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International English as a force in language change

Camiel Hamans (European Parliament, Brussels)

Languages do not exist in isolation, so they borrow from each other and influence each other. In the past when French was the most influential cultural language, almost all the languages of Western Europe borrowed numerous words from French.

In the second half of the 20th century English, or American English, became more prominent. So hundreds and hundreds of English words were taken over by the languages of Europe. The process of borrowing did not stop at the lexical level.

Morphological processes have been taken over as well, initially via loanwords or paradigms of loanwords such as Watergate, Irangate and Zippergate. Later on reanalysis produced new suffixes such as cafe-teria, fruiteria and snacketeria. Finally this process of borrowing led to productive morphological rules in the borrowing language, such as clipping and consecutive adding of final -o, e.g. commo, journo and Salvo. This development went so far that even clipping turned out not be necessary anymore: sicko, pinko and weirdo.

This morphological process of informal American English became productive in Western European languages as well. For instance in Dutch: lullo, gewono and jazzo. The question now remains how languages such as Dutch, German, and Polish could take over this rule of American English. In this paper I will argue that it is a matter of globalization, which causes this type of change. Mass media, pop music and other varieties of international informal English have an irresistible influence on the other languages of the civilized world.

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