Anglicisms in German

From past to present-day language of the press

Hausarbeit (Hauptseminar), 2012

43 Seiten, Note: 1,7


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Definition

3. Historical Aspects
3.1 German Reactions
3.2 Related developments

4. Classification
4.1 Lexical borrowing vs. Semantic borrowing
4.2 Calques, Exoticisms and Hybrids

5. Linguistic Changes
5.1 Change of Meaning
5.2 Pronunciation and Spelling
5.3 Morphology

6. Anglicisms in German Newspapers
6.1 The Language of the Press
6.2 Reasons for Source Selection
6.3 Sources
6.4 Method
6.5 Results
6.6 A closer look: Anglicisms and their German equivalents
6.7 Reasons for the Usage of Anglicisms in the Press

7. Conclusion

8. Appendix

9. Bibliography

1. Introduction

English is known to be the lingua franca, the world language. Thus, we find English dominating certain domains, especially in computing (cf. Zürn, 14). The influence of the English language on German are undeniable. This is to say that anglicisms are, by now, present in everyday-language in the field of food (Ketchup, Hotdog), music (Heavy Metal, Blues), fashion (Look, Outfit) or sports (Training, Stretching) (cf. Zürn, 14).

Language contact, however, is a normal phenomenon and “as a historical fact has been acknowledged since antiquity, but not, however, as a phenomenon worthy of study […] But only in the last decades of the nineteenth century did questions of language contact become an area of scientific interest (Oksaar 1996; 1f.)” (Svetlana, 20). Most of the older studies focus on the synchronic aspects whereas newer studies also take a diachronic view into consideration (cf. Burmasova, 10). Furthermore, morphological and orthographic aspects play a role in addition of the frequency of use (cf. Burmasova, 11).

Nowadays, there are a lot of critical voices which reject the use of anglicisms because they fear a loss of German language heritage. There are even some initiatives providing equivalents for every English word1. The Verein deutscher Sprache (Association of the German Language), for instance, emphasizes the importance of German equivalents2. Thus, the question is whether it is possible to find equivalents for every anglicisms and if those equivalents are suitable. Moreover, the question arises if anglicisms are on the rise to an extend where they may threaten the German language.

In this term paper, I want to take a closer look on the use of anglicisms in the press in order to find an answer to these questions. In the course of this, I want to refer to studies by NICOLE PLÜMER, ALEXANDRA ZÜRN and CHRISTIANE GÖTZELER. I also want to provide some samples from Stern and Bild and present my own results. Before that, a definition of the term anglicism will be given. Moreover, I want to take historical developments into consideration, including German reactions to certain changes. After that, a classification of anglicisms will be provided in order to become aware of the different types. Furthermore, I want to present some linguistic changes connected to anglicisms. Lastly, I want to provide some considerations concerning the language of the press and present my own little study in this field before I come to my conclusion.

2. Definition

To define the term “anglicism” seems to be easy at first glance. If one looks it up in the Oxford English Dictionary the following definition is provided: ”A characteristically English word, phrase, or idiom, esp. one introduced into a sentence in another language”3. From the OED one can also get to know that the term was “first used in the 17th century” (Fischer, 8). Besides the primary meaning there are other connotations such as “a characteristic or fashion deriving from England” (8). Moreover, ROSWITHA FISCHER points out that “anglicism is connected to the word England etymologically” (8) but that the term includes “English loans from all varieties of the English language” (8).

Secondly, The Free Dictionary gives the following definition: “a word, idiom, or feature of the English language occurring in or borrowed by another language”4. Here, the term “borrowing” is addressed which will be discussed as linguistic concept later on. Another definition I want to present is that of the Duden which reads: “the transfer of a linguistic phenomenon typical for English into a non-English language”5 [“Übertragung einer für [das britische] Englisch charakteristischen sprachlichen Erscheinung auf eine nicht englische Sprache”6]. Lastly, MANFRED GÖRLACH defines an anglicism as “a word or idiom that is recognizably English in its form (…), but is accepted as an item of vocabulary of the receptor language” (2003, 1). However, his definition does not include fully integrated words where the “English origin is no longer apparent” (1). All in all, the different definitions I have listed here, agree in the main point: an English word appearing in another language.

