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“Morphological adaptation in lexical

borrowing: reviewing some studies from

European languages and Malay”
A term paper of Cognitive Aspects of Multilingualism

Iwan Fauzi

Department of Linguistics
Radboud University Nijmegen
1. Introduction
Every language borrowed words from other languages, because no language is
isolated. Contact between people with different languages leads inevitably to incorporation of
words. These borrowed words are called loanwords: a word which originally was not part of
the recipient language, but was adopted from another language and made part of the
borrowing language’s vocabulary (Campbell, 2004: 63). Borrowing always involves a
recipient language and a donor language. The recipient language is the language that borrows
and the donor language is the language that is borrowed from.
Here, in my paper I would like to review some studies in lexical borrowing focusing
on the linguistic adaptation (this will be discussed on section 4). I took four studies of
linguistic adaptation in lexical borrowing into consideration. Those are two studies in
European languages (Serbian-Croatian and Lithuanian) which entitled (1) Lexical
borrowings from German and English into Serbian and Croatian, (2000) Radmila J. Gorup,
(2) New borrowings in Lithuanian: language policy and usage. Inesa Šeškauskienė. Then,
two in Malay (Bahasa Melayu and Bahasa Indonesia) entitled (1) English loan words in
selected Bahasa Melayu newspaper articles, (2009) Shamimah Binti Haja Mohideen, (2)
Kata serapan dalam Bahasa Indonesia (Loan words in Bahasa Indonesia) 2005, Indiyah
Those four studies, I assume, are regarded to be interesting to discuss especially in the
matter of linguistic adaptation of lexical borrowing. This is due to those languages borrow
English in their lexicons, except Serbian-Croatian containing German as well. Yet I will skip
to review German borrowing in this language. In spite of that, the most importantly I should
limit my discussion into one demarcation of adaptation, that is the morphological adaptation
only. Therefore, the question arised on my paper now is that “what is the characteristic of
morphological adaptation of English borrowing in the four languages (Serbian-Croatian,
Lithuanian, Bahasa and Malay)?”

2. Borrowing and its characteristics

Before I start to discuss the linguistic adaptation in borrowing, it is better to define
first what the borrowing is and its characteristics. The term ‘borrowing’ or ‘loan word’
according to Mesthrie and Leap (2000) is a technical term for the incorporation of an item

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from one language into another. These items could be (in terms of decreasing order of
frequency) words, grammatical elements or sounds. Poplack et al (1988) specifically indicate
that lexical borrowing involves the incorporation of individual L2 words (or compounds
functioning as single words) into discourse of L1, the host or recipient language, usually
phonologically and morphologically adapted to conform with the patterns of that language,
and occupying a sentence slot dictated by its syntax.
In addition, Grosjean (1995) defines that borrowing can also take place when a ‘word
or a short phrase’ (usually phonologically or morphologically) is borrowed from the other
language or when the ‘meaning component’ of a word or an expression in the foreign
language is expressed in the base language. However, Muysken (2000) is more stricted in
defining borrowing itself since it sometimes is slightly similar with code-switching (but I do
not discuss further the code-switching on my paper). He admits that single words can be both
borrowing as well as code-switches 1, depending on its symbolic and functional aspect to the
bilingual in the utterance. Thus, I may simply summarize that borrowing is the morpheme or
the grammatical element which is adapted from one language into another by taking the
recipient language system into consideration.
In many studies, sociolinguists prefer to use the type of borrowing into two terms
which so-called ‘established borrowings’ and ‘nonce borrowings’. Poplack and Meechan
(1995: 200) defined established borrowings as lexical items that are morphologically,
syntactically and often phonologically integrated into the borrowed language and a nonce
borrowing is defined as ‘incorporation’ of a singly uttered word from another language by a
single speaker in some reasonably representative corpus. Nonce borrowing, according to
Poplack and Meechan (1998), tend to involve lone lexical items. These are mostly content
words, which display similar morphological, syntactic and phonological features as their
established counterpart, borrowings. The only difference is that they are neither recurrent nor
widespread. In this respect, Sankoff in Muysken (2000) suggests that the two kinds are best
distinguishable by the degree of syntactic and morphological integration of the loanword into
the host language.

