Question on "borrowing" words (or, how does one say "computer" in Icelandic?)
Thread poster: Raychel
Raychel
English
Apr 28, 2005

I posed this question to some of my linguistics professors and I’d like to pose it to all of you:

I have heard that Icelandic doesn’t like to "borrow" words from other languages. Instead, they take words they already have and put them together to make new compound words representing the new idea or thing. For example, they made a new compound for ‘computer’ using Icelandic words instead of using the English word.

I have several questions regarding this:

The first one is – is this really true? Does Icelandic really not borrow from other languages? I don’t know if there are any specialists in Icelandic here, but I was going to make this an example in a paper I'm writing and I know I should verify this before I add it in and make myself look ridiculous.

Second, are there any other languages like this in the world - that is, languages that don't borrow or don't like to borrow from other languages?

Also, why is it that some modern languages readily borrow and others don’t? My first thought was that it had to do with cultural values, but I’d like to get more input on that.

Please forgive me if these questions appear to all of you to have obvious and simple answers. I am but a lowly undergrad student from the University of Oklahoma and I haven’t got much in the way of formal linguistic education yet. That being said, any input whatsoever on this would definitely be appreciated, as I am trying to write a paper on this topic. Thank you all in advance!


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Marcus Malabad  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 03:20
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Icelandic Apr 28, 2005

Raychel wrote:
The first one is – is this really true? Does Icelandic really not borrow from other languages? I don’t know if there are any specialists in Icelandic here, but I was going to make this an example in a paper I'm writing and I know I should verify this before I add it in and make myself look ridiculous.


To quote from a Web article on Icelandic:

The word ‘computer’ is tölva in Icelandic, which is derived from the word tala ‘number’. Despite the linguistic purism in the 20th century, there are still some Danish loanwords in current use, e.g. akkúrat ‘precisely’, edrú ‘sober’ and fatta ‘grasp, notice’ (cf. Danish akkurat, ædru and fatte). The British and American occupation of Iceland during the Second World War and increasingly close relations with English-speaking nations have contributed to the predominantly English influence on Icelandic in the 20th century. English loanwords from the Second World War include jeppi ‘jeep’ and rúta ‘bus’ (cf. route) and more recent examples include partí ‘party’ and bissness ‘business’. Most new loan words in Icelandic are colloquial; in written language words of Icelandic origin are strongly preferred.




[Edited at 2005-04-28 12:22]


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 04:20
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Is there actually a Nordic country that uses "computer"? Apr 28, 2005

I don't know about Norwegian and Danisch, but in Swedisch its "dator" and in Finnish "tietokone". I only know that Germans and Russians use "computer", shurely not all can be so stupid?

My dictionary has for Norwegian "datamaskin" and also for Danish, datamaskine. So the Swedes have done best, it seems.

[Edited at 2005-04-28 14:34]


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Ken Cox  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:20
German to English
+ ...
no obvious or simple answers, but lots of material Apr 28, 2005

I wouldn't say that there are any obvious or simple answers (other than the trite 'it all depends...'), but this is a fairly common topic in linguistics and you should be able to find a fair amount of relevant material on the web with a bit of judicious searching.

I'm not a linguist, but I have a certain amount of curiosity about linguistics. IMHO, adopting loan words is a perfectly natural process in the evolution of a language and always occurs to a certain extent when (language) cultures interact. In fact, you can look at things the other way around (in historical perspective) and deduce relationships between cultures from their mutual linguistic borrowings. It would probably be safe to say that the only sure means to prevent borrowing of loan words is complete isolation from other language cultures.

Naturally, the extent to which individual languages borrows from other languages varies from language to language and time to time. What's interesting for (historical) linguists is to study how borrowing occurs and what factors influence it.


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jmadsen  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:20
Computer is used in Danish Apr 28, 2005

Heinrich Pesch wrote:

I don't know about Norwegian and Danisch, but in Swedisch its "dator" and in Finnish "tietokone". I only know that Germans and Russians use "computer", shurely not all can be so stupid?

My dictionary has for Norwegian "datamaskin" and also for Danish, datamaskine. So the Swedes have done best, it seems.

