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Functions of western loanwords in Japanese newspaper articles Shimada, Maiko

Abstract

Previous studies on Western loanwords in Japanese showed that they account for approximately 10 percent of the Japanese lexicon and their number is continuing to grow. This thesis examined the functions of Western loanwords in the language of newspaper articles. 3,844 occurrences of loanwords were collected from four consecutive issues of Yomiuri Shinbun Satellite Edition published in April 2001 and classified into four main functional categories. The four main functional categories were "technical terms," "lexical-gap-fillers," "elevating the images of the referents," and "replacing the native vocabulary items." "Technical terms" were terminologies used specifically in certain fields such as sports, politics, medicine, etc., regardless of their familiarity among the general public. "Lexical-gap-fillers" could be divided into two types: those which denoted novel objects or concepts ("true LGFs") and those which filled lexical gaps by having either broader or more specific meanings than native terms ("semi-LGFs"). The loanwords in the "elevating the images of the referents" function could either have stylistic effects or a euphemistic role depending on the connotations of native equivalents. If a loanword replaced the native equivalent with a neutral connotation, it created a better image by adding stylishness, prestige, casualness, etc. On the other hand, if the native term had negative connotation, then the loanword functioned as a euphemism to conceal the a negativity. "Replacing native equivalents" could be divided into three stages according to the degrees of replacement. The loanwords in the earliest stage functioned as synonyms of the native equivalents. The next stage included loanwords that are used more commonly than their native counterparts in everyday language. The loanwords in the most advanced stage have almost completely replaced the native terms, which have become obsolete. The quantitative analysis of the above functions showed that "lexical-gap-fillers" was the most prevalent function (45.08%). This result was contradictory to the result from Takashi's (1990a) quantitative study on functions of English loanwords in advertisement texts, which revealed that the main function was to create better images of referents. Thus, this thesis concluded that the most prominent function of loanwords is different depending on text styles and purposes.

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