Anglicisms in the German "Cosmopolitan" and in the German news magazine "Der Spiegel". A quantitive survey of lexical borrowing in the German language

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2016
24 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. Theoretical Part
2.1. Definition of language contact
2.2. Definition of borrowing
2.3. Defining and Integrating loanwords
2.3.1. Nouns
2.3.2. Adjectives
2.3.3. Verbs
2.3.4. Compounds and Phrases

3. Methodology

4. Practical Part
4.1. Quantitive impact of anglicisms
4.1.1. Cosmopolitan
4.1.2. Spiegel
4.1.3. Comparison
4.2. Analysis of Compounds
4.2.1. Cosmopolitan
4.2.2. Spiegel
4.2.3. Comparison

5. Conclusion

6. Bibliography

1. Introduction

“Lexical borrowing is an extremely common form of cross-linguistic influence, and few, if any, languages are impervious of it” (Winford, 2003, p.29).

The following paper is a research on the quantitive use of anglicisms in two German magazines. The analysis will feature a selection of two issues of the German Cosmopolitan and Spiegel from December 2015. I chose these magazines because this type of material has not been considered in studies yet. There are many researches about the usage of anglicisms in Spiegel over the years, or the integration of anglicisms in advertisements found in magazines. As there is a gap of statistics including the comparison of the number of anglicisms in a news magazine and a lifestyle magazine, I considered it chose to become the topic of this seminar paper. Further, this paper will analyze the usage of anglicisms and their percentage distribution with regard to the different word classes.

First, I will give a comprehensive overview over Thomason’s (2001) and Winford’s (2003, 2010) theories of language contact and borrowing. Following that, I will give some definitions concerning linguistic jargon and give samples of how anglicisms are integrated into the German morphological and inflectional pattern. The main part of this paper will be the evaluation of the data I collected and the comparison of the quantitive impact of anglicisms in Cosmopolitan and Spiegel. I conclude with a closer examination of the compounds found in the two magazines.

2. Theoretical Part

2.1. Definition of language contact

Due to many similarities between languages having the same starting point or differences between dialects in e.g. German, it is confirmed that languages have always been changing. English went through a huge changing progress because of the intense contact with French and Latin particularly in the Middle English period (1150 to 1500). After the Normans had conquered England their mother tongue French had a huge impact on the English language. This impact ist still visible today. Words like government, royal, apartment or chef originally derived from French but are nowadays basic vocabulary in English. The clash of French and English during the Middle English period is a typical example for the linguistic term language contact.

Thomason (2001) defines language contact in the simplest way as “[…] the use of more than one language in the same place at the same time” (p.1). According to linguistic studies this definition is too trivial. Defining a contact as language contact, a group of speakers have to use one or more language that none of the other group they talk to understands. “Speakers of different regions, social classes, and generations use language differently (dialect variation), and all speakers use language differently in different situations (register variation)” (Fasold & Connor-Linton, 2014, p. 289). But what exactly is a language ?

Defining language seems to be easy at the first glance. But considering following examples it gets more complicated: Swabians and people from Berlin both speak German. Still, talking to each other they have huge understanding problems according to their dialectical variation within their mother tongue German. They sound very different as well. But still they both speak ‘the same’ language. Spanish and Italian speakers though can understand each other fairly well; even though they both speak different languages. Finding an appropriate definition for language seems to be very tricky. Therefore linguists differentiate between language contact and dialectical contact. But as it would exceed the purpose of this paper the definition from the Oxford Online Dictionary will be sufficient: “ ‘language’: 1a: The system of spoken or written communication used by a particular country, people, community etc., typically consisting of words used within a regular grammatical and syntactical structure” (Oxford English Dictionary Online, n.d.).

Further, considering the fact that languages like Latin, Greek or Arab spread through literature it does not necessarily mean that speakers of different languages have to meet or be in direct contact with each other. But where and how does language contact then take place? According to Thomason (2001) no language has ever developed totally isolated from others. A contact of languages is everywhere (p.8). Depending on the social and economic background of a country and its history language contacts are more intense in some places at some times than elsewhere (Thomason, 2001, p.9).

Languages being in contact may have many different results. In some cases the groups being in contact with a new language are not able to learn it. In those situations a so-called pidgin or creole arises1. Sometimes one of the languages might even die out because of the huge impact of the donor language. But “[the] most common result of language contact is the change in some or all of the languages: typically, though not always, at least one of the languages will exert at least some influence on at least one of the other languages. And the most common specific type of influence [ the borrowing of words]” serves as basis for this paper (Thomason, 2001, p.10).

2.2. Definition of borrowing

“Items/ structures are copied from language X to language Y, but without speakers of Y shifting to X. In this simple form, borrowing is characteristic of ‘cultural contact’, e.g. Latin and English in the history of the latter, or English and other European languages today” (Hickey, 2010, para. 3). Usually the borrowed elements are lexical items, known as loan words, which are adapted to phonological, morphological, and syntactic patterns. For example, rendezvous is a noun that originally derived from French. Nowadays it is used in English as well as in German and is fully adapted to the structural patterns of those languages. Winford (2003) describes borrowing in three contact situations:

1. The majority of lexical borrowing might be due to travel, exploration or conquest as well as the exposure to the donor language in mass media (even though this contact might be indirect and distant) (p.30).
2. The second situation is the contact in settings involving “[…] unequal bilingualism being the result of sociohistorical forces such as immigration, invasion, or military conquest, the realignment of national boundaries, or the establishment of inter-group contact for purposes of trade, marriage, and so on” (p.33).
3. In situations where both languages are in equal bilingual situations the rate of borrowing is fairly low as it is more limited because of the evenness of both languages (p.37). Furthermore, looking at social motivation for lexical borrowing is important as well. Some words are borrowed because of the need to define new objects or concept along with their names. Yoga, for example, has been borrowed by the recipient language, English, from the donor language, Hindi (Shukla, & Connor-Linton, 2014, p. 304). When English-speakers borrowed the French words beef, pork, or veal it was not because they did not know the animals. The English counterparts cow and pig were less prestigious as the French terms that seemed to be more sophisticating. The second social motive of borrowing therefore is prestige.