[Edited at 2005-04-28 14:34]


Nowadays, only "computer" is used in Danish. I guess many years ago, people used the expression "datamaskine", but noone use that anymore. The same goes for other IT concepts like "printer", which was actually given the word "skriver", but now it's only called "printer". A few use "e-post", but most people prefer "e-mail" in Danish. Other examples: server, harddisk, mainframe, motherboard, hardware, software. Many also use words like keyboard and monitor in Danish, although it is not officially correct (tastatur and skærm, respectively).

Danish is probably the least purist of the Nordic languages and we allow a lot more loan words than the other.

[Edited at 2005-04-28 19:20]


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Jeff Allen  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 03:20
Multiplelanguages
+ ...
book on word-borrowing by Michael Picone Apr 28, 2005

Here is a quite good book on the topic:

Anglicisms, Neologisms and Dynamic French
by Michael D. Picone
Lingvisticae Investigationes Supplementa, Vol. 18, John Benjamins Publishing Co., Amsterdam, 1996, 462 pp.

http://www.bama.ua.edu/~mpicone/LIS_book_notice.html

At that link which summarizes the book, there is a book review section at the bottom. My review of the book is available online as indicated with a web link (you'll have to scroll down to "by Jeff Allen" to find it).

Jeff
http://www.geocities.com/jeffallenpubs/


[Edited at 2005-10-22 22:12]


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 03:20
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
It's always a dilemma... Apr 29, 2005

But with a lot of modern technology most languages end up using a 'foreign' word anyway.

Even to native speakers of English, 'computerese' concepts like floppy disk/diskette, motherboard, modem, broad band, USB, CAT tool, etc. etc. are gibberish until you learn what they mean.

I think the Danish attitude seems to be that if you have to use a foreign word, then you might as well use the same one as the rest of the world. Then you only have to learn one word (possibly pronounced in two different ways, but recognisable).

We English can get away with speaking slowly and loudly if foreigners don't understand, even if it is disgustingly arrogant.

But the Danes have to learn other people's languages if they want to be understood, so they have a more logical approach!

They do use Danish words if good Danish expressions exist, and it's a fascinating language. All languages have to invent new expressions all the time, but often they adopt words along with the concepts, no matter where they come from.

And again, English is one great conglomeration of words borrowed from round the world... quite a lot from our Danish/Viking ancestors incidentally... so now we're just giving some of them back!

[Edited at 2005-04-29 16:02]


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Raychel
English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! May 3, 2005

Thank you all so much! I just wanted to let you know that you've all been a big help. Thanks to you I've actually finished a college paper ahead of schedule!

Thanks again,
-Raychel


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fatagina
English to Italian
+ ...
against borrowing May 10, 2005

Accadamie Francaise is an institution which has been set up in order to prevent that loan words be used in French. In fact, it is an offence (legally) if prducts are sold under their English names, eg. walkman, or discman, or rollerblades. There are many languages whihch do not allow borrowing from otehr languages, and others which encourage borrowing. This has to do with langugae planning policy, and language spread policy and poltics of langugae. If you are interested in this subject, send me an email and I can let you know some interesting articles to read.

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Jeff Allen  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 03:20
Multiplelanguages
+ ...
the French Academy May 19, 2005

fatagina wrote:
Accadamie Francaise is an institution which has been set up in order to prevent that loan words be used in French. In fact, it is an offence (legally) if prducts are sold under their English names, eg. walkman, or discman, or rollerblades. There are many languages whihch do not allow borrowing from otehr languages, and others which encourage borrowing. This has to do with langugae planning policy, and language spread policy and poltics of langugae.


The Académie française was set up in 1635 to promote and look after the French language and culture. The main task of the 40 members of the academy is the Dictionnaire de la langue française which appeared in its first edition in 1694 and has been revised since. I would not say that the role of the Academy from the beginning was to prevent loan words. Rather, the history of languages and cultures has resulted in a present context where the heavy daily influence of languages upon other languages (due to media, international communication, marketing, etc) has led some countries and cultures to set up language policy structures for language preservation purposes.

The so-called "loi Toubon" was declared in 1994:
http://www.culture.gouv.fr/culture/dglf/lois/loi-fr.htm
http://www.langue-francaise.org/Loi_toubon.php
http://www.culture.gouv.fr/culture/dglf/lois/presentation_loi.htm
http://www.aacc.fr/juridique/toubon.htm
http://www.journaldunet.com/juridique/juridique040518.shtml

This is the law that requires all marketing and publicity to be in the French language in France.

