Academic journal article Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies

Chinese Loanwords in the OED

Academic journal article Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies

Chinese Loanwords in the OED

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

It was traditionally assumed that Chinese had contributed few borrowings into English until Cannon (1987, 1988, 1990) carried out his research based on different English desk-dictionaries. His studies were supplemented by Moody (1996) who reviewed Cannon's list focusing on the information provided by the Oxford English dictionary (henceforth OED) and Webster's third new international dictionary of the English language. Nonetheless, Moody's analysis did not explore all the possibilities the OED offered at the time. This articles aims at revising those previous pieces of work on the topic to find out whether there are significant changes in view of the latest data supplied by the OED, to determine whether there is an increase in the number of items borrowed, which are the transmission and source languages and to see whether any predictions for the near future can be made. Finally, some comments on the transliteration of the terms are also included.

1. Introduction

This article arises from a personal interest in the language and the culture of China, which is meant to be a future world power according to economic experts. Both the development of the nation as a crucial source of labour force and its inhabitants as potential consumers and the fact that this vast territory is gradually opening its frontiers and fostering commercial relations with western countries favour interaction at all levels, including language. This contact will allegedly involve exportation of some aspects of Chinese culture along with its language. Subsequently, the number of loanwords from Chinese into western languages has probably experienced an important increase in the last decades. Language contacts between China and Europe, and Britain in particular, have existed for centuries. (1) However, it was traditionally assumed that Chinese borrowings in English were few. In fact, Serjeantson (1935) listed just 27 items from Chinese, until Cannon's studies (1987, 1988 and 1990) changed this conception drastically. His articles were complemented by Moody (1996), who centred on the information provided by the Oxford English dictionary (henceforth OED), but also on Webster's third new international dictionary of the English language. Nonetheless, since Moody's analysis did not explore all the possibilities the OED offered at the time, but rather relied on Cannon's retrieval of data, the present research deals with a comprehensive corpus extracted from the OED, which has undergone dramatic revisions in the last decade. In fact, a huge amount of items has been amended since 1997 and some of them were even introduced for the first time as draft entries since the time when this lexicographic work has been available online (2000). Thus, this article aims at revising those previous pieces of work on the topic to find out whether there are significant changes in view of the latest data supplied by the OED, to determine whether the English vocabulary is being enlarged with Chinese elements due to the economic expansion of China, which are the transmission and source languages and to see whether any predictions for the near future can be made. Finally, some comments on the transliteration of some terms are included, as well. (2)

2. Selection of data

In order to carry out the present study, the data were retrieved from the Oxford English dictionary online. By making a query for terms containing the word "Chinese" in their etymology, 409 tokens were obtained. (3) Despite this amount of occurrences, not all the elements were to be taken into account, since some of the tokens were not considered valid for research purposes:

1) Terms from a different etymological origin. Even if the word shows the term Chinese in its etymology explanation, its linguistic origin can be ascribed to any other language. This includes derivatives such as chinesery, whose allograph chinoiserie recalls its French origin. …

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