However, SVETLANA BURMASOVA states that there is no consistent definition for the term “anglicisms” available (cf. 33). Furthermore, she says that the definitions are either based on form and meaning or on origin (cf. 33). She then concludes that one can either take a diachronic (i.e. looking at origin) or synchronic (i.e. looking at characteristics of the English language) perspective of anglicisms (cf. 35).

It should be noted that the term “anglicism” is to be separated from the term “internationalism”. An internationalism is a word that originates from Latin or Greek (cf. Fischer, 10). Moreover, an anglicism is not a foreignism which denotes a “non-established borrowing (…) used for a particular purpose” (Fischer, 9).

As one can see that the definition of the term “anglicism” is indeed, at second glance, a little more complex as will be also shown in the next chapters. At first, the history of anglicisms will be presented in chapter 3.

3. Historical Aspects

There has been “cultural exchange between Germany and Britain” since the fifth century “when German settlers conquered England” (Görlach 2002, 13). Also the Christianization of Germans by Englishmen in the eighth century contributed to the linguistic exchange (cf. 13). However, in the Late Middle Ages only a limited number of anglicisms were present in German (cf. 13). These words were especially connected to the Hanseatic League and words like “Boot, Lotse (…), and Dock came into German” (13) at that time. Because these loan words have been part of the German language for a long time, they are “completely assimilated and almost unrecognizable as loans” (13).

The contact between the two languages became more intensive in the 17th century when some political terms were adopted (cf. 13). The influence of English on German was connected to the interest in England after the revolution and the execution of Charles I. (cf. Adler, 40). In the course of this political interest words like “Parlament, Komitee, Jury, Majorität (…) Minorität” (40) entered the German language.

The following events brought about the process of lexical borrowing which can be described by the following six steps (cf. Görlach 2002, 13):

1) 18th century: The growing reputation of England influences the social life (cf. Adler, 41) but also in the area of literature, philosophy, science and trade new words such as “Common Sense, Import (…), Lady” (41) were adopted.
2) Industrial Revolution: Britain had a leading role in the Industrial Revolution (cf. Görlach 2002, 13) and thus, many terms related to new technologies were directly taken over, e.g. “Budget, (…) Demonstration, (…) Lokomotive” (Adler, 41).
3) “Anglomania”: Once more the social life was under British influence at this time, especially in “various types of sports (…) like football, golf, tennis” (Görlach 2002, 14) but also in the field of fashion or food.
4) 20th century: American English becomes dominant in the area of “music, dance, motor cars and aviation” (14).
5) After 1945: After World War II the “impact of English (…) became massive” (14). I think, this was also connected to the measures of denazification and ultimately the “orientation towards the United States” brought about the “influx of Anglo-American loanwords” (14).
6) Since the 1990s: The influence of the USA became even stronger. Moreover, the possibility to communicate with people all over the world “has led to a new dimension of lexical borrowings and code-switching” (14).

To sum up, one can say that the phenomenon of lexical borrowing is not new, but rather an old concept that can be traced back to the Anglo-Saxon conquest. Since then, the exchange and influence of English on German has increased. This development is mainly related to political and social events in history. By now, some loanwords are unrecognizable while others are clearly identifiable as “anglicisms”. In chapter four, I want to provide a classification of anglicisms and I will also divide them into groups.

