ski, skirt.

1066 – Norman conquest. Norman French borrowings.

The renaissance period Italian, Parisian, Latin, Greek borrowings: music, matinee, violin, atom etc.

BORROWING or LOAN-WORD – is a word which came into the vocabulary of one language from another and was assimilated by new language.

NATIVE word – is a word that was not borrowed from another language, but was inherited from an earlier stage of the language.

  1. Etymological characteristics of the English Vocabulary. Foreign elements in Modern English. Scandinavian Borrowings, classical elements – Latin and Greek. French borrowings.

Сканд.заимствования в значительной мере обусловили смешанный характер англ.вокабуляра. Этому способствовало сосуществование англичан с датчана­ми на территории Англии в период датского владычества (X-XI вв.). Скандинавизмы появлялись в результате устного общения. В д-а письменных памятниках - немногие слова сканд.происхождения. Принадлежность англ и сканд. язы­ков к одной и той же германской группе позволяла понимать друг друга, и в этом процессе сильно было взаимовлияние языков. Деление слов на тем.группы затруднительно вви­ду очень большого разнообразия; семантика большинства слов носит об­щий характер: husband, fellow, bag, leg, calf, skin, skirt; cast, take, guess; ill, wrong, low.

Лат.заимствования входили в англ.язык несколькими вол­нами. Наиболее ранний пласт - когда герм. племена англов, саксов, ютов и фризов еще до переселения в Брита­нию входили в торговые и военные контакты с римлянами. Заимствуются обозначения предметов материальной культуры — англ, сир (лат. сарра), butter (лат. butyrum), copper (лат. cuprum). До захвата германцами Британия 400 лет находилась под властью Римской империи. Тогда в англ. появ­ляются street (лат. via strata), wall (лат. vallum), mint (лат. menta, moneta) и др. Часть заимствований этого перио­да дошла до наших дней только в топонимах. Напр, лат. сло­во, к-е мы находим теперь в геогр.названиях, -Chester (лат. castra — «лагерь») в Chester, Manchester, Lancaster; элемент -wich в Greenwich, Harwich вос­ходит к лат. vicus — «селение». Следующая волна лат.за­имствований связана с христианизацией Британии. К ним относятся сло­ва соответствующей тематической группы — priest (лат. presbuteros), candle (лат. candela, candela), creed (лат. credo). В тот же период в англ.язык входит мно­го лат.слов, обозначающих предметы повседневного обихода, а так­же связанных с огородничеством и садоводством, — chest (лат. cista, «ящик»), silk (лат. sericum, «шелк»), rose (лат. rosa). Т.к. монастыри были также и центрами научной и лит.жизни Британии, вокабуляр англ.языка пополняется в этот период: school (лат. schola), circle (лат. circulus), а также мно­жество научных терминов. Лат.заимствования с-а и ранненовоанглийского периодов - слова научного обихода и абстрактные сущ (formula, fraction, magnanimity, fatal, jovial, beneficial, vernacular). Отдельно заимствования лат. терминоэлементов, т.к. про­никновение их в англ.язык часто носит искусственный характер. Большое количество примеров тому в медицинской терминологии (oculist, osteotomy, etc.).



  1. Etymological characteristics of the English vocabulary. Assimilation. Types and degrees of assimilation. Etymological doublets, hybrids.

Assimilation is the process of changing the adopted word. The process of assimilation of borrowings includes changes in soundform morphological structure, grammar characteristics, meaning and usage.

Phonetic assimilation comprises changes in sound form and stress. Sounds that were alien to the English language were fitted into its scheme of sounds, e.g. In the recent French borrowings communique, cafe the long [e] and [e] are rendered with the help of [ei]. The accent is usually transferred to the first syllable in the words from foreign sources.

The degree of phonetic adaptation depends on the period of borrowing: the earlier the period is the more completed is this adaptation. While such words as " table", " plate" borrowed from French in the 8th - 11th centuries can be considered fully assimilated, later Parisian borrowings (15th c.) such as regime, valise, cafe" are still pronounced in a French manner.

Grammatical adaption is usually a less lasting process, because in order to function adequately in the recipient language a borrowing must completely change its paradigm. Though there are some well-known exceptions as plural forms of the English Renaissance borrowings - datum pl. data, criterion - pl. criteria and others.

The process of semantic assimilation has many forms: narrowing of meanings (usually polysemantic words are borrowed in one of he meanings); specialisation or generalisation of meanings, acquiring new meanings in the recipient language, shifting a primary meaning to the position of a secondary meaning.

Completely assimilated borrowings are the words, which have undergone all types of assimilation. Such words are frequency used and are stylistically neutral, they may occur as dominant words in a synonymic group. They take an active part in word-formation.