Poplack’s depiction of codeswitching stresses its difference to borrowing as she states that “code switching is the
juxtaposition of sentences or sentence fragments, each of which is internally consistent with the morphological
and syntactic (and optionally, phonological) rules of the language of its provenance. Borrowing, on the other
hand, is primarily a lexical process that is accompanied by morphological and partly phonological assimilation in
the receptor language (Poplack 1980)

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Thus, I may conclude that when the borrowed lexicons are integrated into the
recipient language, they are characterized as established loan. Otherwise, if the loan words
are not widespread and not integrated yet into the recipient language then it must be nonce
borrowings or non-established loans. In brief, the established borrowing has been normally
included into the recipient language dictionary but the non-established one has not.

3. Glance review of languages

The Serbian language (Serbian Cyrillic: Српски језик, Serbian Latin: Srpski jezik) is
a South Slavic language, spoken chiefly in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro,
Croatia, and in the Serbian diaspora2. The Croatian language (hrvatski jezik) is a South
Slavic language which is used primarily in Croatia, by Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, by
Croatian minorities in some neighbouring countries, in the Italian region of Molise, and parts
of the Croatian diaspora. Both languages are unified with under the standard known as
Lithuanian (lietuvių kalba) is the official state language of Lithuania and is
recognized as one of the official languages of the European Union. There are about 2.96
million native Lithuanian speakers in Lithuania and about 170,000 abroad. Lithuanian is a
Baltic language, closely related to Latvian, although they are not mutually intelligible. It is
written in an adapted version of the Roman script. Lithuanian is spoken mainly in Lithuania.
It is also spoken by ethnic Lithuanians living in today's Belarus, Latvia, Poland, and the
Kaliningrad Oblast of Russia, as well by sizable emigrant communities in Argentina,
Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, France, Iceland, Ireland, Norway, Russia
proper, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, Uruguay, Spain and France4.
Malay refers to a group of languages closely related to each other to the point of
mutual intelligibility but that linguists consider to be separate languages. They are grouped
into a group called "Local Malay", part of a larger group called "Malayan" within the
Malayo-Polynesian branch of the Austronesian language family. The various forms of Malay
are spoken in Brunei, Indonesia (where the national language, Indonesian, is one form of it),
Malaysia, Singapore, and southern Thailand. Malay is an official language of Brunei and


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Malaysia, and one of the official languages in Singapore. In Malaysia, the language is now
officially known as Bahasa Malaysia ("Malaysian language"), though constitutionally it is
called Bahasa Melayu. Singapore, Brunei and southern Thailand refer to the language as
Bahasa Melayu ("Malay language")5.
Meanwhile, Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia) is the official national language of
Indonesia. It is based on a version of Classical Malay of the Riau-Johor Sultinate. It was first
declared the official language with the declaration of Indonesian independence in 1945,
following the 1928 unifying-language declaration in the Indonesian Youth Pledge. Almost
100% of Indonesia's 240 million inhabitants speak the language and it is one of the most
widely spoken languages in the world. The Indonesian name for the language is Bahasa
Indonesia (lit. "the language of Indonesia"). This term can sometimes still be found in written
or spoken English. In addition, the language is sometimes referred to as "Bahasa" by English
speakers, though this simply means "language" and thus is also not an official term for the
Indonesian language6.

4. Discussion
When the language borrowed had been established into the receptor language, there
may be a common adaptation of linguistic component to the borrowed language. Poplack et
al (1988) characterized at least three integration of loanwords which so-called morphological,
phonological, and syntactic integration. However, in my paper I only discuss one of those
three namely the morphological integration7. It is too broad to discuss the two others in four-
language review rather the phonological and syntactic integration are also complicated
matters to discuss. The subsequent discussion is separated into three section referring to the
class words of the adaptation made into.

4.1 Adaptation in making nouns

Gorup (2000) in his study on lexical borrowings from English into Serbian and
Croatian emphasized that the integration of loan words into the morphological categories of
Serbian and Croatian (henceforth SC) is mostly tend to be nouns (approximately 75%). The

I regard that the terms adaptation and integration are equal in my paper. Then, both terms here are
interchangeably used henceforth to define the linguistic change of the borrowing.

