Is Shiroi Howaito? English Loanword Modifiers in Contemporary Japanese

Abstract

Historical contact between English and Japanese led to the extensive introduction of English-based lexicon. Although, the Japanese language had successfully incorporated Chinese-based written system and a considerable number of Chinese loanwords, the contact with the English language due to the political and historical factors was drastic and uncontrollable. According to different estimates loanwords constitute about 10% of Contemporary Japanese Lexicon and this percentage keeps increasing due to the constant borrowing from English. The inflow of loanwords results in the increase of near synonymic pairs (with one word being of native or Sino-Japanese origin, and another being of English origin). There is a number of problems loanwords cause to speakers and learners of Japanese, as well as to Japanese learners of English. Stanlaw (2010) singles out several problems that English loanwords pose for the learners of Japanese, such as, ‘Students believe English loanwords mean the same thing as their original words do in English.’ or ‘English loanwords seem to reflect a Japanese copy-cat mentality’ Present research aims at clarifying the use of the particular group of English loanwords – English adjectives-based loanword modifiers. Based on the data from Balanced Corpus of Contemporary Written Japanese (BCCWJ by National Institute of Japanese Language and Linguistics) we demonstrate the constraints on the use of loanword modifiers and argue that the extensive borrowing of English words is one of the ways for the Japanese culture to differentiate between similar phenomena of native and foreign origin.



Author Information
Anna Bordilovskaya, Kobe University, Japan & Oxford University UK

Paper Information
Conference: ACE2015
Stream: ‘Englishes’ in global communication

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