3.1 German Reactions

The influence of English on German “led to various allergic reactions” (Görlach 2002, 16). In the beginning, the resistance was “directed mainly against French” (16). Only in the 19th century was this resistance turned against English. With the founding of the Allgemeiner

Deutscher Sprachverein (General German Language Association) the purist thoughts were institutionalized, embodying an opposition “against the predominance of English in German” (16). According to GÖRLACH this “purist tenor” (16) was maintained until world war I. With the Nazi regime one would think that English influence was banned completely. And indeed, “the impact of American lifestyle” was seen as “dangerous to the German psyche” (16). However, “the force of foreign words” (16) was used for propaganda and Hitler even “prohibited the witch-hunt of foreignisms” (17). In the 1990s efforts towards a purism were made again (cf. 17). Different associations were established, e.g. the Verein deutscher Sprache (Association of the German Language) (cf. 17). GÖRLACH, however, questions if those associations will have a “permanent effect” (17).

3.2 Related developments

It is striking that in 1795 “Kinderling's list of Anglicisms (…) contained only of twelve words” (15). However, the 19th century was “the heyday of dictionaries of foreign words”

(15) and many of them also provided German equivalents (cf. 15). Furthermore, in 1899 “the excessive use of Anglicisms” (16) was objected by Hermann Dunger. He provided substitutions for sports terms of which many “are still ins use” except for the tennis terminology which was “re-Anglicized in Germany” (16) in the 1980s.

Another important aspect is English education because the “rise of English loanwords (…) was also connected with the increase of English as a school language” (19). Thus, the central role of French was replaced in language teaching (cf. 19). After 1945 English was introduced as the first foreign language in Western Germany (cf. 20). Since the 1960s, then, “all students, (…), had some English taught to them between ages 10 and 19” (20). The level of education is a crucial point when it comes to spelling and pronunciation which will be discussed later on. Furthermore, GÖRLACH points to the differences between West and East Germany. However, this issue will not be discussed in this paper. It should be noted that there has been an adjustment in education since 1990 and that the former differences did not concern the spread of Anglicisms (cf. 20).

4. Classification

According to ZÜRN, there are approximately 300.000 to 500.000 words in the German lexicon, native words, foreign words and loan words (cf. 21). It should be noted that the distinction between foreign words and loan words is hard to make out (cf. 31). Therefor, the degree of integration is essential (cf. 31). The reasons for adopting loans are various (cf. 26) and researchers today distinguish many different forms of borrowing. In this chapter I want to present these different categories.

4.1 Lexical borrowing vs. Semantic borrowing

As mentioned before, borrowing is a linguistic concept, “a common result of linguistic contact” (Hock & Joseph, 241) and “a natural process” (Fischer, 4) according to linguists. There are different models for loans. One is provided by Haugen, who distinguishes between a) complete importation, i.e. direct loan (e.g. Swimmingpool), b) partial importation (e.g. Fußballfan), i.e. substitution with morphemes from the receptor language and c) no importation, i.e. translation into the receptor language (self service – Selbstbedienung) (cf. Zürn, 28). However, the distinction has to be made between the “the borrowing process as such, i.e. when the borrowing enters the receiver language, and consecutive processes, i.e. when the newly borrowed word undergoes further changes in the language” (Fischer, 3).

4.1.1 Lexical Borrowing and Pseudo Borrowing

With a lexical borrowing – or loan – “the form and (parts of) the meaning of a foreign word become imported” (Fischer, 6). Thus, the word is “transferred directly from the source language” (6). Examples would for this would be Computer, Team, Shake or Box (cf. Zürn, 27/33) and so on.

Also the phenomenon of pseudo lexical borrowings can be found. Thus, only the English form is used while a new word is created (cf. 34). This is done by combining “English word material into new linguistic units” (Görlach 2002, 29) and its new meaning is not known in English (cf. Zürn, 35). An example for such a neologism would be the German word Showmaster, who is a person presenting a show (cf. 35). However, the word does not exist in English. That is to say that there the word quizmaster is found which certainly served as the inspiration for the German term (cf. 35). Another case is the existence of a word with a different meaning. The English word callboy, for instance, means somebody from the service staff at a hotel whereas the German word refers to a male prostitute (cf. 35). Also false borrowings play a role in this field, i.e. words that look English but are artificially created (cf. 35). This especially occurs within advertising (cf. 35). Here the example of the German Preisstop vs. the English price freeze could be mentioned (cf. 35).