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adaptation of English nouns in SC by attaching SC suffixes tends to adapt gender markings.
SC nouns ending in a consonant are primarily masculine; nouns ending in -a are primarily
feminine; and nouns ending in -ol-e are primarily neuter. Since English nouns tend to end in
a consonant, the great majority of English loan words are interpreted as masculine nouns:
šop, bajt, bedž, barbikju, džins, nju luk, nju veiv, reket, etc. However, most English nouns
which end in -o and -i are also assigned masculine gender: cargo, pogo, video, bungalo,
tornado; viski, džanki, dendi, derbi, etc.
Nouns also coming into SC from English that were borrowed from either Latin or
French, and which end in -ism, such as Engl. feminism, structuralism, etc., are assigned to the
masculine gender. Nouns borrowed into English from Latin and/or French and integrated into
English with suffixes -ation, as in aviation, -ture, as in structure, -sion, as in tension, are
reinterpreted as feminine nouns in SC ending in -cija, -ura or -zija: normalizacija, eskalacija,
alienacija, cirkulacija, televizija, struktura, etc. The English vision, however, was assigned to
the masculine gender: vižn. Nouns ending in -sšion, such as session or fission, can be either
masculine or feminine gender: SC sešn and fisija. Meanwhile, verbal nouns are derived from
borrowed verbs with the addition of the native derivational suffix -nje: testiranje (test),
zumiranje (zoom), etc. Sometimes an English word is adopted into SC in its plural form but
interpreted as masculine singular. Its plural form is then derived by the addition the plural
ending –i, e.g.: keks (cakes) has plural keksi; skinheds (skinheads) has plural forms skinhedsi.
This case is obviously different with Bahasa and Malay since both languages do not
use the gender marking. In Bahasa, however, the adaptation of English noun occurs into
Bahasa verbs denoting ‘the act of related with’when affixes such as per- and –an are attached
into the loan words, e.g.: perbankan (banking), perinternetan (interneting), perlobian
(lobbying), pertelevisian televising), etc. This matter also occurs in Malay such as kepartian
(partying), perakaunan (accounting), perfileman (filming), pemoderenan (modernization).
Through this phenomenon I assume that English noun loan words integrating to Bahasa and
Malay lexicons by adding affixes such as pe(r)- E -an and ke- E -an tend to make the other
nouns denoting the act related with the loan word itself. This is what Muysken8 calls as

This Muysken’s article is the unknown year of publication since I got it from the handout materials of the
Cognitive Aspect of Multilingualism course with him

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relexification where a process of grammatical restructuring between two languages including
affixes from one language and lexical roots from the other language.
Meanwhile, a small number of borrowings in Lithuanian remains uninflected because
of some final vowels, e.g. tai-chi, taikvondo, ušu, ekstāzi, ska, buritos, barbekiu. Some of
these borrowings can have both: inflected and uninflected form, e.g.fentezi and fentezė
(fantasy), kari and kāris (curry), čili and čilis (chilli), kivi and kivis (E kiwi), saliami and
saliamis (salami), techno and technas (techno), (the second is inflected). In nominal
derivatives, derivational suffix –ininkas has a meaning of person-denoting nouns e.g.,
internetininkas (internet), ofiorininkas (offshore), videoartininkas (videoart). Then,
derivational suffixes such as –tojas, -imas, -umas, and -yste has a meaning of abstract nouns,
e.g., lizinguotojas (leasing), miksuotojas (mix), lizingavimas (leasing), miksavimas (mix),
reitingavimas (rating), marginalumas (marginal), multimedialumas (multimédia),
sponsorystė (sponsor). Suffixes such as –(i)ukas and -èlis denote diminutives meaning, e.g.,
faksiukas (fax), miksiukas (mix), singliukas (single), hamburgerėlis (hamburger). The other
derivational suffix like -ija defines the meaning of English borrowing as collective nouns in
Lithuanian, e.g., sponsorija (sponsor).

