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Lexical Borrowing

Lexical borrowing is an example of effects of language contact.

The most typical consequence of language contact is lexical borrowing. Lexical borrowing happens when one language borrows lexical items from other language. According to Matras and Bakker (2003), lexical borrowing concerns about ‘the incorporation in one language of content words from another language’. It seems that many languages borrowed English words in their languages. In fact, English itself shows significant effects of lexical borrowing by importing Latin, French and Greek words in the 1500s and 1600s ago.

In the Malaysian context, Malay language itself has many words that are borrowed from another language such as Arabic, Tamil, Portuguese and English. However, the types of words borrowed vary from one language to another according to its function due to historical events.

Most Arabic words borrowed are mainly religious terms because long time ago, Arabians came to the archipelago for business trade besides spreading the Islam religion. Therefore, constant meetings between the local Malay people with the Arabians messenger cause lexical borrowing. That was how some Arabic words are adapted to the Malay language nowadays. Even until now, the use of Arabic words remains until now and then. Some examples of Arabic words borrowed by Malay language include ‘syariah’, ‘syahadah’, ‘salam’, ‘taqwa’ and ‘syukur’. All these words are associated with the Islam religion as a result of the spread of the religion long time ago.

The same goes with English. Since English people such as British and American are well known for introducing and creating innovation for the world, Malay language contains many scientific and technological terms derived from English language.  Some examples of English word borrowed and adjusted to Malay spelling are ‘induksi’, ‘teknologi’, ‘konklusi’, ‘variasi’, ‘kombinasi’ and ‘losyen’.

From my experience, I have encountered some situations that can be called as lexical borrowing. I am currently learning Korean as my third language. There was one situation where I was taught the dialogue of people making reservation at the hotel. When a speaker requested a room, the word room is spelled ‘room’, which is similar with original English word. Earlier in the lesson, I was informed of the fact that in Korean language, the word room is called ‘bang’. So, I was curious about the matter so I asked my Korean teacher about that. My teacher explained that in some cases especially the formal ones, the word ‘bang’ is not used because there is no other words that can describe the word ‘room’, even the word ‘bang’. Therefore, this situation is called as lexical borrowing. It is because of the vocabulary constraints in Korean language.

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