It is a pleasure to have fellow blogger, Ivan Kanič, share some of his insights into language issues. As his website and his profile on LinkedIn reveal, Ivan has been interested in terminology topics, especially library terminology, for a long time. He talks about it on his own blog site, http://terminologija.blogspot.com/, which is in Slovene. You can check out the content through a convenient machine translation option, though. Thank you, Ivan.
Throughout the history, any language has always incorporated foreign words and phrases, to paraphrase Darwin, this was the development and “origin of languages by natural selection”. These days, most new words are English, predominantly American English to be precise. All historical attempts to “purify” a particular language proved largely unsuccessful, and many people, including linguists, doubt seriously that such efforts would fare any better today. English has already invaded the languages of Molière, Cervantes and Goethe, dominating above all the fields of technology and business, and spreading widely with the young generations and their jargon. Denglisch, Franglais, Spanglish, Swenglist, Slogleščina and the like were born, a natural linguistic blend of two languages bringing together their morphological, syntactical and phonetic peculiarities in one sentence, often in a single word as well. It occurs mostly in sports, computing, and business where the domestic language, for some reason or the other, lacks words for some concepts, like the word “serve” in tennis, or the domestic word is less well known, e.g. “stock options”. It also occurs when a word is to be “modernized”, shortened or otherwise updated, like “outsourcing” in business, where people go to the “office”, attend “meetings”, work in “teams”, participate in “workshops” and consider “stock markets” in a number of languages. In Slovene, for example, the situation is even more complex because it is a highly inflected language (a single verb, noun, adjective has a vast number of different endings as a rule) and has an almost “phonetic” writing, so we may encounter doublets like tagirati / tegirati (to tag), tagiranje / tegiranje and the shorter version taganje / teganje (tagging) or verbs like surfati, torrentati (mind the double r, which is not a Slovene feature), printati, downloadati (w is not Slovene), keširanje (I am sure you can understand them, I should help you perhaps with the last one – caching).
Another vast field of invasion is the colloquial language and the jargon of the street, international examples would be cool, kids, trendy, sexy, wellness, in Slovene language ful(l) + adjective makes the superlative, or sich relaxen, ich habe gejobbt, wir shoppen etc. in German, or French sentences like: Je vais driver downtown. Je suis tired. Je ne care pas. J’agree. Not to forget that naming a mobile phone a “handy” is an absolute invention, made up by Germans and has never been printed in an English dictionary.
Unlike the French, who almost religiously guard against the invasion of foreign (read English, and forget for a moment that French had fed it in the history immensely) words, many other languages have embraced Anglo terms and phrases with almost careless abandon in recent years. For example hybrids such as surfen, downloaden, updaten, emailen, chatten are frequent even in German technical language. Opposed is the French “stubbornness” to fight the Franglais formally in most facets of life, thus it is one of the rare languages (if not the only) not to have “digit” and all the derivatives (numérique, numérisation, numéroter instead) and “logiciel” is a fine example, too.
At the moment I would stick to the technical or semi-technical language only, not the jargon. I would ask the opinion, experience and expertise of the readers in this respect. How do you feel and deal with it in your particular language(s) and subject field(s), being terminologists?