Partially assimilated borrowings are the words which lack one of the types of assimilation. They are subdivided into the groups: 1) Borrowings not assimilated semantically (e.g. shah, rajah). Such words usually denote objects and notions peculiar to the country from which they came.

2) Loan words not assimilated grammatically, e.g. nouns borrowed from Latin or Greek which keep their original plural forms {datum - data, phenomenon - phenomena).

3)Loan words not completely assimilated phonetically. These words contain peculiarities in stress, combinations of sounds that are not standard for English {machine, camouflage, tobacco).

4) Loan words not completely assimilated graphically (e.g. ballet, cafe, cliche).

Barbarisms are words from other languages used by the English people in conversation or in writing but not assimilated in any way, and for which there are corresponding English equivalents e.g. ciao Italian - good-bye English,

The borrowed stock of the English vocabulary contains not only words but a great number of suffixes and prefixes. When these first appeared in the English language they were parts of words and only later began a life of their own as word-building elements of the English language (-age, -ance, -ess, -merit)

This brought about the creation of hybrid words like shortage, hindrance, lovable and many others in which a borrowed suffix is joined to a native root. A reverse process is also possible.

Inmany cases one and the same word was borrowed twice either from the same language or from different languages. This accounts for the existence of the so called etymological doublets like canal - channel (Latin -French), skirt - shirt (Sc. - English), balsam - halm (Greek - French).

International words. There exist many words that were borrowed by several languages. Such words are mostly of Latin and Greek origin and convey notions which are significant in the field of communication in different countries. Here belong names of sciences (philosophy, physics, chemistry, linguistics), terms of art (music, theatre, drama, artist, comedy), political terms (politics, policy, progress). The English language became a source for international sports terms (football, hockey, cricket, rugby, tennis)

Tasks and exercises. Exercise 1.

Stud) the following passage, In which ways may the influence of a foreign language be exerted?

The influence of a foreign language may be exerted in two ways, through the spoken word, by personal contact between the two peoples, or through the written word, by indirect contact, not between the peoples themselves but through their literatures. The former way was more productive in the earlier stages, but the latter has become increasingly important in more recent times. Direct contact may take place naturally in border regions, or by the transference of considerable number of people from one area to another, either by peaceful immigration, settlement or colonisation, or through invasion and conquest. It may also take place, though to a more limited extent, through travel to foreign countries and through residence abroad, for trade or other purposes, of relatively small numbers of people.

The type of words borrowed by personal contact would undoubtedly at first be names of objects unfamiliar to the borrowers, or products and commodities exchanged by way of trade. If the contacts were maintained over a long period then ideas concerned with government, law, religion, and customs might be absorbed, and perhaps the names of these would be adopted. Only in the case of nations in relatively advanced stages of civilisation would there be much influence exerted through the written word; concrete objects would come first, then abstract ideas learnt from what might actually be seen from their effects in everyday life and abstract ideas through the indirect contact achieved by books would come much later

All borrowed words undergo the process of assimilation, i.e. they adjust themselves to changes in sound-form, morphological structure, grammar characteristics, meaning and usage.

Phonetic assimilation comprises changes in sound form and sterss Tsar [tz], - 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.

Grammatical assimilation finds expression in the change of grammatical categories and paradigms of borrowed words, change of their morphological structure. – kindergarten – kindergartens – kindergarten’s.

Lexical assimilation includes changes in semantic structure. Hangar borrowed from French denoting a building in which aeroplanes are kept “ангар” (in French it meant simply ’shed’), which is one of the minor mean.in French and revue, which had the meaning of ‘review’ in French and came to denote a kind of theatrical entertainment in English.

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’. + nowadays the word has even a wider sense – it means a man who use violent mesures to obtain political demands.

There are 3 degrees of assimilation –

1)comlete assim – the ws.change their spelling, sound form etc. – dish, cup)

2) partially ass. – ws.retain some peculiaities of pron.or gram.form. – connoseur, sabotage, datum – data.

3) unassimilated ws.(barbarisms) used by Enbut exactly in their foreign forms – billet-doux (love letter), to ad bib – to speak unprepared. Such are communiqué, dé tente not yet assimilated phonetically, phenomenon (pl. phenomena), graffito (pl. 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.

Another factor determining the process of assimilation is the way in 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.

Etymological doublets: skirt and shirt etymologically descend from the same root. Shirt is a native word, and skirt is a Scandinavian borrowing. Their phonemic shape is different, and yet there is a certain resemblance which reflects their common origin. Their meanings are also different but easily associated^ they both denote articles of clothes.

