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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A Linguistic study of the assimilation of English loanwords into Japanese Hirano, Akiko


When and where there is cultural "borrowing there will always "be the possibility of "borrowing words which are associated with it. Since 1868 English has had a remarkable influence on the Japanese language and especially after the Second World War through the wide-spread audio-visual media the number of English loanwords in Japanese, along with new objects or practices introduced, has been increasing. This thesis attempts the overall description of the assimilation of English loanwords into the structure of Japanese so that they may fulfill their communicative function. Since loanwords alone constitute the corpus for the linguistic analysis the analyst is naturally required to adopt rigorously scientific procedures free from the domination of metaphysics and psychology but at the same time it should be borne in mind that we are dealing with the "whole man" expressing himself and his culture. For the purpose of this study English loan-elements are established in the context of situation, i.e. in their socio-cultural context and are then examined at different levels of analysis—Lexical, Grammatical and Phonological, as to their degree of assimilation. The present writer admits mutual working of elements abstracted at different levels of analysis. That is, units obtained at one level might serve to solve the problems left unsolved at the other levels either below or above. In spite of the great number of English loanwords they have been well assimilated into the structure of Japanese. The factors at play in assimilation of loan-elements are: (a) Internal 1. Sheer absence of equivalent exponents at various levels of the Japanese structure 2. pressure of the system 3. productivity of certain forms 4. popular patterns in coinage 5. underdifferentiation of equivalent exponents in Japanese (b) External 1. different channels of borrowing—oral and written 2. the socio-cultural background at the time when the particular element was borrowed 3. the socio-cultural background of the original introducer and/or that of the later users 4. the writing system of Japanese To some extent the future of the Japanese language in connection with cultural borrowing may be predicted. Although the phonological and grammatical systems of a language are not easily affected by cultural borrowings, the gaps in the system may he gradually filled. Fluctuation is more prominent at the lexical level. The symmetry of the language structure at the lexical level requires the presence of terms both generic and specific, abstract and concrete. Some English elements may be added to satisfy these requirements. Some will be added to the set of vocabulary to bring about variety and subtlety in the way experience is articulated. If English elements behave quite distinctively from the native and jiongo elements, it will be methodologically acceptable to admit the existence of different strata within Japanese. Another important feature to be investigated is how far lexical patterning depends on grammar in the process of assimilation of loanwords.

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