Loanwords in Jordanian Arabic

  • Essa Salem

Student thesis: Phd


The use of English loanwords has become very common in the spoken and written varieties of Jordanian Arabic. This study aims to investigate these words in terms of distribution, frequency, integration, and usage in three genres: newspapers, naturally-occurring conversations, and synchronous Facebook interactions, representing written, spoken, and spoken-written domains, respectively. It is found that loanwords in JA are distributed across a continuum from established loanwords that are part of the native language to instances of bilingual spontaneous insertions. They are distributed across a number of semantic fields, among which 'Technology and communication', and 'Modern world' are the most prominent ones. Nouns are, by no comparison, the most borrowable word class followed by adjectives and phrases, non-content words, and manner adverbs. Moreover, the most 25 frequent loanwords are all established loanwords that possess written forms, except for two of them. To fit into the linguistic system of JA, loanwords have undergone phonological, morphological, and semantic changes. At the level of phonology, these changes seek to preserve the sound system and the syllable structure of JA. The major morphological patterns of integration include mapping loanwords onto derivational and inflectional word-formation templates. Loanwords are also treated as roots from which other words are generated. As for loan verbs, the light verb and indirect insertion strategies are followed to integrate them. Other word-formation processes like compounding and clipping are shown to take place as well. Finally, loanwords are also shown to inflect for gender, number and possessive assignments. Semantic narrowing, extension, shift, metaphor, and pejoration are the major semantic changes that some loanwords have undergone over time. As for the usage of English loanwords in JA, the findings reveal that the functions of these words in the spoken domain resemble, to some extent, the functions served in the written domain. As far as the spoken domain is concerned, a sequential analysis of spontaneous insertions in the spoken data reveals that insertions act as an additional device to serve plenty of communicative functions, the most frequent ones are reiteration, humor, and message qualification. In the written discourse, loanwords target the specificity of the meaning intended and act as persuasive devices that attract the attention of the readership to the writer's point of view. They were also used to reflect the writers' linguistic and scientific proficiency. The communicative functions identified in synchronous Facebook interactions match those identified in the written and spoken domains. Yet, some unique aspects have been investigated, such as insertions that flag interpersonal relations and identity, and the correlation between insertions and the writing script.
Date of Award31 Dec 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorYaron Matras (Supervisor) & Eva Schultze-Berndt (Supervisor)

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