2.3. Defining and Integrating loanwords

Defining borrowed elements more precisely, Winford (2003) distinguishes between loanwords, loanblends and loanshifts.

a. Pure loanwords like rendezvous consist of a single word or a compound which is imported totally into the recipient language and its structure (p. 43).
b. “Loanblends involve the transfer of a part of the foreign model and the reproduction of the rest (importation of a foreign morpheme combined with substitution of a native one)” (p. 43), e.g. toughe (Eng. tough + Germ. - e).
c. Loanshifts or loan meanings are divided into two types. The so-called extensions change semantically. For example, a word in the donor language (American Portuguese) frio extended its meaning from ‘cold temperature’ to ‘cold infection’ because of the English ‘cold’ or ‘to catch a cold’ (p. 44). Creations like Wolkenkratzer in German, which is derived from skyscraper in English, are called loan translation: the native morphemes imitate the morphological pattern of the donor language.

As a generic term I will use the more common anglicism, which is defined as “a characteristically English word, phrase, or idiom, esp. one introduced into a sentence in another language” (Oxford English Dictionary Online, n.d.).

Borrowed items are usually adapted to the phonology and morphology of the recipient language. Due to the aim of this work I will only look at the integration of loanwords in morphology.

As the morphological rules of Modern German are very different to those of Modern English I will shortly describe the patterns of both languages in and on the basis of their word classes. My examples can all be found in the analyzed German magazines Cosmopolitan from January 2016, and Der Spiegel Nr. 51 in 2015.

2.3.1. Nouns

In English, nouns are marked inflectionally by a change in form to distinguish between singular or plural, or even both. The plural and the genitive of a word is regularly formed by adding the suffix -s, -’s, or -s ’ (depending on which of the latter is required) (Wardaugh, 2008, p. 8).


Plural: The dogs are in their kennel. Singular + genitive: The dog ’ s kennel is broken. Plural + genitive: The dogs ’ kennel is broken.

Apart from the typical noun inflection, however, there are singular nouns building an irregular plural, e.g. foot - feet, sheep - sheep.

German though is a language with rather complex inflectional patterns. Not only does it have three different articles marking gender, der, die, and das (for masculine, feminin, and neutral words), on the contrary to the English having only the as an article. Further, in German the plural can be built by adding five different suffixes depending on gender and case. But borrowed nouns still are mostly built with adding the English suffix -s, for example websites (Spiegel, 2015, p.79), snacks (Spiegel, 2015, p. 116), highlights (Cosmopolitan, 2015, p.50), and peelings (Cosmopolitan, 2015, p. 117). Words like Jeans (Spiegel, 2015, p. 63) are called plurialiantum, words that only exist in their plural forms. Computer (Spiegel, 2015, p. 111) is an example for the counterpart called singulariantum. These are loan words which form their plural in English with -s but do not have an inflectional ending in German: ein Computer, zwei Computer (∅) (…).

To conclude, German has also three possibilities to decline cases in singular (Dudenredaktion, 2009, pp.220):

- Type 1: -(e)s- singular: der Trend (Cosmopolitan, 2015, p. 32)
- Type 2: - (e)n- singular: der Stylist (Cosmopolitan, 2015, p. 114)
- Type 3: ∅- singular: die Software (Spiegel, 2015, p.79)

2.3.2. Adjectives

English adjectives are only inflected with -er for their comparative and -est for their superlative form3 when they are built regularly (Wardaugh, 2008, pp.20). In German, however, they can be inflected by case, number, and gender. Borrowed adjectives are inflected when they are used attributive, e.g. smarte Technik (Cosmopolitan, 2015, p.59), or when they are nominalized, e.g. der Coole (Spiegel, 2015, p.123). Borrowed adjectives stay unrevised in German when they are used predicative, e.g. Die Werke sind fair (Spiegel, 2015, p.135). English loanwords form the comparative and the superlative in German regularly, e.g. fitter (Cosmopolitan, 2015, p. 132), der coolste Beweis (Cosmopolitan, 2015, p. 48).

2.3.3. Verbs

By integrating verbs into the German morphology pattern it is interesting that the borrowed verbs completely follow the German conjugation structure, e.g. performen (Infintitive, Indicative) (Cosmopolitan, 2015, p. 50):

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten


1 In both cases a new language that has components of both the recipient and the donor language.

2 A semantic shift or modification of the borrowed item may still be possible.

3 Of course, there are also exceptions.

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Anglicisms in the German "Cosmopolitan" and in the German news magazine "Der Spiegel". A quantitive survey of lexical borrowing in the German language
University of Würzburg
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Anglicisms, Borrowing, Linguistics
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Anica Wurmbrand (Author), 2016, Anglicisms in the German "Cosmopolitan" and in the German news magazine "Der Spiegel". A quantitive survey of lexical borrowing in the German language, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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