Yet another important linguistic issue within this topic is that of clipping. Clipping is also referred to as morphological lexical borrowing (cf. 36). Here the word undergoes a shortening after it has been integrated into the language. Thus, the word Pullover, taken over from English, became Pulli in German, the professional became Profi and the happy ending became the Happy End in German (cf. 36). It should be noted that these short forms are not necessarily understood by native speakers of English (cf. 36).

4.1.2 Semantic Borrowing and Pseudo Borrowing

On the other hand, there are the semantic borrowings, where only the meaning and/or the form is borrowed (cf. Fischer, 6). They are not always obvious because they are built with German word material (cf. Zürn, 49). Firstly, the form is borrowed when a neologisms in German shall reproduce the English word as accurately as possible (cf. 51). Examples for this are: air condition - Klimaanlage, fast food - Fertiggericht, plastics - Kunststoffe (cf. 52).

Secondly, the meaning can be borrowed. In the course of the borrowing process “the word may lose or change its meaning(s) or develop new meanings in the receiver language” (Fischer, 3). When a word becomes independent regarding its meaning it is referred to as a pseudo borrowing. Thus, an anglicisms takes on a non-English meaning (cf. Zürn, 36), i.e. German City as opposed to city centre (BrE) or downtown (AmE) (cf. 37). The change of meaning will be discussed later on in detail.

A special case of a pseudo loan is the example Dressman because it is one in two respects (cf. 37). The first part -dress equals -wear or outfit in English (cf. 37). Thus, it is a semantic borrowing (cf. 37). The second part -man has its correspondence in words like Businessman or Gentelman (cf. 37). Thus, it is a lexical borrowing (cf. 37). However, dressman is not existent in the English language. Although there are relatively few semantic pseudo loans, in this respect, it should be noted that pseudo loans result in communication problems if they are taken for “real” loan words (cf. 37).

4.2 Calques, Exoticisms and Hybrids

In general, a calque refers to a direct translation of a foreign word into the receptor language, i.e. skyscraperWolkenkratzer. Also the German phrase jemanden feuern is a direct translation of the English expression to fire s.o. (cf. Zürn, 51). Görlach defines calques as “renderings of foreign concepts by native means” (2003, 96). Thus, it can be discussed whether calques are anglicisms or not. Having said that, GÖRLACH argues that calques are no “straight-forward borrowings” but that they “provide an excellent alternative to loanwords” (2003, 96).

Another type of loans are exoticisms. Exoticisms refer to things, phenomena, processes, job titles and other terms which do not exist in German-speaking areas (cf. Zürn, 46). Consequently, no denomination is available for those words and therefor, the terms from the country of origin are taken over (cf. 46). Examples would be Halloween, High School, Sheriff and Hurrikane (cf. 47). It should be noted that the distinction between exoticism and proper names is rather difficult. Therefor, it should be decided individually if it is the one or the other (cf. 48).

Referring back to lexical and semantic borrowings, one can say that hybrids are a “mixture of (...) [those] formations, also called mixed compounds, semi-calques or loan blends” (Fischer, 6). A hybrid, then, means a “word or word combination that consists of elements of both source and receiver language” (6). Thereby, either the first part of the compound can be English (e.g. Babyjahr and Jogging-Anzug) or the second part (e.g. Fernsehshow and Geburtstagsparty) (cf. Zürn, 145). It should be noted that hybrids with and without hyphen exist. Thus, also different word classes can be combined (cf. 144).

5. Linguistic Changes

5.1 Change of Meaning

As mentioned before, the borrowing process “affects the content of loanwords” (Görlach 2003, 93) and often includes a change of meaning. According to GÖRLACH, this is due to the fact that “the content of (…) words cannot be identical in the source and receptor language” (2003, 93). Thus, either a broadening or narrowing of the meaning can happen.

