Academic journal article Southwest Journal of Linguistics

Source Language Patterns as Determinants of Borrowing Behavior: Single and Collocation Borrowings in Spanish in New York

Academic journal article Southwest Journal of Linguistics

Source Language Patterns as Determinants of Borrowing Behavior: Single and Collocation Borrowings in Spanish in New York

Article excerpt

Abstract: This paper addresses a new finding regarding the specific form taken by certain lexical borrowings in the Spanish spoken in New York City, using as data 30 sociolinguistic interviews from the Otheguy--Zentella corpus. Some English combinations, such as toilet cover, appear in Spanish embedded in Spanish material (la tapa del toilet) while others, such as credit card, appear in Spanish entirely in their original form (el credit card, not *el card de credito). We offer an explanation for this phenomenon based on the knowledge that bilingual Spanish speakers have of English structure. In particular, Spanish bilinguals appear to know the difference between English free word combinations, such as toilet cover, and English collocations, such as credit card. On the basis of data from collocation dictionaries, we demonstrate that there is a strong tendency for English free combinations to end up in Spanish as single borrowings, and a corresponding tendency for English collocations to be imported into Spanish as two-word combinations. This pattern probably reflects the fact that English collocations are stored as whole units in the mental lexicon of the bilingual in the same way as in that of the monolingual English speaker. This is a case where, complementing the usual observation that recipient-language structure affects loanwords (as they become phonologically and morphologically adapted), we see the appearance of loanwords shaped by the structure of the source language.

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1. INTRODUCTION. A well-known generalization in studies of language contact holds that lexical borrowings are altered by the bilingual's knowledge of the recipient language, whose morphological and phonological structure is superimposed on the lexical items that enter the language. (1)

For example, in Spanish in New York City (henceforth NYC) the English loan estin (from English steam) has been reshaped in accordance with Spanish phonology so that the onset cluster st- has been dissolved into es-, with the t- becoming the onset of the next syllable, and the word-final nasal -m, which is not found in Spanish, changed to the -n that is common in the language in that position.

Less known and seldom documented is the role played in borrowing behavior by the bilinguals' knowledge of the structure of the source language. In this paper we raise the question of why the English loanwords found in the Spanish discourse of Spanish-English bilinguals in NYC appear in some cases, as expected, modifying or being modified by Spanish words, while in other cases they appear modifying or being modified by words that are themselves also English borrowings. The former, which we refer to as single borrowings, are constructions like se ponen gorras de turkey 'they wear turkey hats' and sentada en la tapa del toilet 'sitting on the toilet cover' where the English loanwords turkey and toilet are the only English-origin items; the latter, which we refer to as collocation borrowings, are items like me gradue de advanced level 'I graduated from the advanced level' and se hacen con travelers checks 'you do them with travelers checks' (not: me gradue de nivel advanced or se hacen con checks de viajero) where the loan consists of English loanwords in construction with other English loanwords. The answer to this question, as we attempt to demonstrate here, has to do with the bilinguals' knowledge of the source language, and in particular his/her knowledge of the degree of cohesion among English words. We show, then, that the process of lexical borrowing in contact settings is not simply governed by what the members of the borrowing population know about the lexicon of the target language--the lexical gaps that produce the initial need for loanwords and the phonological and morphological structure that shapes words once they are borrowed--but also, and to a considerable extent, by the familiarity of the borrowers with the lexical characteristics of the lending language. …

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