Such words as these two originating from the same etymological source, but differing in phonemic shape and in meaning are called etymological doublets. Other examples: SENIOR(lat) – SIR(Fr.)

5. Word formation in Modern English. Morphological structure of a word. Morpheme. Types of morphemes. Structural types of words(simple, derived, compound)

Morpheme – if viewed structurally, words appear to be divisible into smaller units which are called morphemes. They don’t occur as free forms but only as constituents of words. Yet the posses meanings of their own.

There are two large classes of morphemes: ROOTS (radicals) and AFFIXES. The latter, in their turn, fall into prefixes which is precede the root in the structure of the word (re-read, mis-pronounce, unwell) and suffixes which follow the root (teach-er, cur-able, dict-ate)

Words which consist of a root and an affix are called derived words or derivatives and are produced by the process of word building known as affixation (or derivation).

Word-formation the process of forming words by combining root and affixal morphemes according to certain patterns specific for the language (affixation, composition), or without any outward means of word formation (conversion, semantic derivation).

Word formation (словообразование)

Is a branch of science of the language, which studies the patterns on which a language forms new lexical items (new unities, new words)

It’s a process of forming words by combining root & affixal morphemes.

According to certain patterns specific for the language or without any outward means.

2 major groups of word formation:

1) Words formed as grammatical syntagmas, combinations of full linguistic signs (types: compounding (словосложение), prefixation, suffixation, conversion, and back derivation)

2) Words, which are not grammatical syntagmas, which are not made up of full linguistic signs.

Ex.: expressive symbolism, blending, clipping, rhyme & some others.

Common for both groups is that a new word is based on synchronic relationship between morphemes.

Different types of word formation:


Is joining together 2 or more stems.


1) Without a connecting element
headache, heartbreak

2) With a vowel or consonant as a linking element
speedometer, craftsman

3) With a preposition or conjunction as a linking element
down-and-out (в ужасном положении, опустошенный)

Compounds can be classified according to their structure:

  • consisting of simple stem
  • compounds where at least one stem is a derived one
    football player
  • where one stem is clipped
    H-bag (handbag)
  • where one of the elements is also a compound
    wastepaper basket
    compound nouns, adjectives, verbs.
  • There are also the so-called reduplicative compounds:
    Tick-tick, chow-chow


Prefixes are such particles that can be prefixed to full words. But are they not with independent existence.

Native prefixes have developed out of independent words; there is a small number of them.


Prefixes of foreign origin have come into the language ready-made
Some scholars: the system of English word formation was entirely upset by the Norman Conquest.

Normans have paved the way for the non-Germanic trend the language has taken since that time.

From French English borrowed many words with suffixes & prefixes, they became assimilated in the language & started to be used in word building. It led to enormous cut down of the traditional word formation out of native material. Old prefixes (some of them) disappeared forever (too weak phonetically)
Æ t-

Nowadays English has no prefixed equivalents for some German prefixes

A lot of borrowed prefixes in English:



A suffix is a derivative final element, which is or was productive in forming new words.
It has semantic value, but doesn’t occur as an independent speech use.
The contact of English with foreign languages has led to the adoption of countless foreign words, which started to be used in word building.
→ we have many hybrid types of derivatives.

A hybrid is a word different element of which are of etymologically different origin.
2 groups:

1) A foreign word is combined with a native affix
- full
- less
- ness
clearness, faithless, faithful

2) Foreign affixes are added to native words
- ance
- al
- ity
- able

As for the first 3 they have never become productive in English; - able was assimilated in English very early and has became productive in many words.

Semi suffixes are elements, which stand midway between full words & suffixes
- like
- worthy
- way
- wise

a Godlike creature

6 ways of suffixing in English:

1) Derivation by native suffixes without changes in stress, vowels, consonants

2) Derivation by borrowed suffix without changes in stress, vowels, consonants

3) Derivation by imported suffixes, which involves the change in
Japan Japanese

4) The suffix is added to a Latin stem which closely related to an English word
science – scientist

5) The suffix is added to a Latin stem, which has no English equivalent
lingua – lingual

6) Words borrowed separately but have the same patterns of word building
candidate – candidacy
president – presidency

This is called correlative derivation.

CONVERSION (zero derivation) A certain stem is used for the formation of a categorically different word without a derivative element being added.
Bag – to bag
Back – to back
Bottle – to bottle
This specific pattern is very productive in English
The most popular types are noun → verb or verb → noun
To take off – a take off
Conversion can be total or partial
Partial: the then president (тогдашний)
An adverb is used as an adjective, only in this particular context.
Total: work – to work




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