However, people will use whatever language they can to attract their customers. Every day I walk through train and subway/metro stations in Paris and see posters with English in titles for films, products, services, etc. And the cereal boxes and soft drinks constantly have labels with offers with words in English. These titles and names are accompanied by a little asterisk * which is supposed to direct the reader down to a bottom corner of the poster where the translation in French is provided. This is how the advertisers deal with that law.

A report on the status of the Toubon law and the number of declared infractions against are recorded in:
http://www.u-paris2.fr/dea-dtcom/publications/etudes/publicite/pub_2002_loi_toubon.doc

The funny thing about this law is that advertisers often use English words that are longer and have a greater number of pronouncable syllables than their French equivalents. But, that is a choice for introducing and using language in advertising.

Jeff
http://www.geocities.com/jeffallenpubs/


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Lugubert
Local time: 03:20
English to Swedish
+ ...
Swedish computer terms Aug 18, 2005

Jørgen Madsen wrote:

Heinrich Pesch wrote:

I don't know about Norwegian and Danisch, but in Swedisch its "dator" and in Finnish "tietokone". I only know that Germans and Russians use "computer", shurely not all can be so stupid?

My dictionary has for Norwegian "datamaskin" and also for Danish, datamaskine. So the Swedes have done best, it seems.

[Edited at 2005-04-28 14:34]


Nowadays, only "computer" is used in Danish. I guess many years ago, people used the expression "datamaskine", but noone use that anymore. The same goes for other IT concepts like "printer", which was actually given the word "skriver", but now it's only called "printer". A few use "e-post", but most people prefer "e-mail" in Danish. Other examples: server, harddisk, mainframe, motherboard, hardware, software. Many also use words like keyboard and monitor in Danish, although it is not officially correct (tastatur and skærm, respectively).

Danish is probably the least purist of the Nordic languages and we allow a lot more loan words than the other.

When translating, I try to use Swedish. I insist on "teckenfönster" (like character-window) instead of 'display', etc. I always write "e-post" for e-mail. You'll often see the literal translations "hårdvara " and "mjukvara" for hardware and software, but if really translated "literally", they would be "järnaffärsvaror" and "hemtextilier", rather corresponding to hardware in the meaning of metal nuts and bolts, and home textiles, respectively, so the English pun is perfectly lost.

One large blue company tried for years to translate "scanner" as "picture reader", but they have had to succumb to "scanner" or "skanner" when, for example, they realized that scanners could read texts as well.

For me, it's e-post, and I stubbornly refuse to change it. Customers wishing e-mail have to do the change themselves.

For the Danish examples server, harddisk, mainframe, motherboard, we import "server" but do some half-assed translations like hårddisk and moderkort (motherboard; 'mother card'). Mainframe would probably be "stordator" 'big computer'.

Keyboard is exclusively "tangentbord", but monitor is at least as common in manuals as "bildskärm" (picture-screen).


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yanig
English
breton? Mar 18, 2006

Jeff wrote...
A report on the status of the Toubon law and the number of declared infractions against are recorded in:
http://www.u-paris2.fr/dea-dtcom/publications/etudes/publicite/pub_2002_loi_toubon.doc

The funny thing about this law is that advertisers often use English words that are longer and have a greater number of pronouncable syllables than their French equivalents. But, that is a choice for introducing and using language in advertising.

Jeff
http://www.geocities.com/jeffallenpubs/
**************************************
hmmm... okay, Jeff... interesting..

.......got any good links, please, that tell why France - unlike UK par example - so much disapproves of its own Breton speakers - that the language -
(I think used by around 500, 000 Bretons, or more - which isnt much less than Welsh speakers who have their own govt representation and more or less equal language rights with Eng.) .......is outlawed?


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cs1
Local time: 09:20
English
english Jul 7, 2007

hi everyone,i want to know linguistic expression that is wrong and inappropriate.and it should contain the authentic linguistic expression.

secondly,words that have been borrowed from other languages.Explain their origin.What do you think is the basis for borrowing words from other languages.


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Ada Bjarnadottir
Local time: 01:20
English to Icelandic
+ ...
Computer in icelandic Dec 12, 2008

In Iceland we try to avoid borrowing words and instead we make our own words. The word computer is an example of this. The icelandic word for computer is "tölva". It's made out of the words "tala" (=number) and "völva" (=prophetess).

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