4.2 Adaptation in making verbs

Another important feature by which English differs from SC is the category of verbal
aspect. While English employs other devices to express what in Slavic languages is
performed by the category of verbal aspect, English does not have that distinction
grammaticalized and their verbs are unmarked for perfective/imperfective opposition. SC
verbs have the infinitival suffix -ti or -ći. English loan verbs are rendered in Serbian with the
-ti suffix: miksati (to mix), bojkotovati (to boycott), boksovati (to box), etc. (Croatian
bojkotirati, boksirati, etc., with the -irati ending in many instances instead of -ovati, which
occurs in Serbian). In primary adaptation, English verbs can be transferred into SC either as
two forms marked for aspect, such as ‘start’ startati (pf.) and startovati (impf.), or just one
form unmarked for aspect (miksati [to mix], trenirati [to train], etc.). In the secondary
adaptation these neutral verbs can undergo further development and create their aspectual
pairs, in almost all cases the perfective forms. Thus blefirati (to bluff) created iz-blefirati, za-

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blefirati, blefnuti, all perfectives; English ‘to dribble’ became driblovati (Croatian driblati)
and then developed the perfective form iz-driblovati, pre-driblovati, etc.
Lithuanian has suffixes in verbal derivatives, such as –(i)uoti meaning ‘to perform a
function of’, ‘to make something’, -(i)auti meaning ‘to perform a function of’, ‘to serve as an
instrument’, and -èti meaning ‘to change the state or condition’. For example: faksuoti (fax),
internetizuoti (internet), lizinguoti (leasing), miksuotilmikseruoti (mixer), repuoti (rap),
moderuoti (moderate), nominuoti (nominate), reitinguoti (rating), hakeriauti (hacker),
sponsoriauti (sponsor), tvisteriauti (twister), kreizėti (crazj).
In Bahasa, verb adaptation occurs when Bahasa affixes are attached to English nouns
to form Bahasa verbs. Affixes such as men(g)-, di-, and -kan denote ‘to do something with’
in Bahasa, e.g., mengcopy, dicopy(kan),mengagendakan, diagendakan, mengclaim, diclaim,
mendownload, didownload, mendelete, didelete, etc. Affixes men(g)- with or without –kan
denote the active verb, and di- with or without –kan denote the passive verb.
In Malay, (or Bahasa Malaysia) it is not far different with Bahasa Indonesia since
they are in one language family. However, the difference is that Indonesia claims the
borrowed words are from Dutch while Malaysia claims them are from English. This is
probably due to Indonesia is the colony of Dutch but Malaysia is the colony of Britain. For
instance, Malay and Bahasa have these adaptation borrowing such as berorganisasi (to join
the organization), bertelekomunikasi (to make telecomunication), mengorganisasikan (to
organize), mempromosi (to promote), beraksi (to act), berfungsi (to function), etc., in which
these words in Bahasa are claimed to be derived from Dutch while Malay claims them to be
derived from English. Malay also has verbal derivatives by adding prefix ber- to the loan
words, e.g., berbaisikal (to ride bicycle), bermotosikal (to ride motorcycle), berkempen (to
campaign) in which Bahasa does not know such words. The other verbal derivatives
adaptation in Malay is the addition of prefixes men(g)-, mem-, di- with or without suffix –kan
denoting the meaning of ‘to act related with’, e.g.: mengeksportkan (to export), dipolitikkan
(politicized), memfailkan (to make file), difrancaiskan (franchised), difakskan (faxed), etc.
All of these words obviously sounds odd in Bahasa lexicons.

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4.3 Adaptation in making adjectives
In Serbo-Croatian, adjectives are marked for gender, number, and case. In the primary
adaptation, adjectives borrowed from English do not decline and are not marked for gender
and number: fit (fit), vestern (western), fer (fair), etc. In the secondary adaptation, they
acquire SC suffixes, usually -ski, -ov, -an: bokserski (boxed), standardan (standard),
rekordan (recorded), etc. After that they have all the characteristics of SC adjectives, i.e.,
they have gender and are declined in the singular and plural: bokserski tim (masculine
singular), bokserska sala (feminine singular), bokserski klubovi (masculine plural), etc.
It is a little bit different with Lithuanian which is not used to mark anything. This
language adapts noun loan words only becoming adjective. In adjectival derivatives,
Lithuanian has suffixes –inis meaning ‘of a kind’ and –iškas meaning ‘similar to’,
‘characteristic of’, for example: čarterinis (charter), faksinis (fax), internetinis (internet),
kreizinis (crazy), lizinginis (leasing), ofiorinis (offshore), popsinis (pop (music), reitinginis
(rating), snukerinis (snooker), baikeriškas (biker), hakeriškas (hacker), internetiškas
(internet), kreiziškas (crazy), popsiškas (pop (music).
In Malay or Bahasa data, I found that not many loan words adaptation makes
adjective. However, this is not to say that Malay or Bahasa cannot be integrated in the
adjectival form. From the study I review, I did not found this case in Malay, but I found some
in Bahasa. In adjective adaptation, English tends to adapt in comparative and superlative
forms in Bahasa with two or more syllabic adjectives. For example: lebih credible (more
credible), lebih qualified (more qualified), paling top (most top), paling populer (most
popular), etc. This also happens the other way round where the superlative form in English
and the content word in Bahasa, e.g.: super hemat (super economical), super mewah (super
luxurious), super cepat (super fast), etc. This phenomenon of adaptation I may call as the
‘hybrid anglicisms’9.