5.1.1 Narrowed Meaning

When it comes to a narrowing, only one or part of the semantic variant is adopted (cf. Zürn, 58). This might be due to the limited usage of a term (cf. 58). Thus, the adopted term gets a fixed meaning whereas in the original language it is more flexible (cf. 59). This is also called specialization, i.e. “the content and field of reference” is narrowed (Görlach 2003, 93). ZÜRN mentions that one third of the terms are only taken over only with a part of the original meanings (cf. 60). Examples for such a narrowing are swimming pool, meaning any kind of pool in English, but only the private pool in German (cf. Zürn, 59) or the word drink which refers to any kind of beverage in English whereas in German only an alcoholic one is meant (cf. 59).

5.1.2 Widened Meaning

Furthermore, an adopted word may develop new meanings. Regardless of the original meaning, the loan word can take on several other meanings (cf. 60). The loan word may also lose some features which makes “the content more general and extending the field of reference” (Görlach 2003, 93). This is, for instance, the case for the term take-off which originally refers to the start of an airplane only, can now refer to any kind of start in German (cf. 60). Another example is the word Team which means any kind of work group as opposed to the original meaning of a sports team (cf. 61).

It should be noted that in the course of semantic change, there can also be an improvement or deterioration of a meaning (cf. 62). Thus, the word Job is not ascribed as much quality and respect as the German word Arbeit (cf. 62). On the other hand, the word Manager took on an improved meaning in German because it refers to someone in the executive level and not just to any kind of higher position (cf. 63).

As one can see, the loan word can independently undergo changes and make its own way once it has been integrated into the receiver language.

5.2 Pronunciation and Spelling

Different criteria have to be considered here. According to GÖRLACH these criteria are “the age of the loan, its degree of popularity, whether the source is written or acoustic” (2002, 20). However, also criteria from the field of sociolinguistics have to be taken into consideration, such as “the age of the language users and their knowledge of English” (20). Thus, older loan words “tend to be fully assimilated” (20) which means that German equivalents already substitute the English phonemes (cf. 20). On the other hand, newer loan words “retain the English pronunciation as far as possible” (20). Furthermore, GÖRLACH lists the following characteristics regarding the pronunciation of early loans (before 1914):

1) Loanword comes from a written source, “and the pronunciation is German as in Puck or Humbug [u]” (21).
2) The sound structures are identical, e.g. Test (cf. 21).
3) S ome “minor differences (…) were automatically identified with their German equivalent, as in hot [o]”, as the English [a] was “interpreted as /a/ or /o/” (21).
4) “un-German combinations were (…) adapted” (21), e.g. slips-Schlips or shawl-Schal.
5) The pronunciation of the word-initial /dy/ is taken over as [y, tf, f], e.g. in Joker, Job, Jockey (cf. 21). Thus, Job is neither pronounced [dyab] as in American English, nor [dycb] as in British English, but rather with substituted similar sounds, i.e. [dyop] or [tfop] (cf. Burmasova, 67).

Although, GÖRLACH thinks that “adaption is always possible” (22) there seems to appear blocking for certain phonological structures (cf. 22). This is the case for Thriller because /0/ does not exist in German and therefor, /sr-/ is used (cf. 22).

Substitution and integration also takes place on the graphemic or orthographic level. Concerning the capitalization vs. small letters, it should be noted that nouns are usually


1 The article Anti-Anglizismen-WG. Man spricht Deutsch will provide a little insight on this issue:,1518,336842,00.html, accessed 19/03/2012.

2 The Verein deutsche Sprache published an index of anglicisms with 7.300 entries of German equivalents:, accessed 19/03/2012. g in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

3, accessed 22/02/2012

4, accessed 22/02/2012

5 I have translated the passage from the Duden by myself.

6, accessed 22/02/2012

Ende der Leseprobe aus 43 Seiten


Anglicisms in German
From past to present-day language of the press
Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität Greifswald  (Anglistik)
ISBN (eBook)
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Antje Holtmann (Autor), 2012, Anglicisms in German, München, GRIN Verlag,


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