This term I qoute from Onysko (2007, p.55) who studies Anglicisms in German. He describes hybrids as the
derivational processes including affixation of borrowed bases and the formation of compounds of native and
borrowed free morphemes.

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5. Conclusion
English loan words in SC tend to integrate to make gender markings in the
morphological adaptation especially when the loan words are borrowed in nouns and
adjectives. The gender marking is marked by adding some SC affixes into loan words. In
addition, English loan verbs are also rendered in SC with certain suffixes to denote the
infinitive verb marking.
The language system of Serbian-Croatian seems to be different with the three others,
Lithuanian, Bahasa and Malay. The last two mentioned, for instance, did not use gender
markings in their linguistic systems. However, I notify here that the integration of loan words
into both languages tend to produce new lexicons which are characterized by the free
morpheme of loan words and the bound morpheme of the receptor language.
A large number of new borrowings can be easily related with the language system of
Lithuanian. What the adaptation made in Lithuanian is almost similar with Bahasa or Malay
since the morphological relations are characterised by derivational integration into
Lithuanian language system which takes place through derivatives (derivational nouns,
adjectives, and verbs) consisting of borrowed roots and Lithuanian suffixes.
As a whole, I come to my speculating conclusion that the morphological adaptation in
those four languages I review in my paper experiences what Muysken calls in his writing as
‘the relexification’. It goes without saying that Serbian-Croatian, Lithuanian, Bahasa and
Malay are relexified when they make the morphological adaptation in the lexical borrowing
from English.

6. References

Campbell, L. (2004). Historical Linguistics: An Introduction (2nd ed.). Cambridge: The

MIT Press

Gorup, Radmila J. (2000). Lexical borrowings from German and English into Serbian
and Croatia. Journal of the North American Society for Serbian Studies 1 4(2):

Grosjean, F. (1995) A psycholinguistic approach to code-switching. In Milroy and

Muysken, 259-75.

Indiyah, Imran (2005). Kata serapan dalam Bahasa Indonesia. Proceeding Seminar
Nasional PESAT 2005. Universitas Gunadarma Jakarta, 23-24 Agustus 2005.

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Inesa Šeškauskienė. (unknown year of publication). New borrowings in Lithuanian:
language policy and usage. Published by Naujieji Lietuvių Kalbos Svetimžodžiai.
Kalbos Politika IR Vartosena.

Mesthrie and Leap (2000). Language Contact 1: maintenance, shift and death. In
Mesthrie et al, 248-278.

Muysken, P. (2000) Bilingual speech: a typology of code-mixing. Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press.

Muysken, P. (unknown year of publication). Mixed Codes. Handout materials on the

course of Cognitive Aspect of Multilingualism. Department of Linguistics,
Radboud University Nijmegen.

Onysko, Alexander. (2007) Anglicisms in German: Borrowing, lexical productivity, and

written codeswitching. Walter de Gruyter.

Poplack, S. (1980) Sometimes I’ll start a sentence in Spanish Y TERMINO EN

ESPAÑOL: toward a typology of code-switching. Linguistics, 18: 581-618.

Poplack, S. and Meechan, M. (1995) Patterns of language mixture: nominal structure in

Wolof-French and Fongbe-French bilingual discourse. In Milroy and Muysken,

Poplack, S. and Meechan, M. (1998) Introduction. How languages fit together in code-
mixing. International Journal of Bilingualism, 2, 127-38

Poplack, S., Sankoff, D. and Miller, C. (1988) The social correlates and linguistic
processes of lexical borrowing and assimilation. Linguistics, 26: 47-104.

Shamimah Binti, Haja Mohideen. (2009) A study of English loan words in selested
Bahasa Melayu Newspaper Articles. Language in India, 9:4 April 2009.

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