English Influence on German

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2006

30 Pages, Grade: 2,0


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2 English Influence o n German
2.1 Language Contact and Linguistic Borrowing
2.2 English Influence on German from the 19th Century until Today
2.3 Reasons for the Use of Anglicisms
2.3.1 Internal Linguistic Factors… Local Color… Language Economy… Style Variation… Euphemism…
2.3.2 Extralinguistic Factors

3. Common Problems with Anglicisms

4. Classification of Lexical and Structural Borrowing
4.1 External Borrowings…
4.2 Internal Borrowings…

5. Negative Reactions to Anglicisms

6. Conclusion

7. Sources
7.1 Bibliography
7.2 Magazines…
7.3 Internet Sources..

1. Introduction

After getting up, we use Shampoo and a Peeling under the shower. We rub Anti-Aging-Creme into the skin to pretend to be younger – Beauty is a very important issue in our times –, and we use Makeup to look good at the Meeting that we are going to attend before Lunch to cultivate our professional Connections. Hopefully, nobody did investigate into our Background and found out that our Dad has been a Drogendealer. This would not be very cool. Maybe, we should have made a Crashkurs in “Entertainment for bored Managers” to relax the atmosphere. Nevertheless, we forget about these too stylish men with their Handys. Since we had nothing for breakfast, we go to the Coffeeshop around the corner and buy a Donut and a Muffin. After these too many calories, we start to regret our lack of restraint and self-control. After all, we have a Blinddate for Dinner with a Gentleman we met in the Chatroom when we were online and actually in search of Songs to download them to our Computer. So, to shape our Body, we go to the gym, where we take an Aerobic class and use the Stepper to look sexy in the new Outfit, tight Shorts and a T-Shirt, we bought on our Shopping-Tour. In the evening, we meet in the hip Bar where the Drinks are so delicious and high-proof. The guy is quite okay and after having eaten a few Crackers together, we rent a room, because we are lured by his Aftershave. Unfortunately, this is our Ticket to hell, because after skipping Petting, he does also skip Sex and prefers sleeping: “Fuck, I’m just too drunk. Let us talk tomorrow, Baby”, he announces and falls asleep. No, sorry, but this night needs no Feedback, and so we rush out of the Hotelsuite hoping not to be seen by our Boss who stays occasionally at the same Location with his Lover. This Story is also too embarrassing to tell it to our best friend. At least, now we know that the next time we will go to a Party with people we know instead of experiencing a new Lifestyle that does not satisfy us at all.

As seen in this example, we are confronted with English expressions in almost every situation, and it is thus as good as impossible to avoid anglicisms, what we are going to show in the following.

In our term paper Was ich lieb: Ans Mic steppen und fake MCs mit Punchlines dissen, was ich hass’: Standard Battlephrasen und Anglizismen[1] - English influence on German, we will concentrate on the influence of English on German, on the question why we tend to use anglicisms and which problems might occur when using them. Furthermore, we will focus on the classification of the borrowing and finally raise the subject of the negative reactions to anglicisms.

A few remarks at the beginning: Since one can hardly distinguish Americanisms from Briticisms – British English is strongly influenced by American English –, we will use the expression anglicism for all the different varieties in this term paper. Moreover, since we found sometimes several English translations of German terms such as ‘äußeres Lehngut’ and ‘Mischkomposita’ according to the different sources, we restrict ourselves to employing only one term per each expression. Another point is that we will neither discuss adaptations of anglicisms concerning phonology, form and morphology, nor will we mention the word formation and the semantic of anglicisms, because this would have been too much for this short term paper.

2. English Influence on German

2.1 Language Contact and Linguistic Borrowing

“Die Gewalt einer Sprache ist nicht, dass sie das Fremde abweist,

sondern dass sie es verschlingt.”[2]


The concept of language contact and linguistic borrowing are not at all new, but they have always been essentially involved with languages and occur “when speakers of distinct speech varieties interact”[3]. The more isolated a speech community is the more probable it is that its language will develop independently. However, due to the medium of television, video, radio and internet[4] being spread via satellite transmission, industrialized countries are rather likely to adopt expressions of other languages, so-called borrowings or loanwords[5]. One of the main sources of borrowing is the English language. Such a foreign word or loanword is called anglicism and is a word, phrase or element borrowed from English into another language. The expression anglicism does also describe the “English syntax, grammar, meaning and structure used in another language with varying degrees of corruption”[6].

One can state that English has been increasing all over the world. It is especially because of the 18th century, when Britain was the biggest colonial power in the world, that many of the ancient British colonies still have English as official or semi-official language nowadays. Due to the fact that various countries have gotten in touch with the English language and/or culture, this has given rise to direct or indirect influence on their own native languages.[7] Today, English is a so-called ‘world language’ and the most important language of business, airports and air-traffic control, science and technology, medicines, diplomacy and publicity.[8]

The German language has always been influenced by other languages, most strongly by Latin and French. Nevertheless, “[s]ince 1945 the Anglo-American linguistic influence has been particularly strong […] [and] has grown exponentially since the advent of the Internet in the early 1990’s”[9]. Consequently, anglicisms in German are no rarity today, but they are naturally arisen contact phenomena (Kontaktphänomene) being achieved due to the language contact[10], in this case the contact of American English and/or British English and the German culture.[11] In German, the English influence is especially strong in the language of certain groups, such as in the language of young persons, in some areas of economy, the stock market and the entertainment business.[12]

So, the main language in Germany’s top companies is English. ‘Daimler Benz’ speaks English in all levels of management, quite similar to the ‘Deutsche Bank’, ‘Siemens’ and ‘BMW’. The European Central Bank even made English to their main language at work. This shows that it is difficult to pursue an international career without speaking and understanding English. Thus, it seems as if Germans are on their way to become like the Dutch, the Scandinavian, and the Swiss, where English is the second language, so that a growing number of their citizens is now bilingual.[13]

2.2 English Influence on German from the 19th Century until Today

„Verwendet nie ein neues Wort, sofern es nicht drei Eigenschaften besitzt:

Es muss notwendig, es muss verständlich

und es muss wohlklingend sein.“[14]
(Francois-Marie Voltaire)

It catches one’s eye that up to the 19th century there were hardly any borrowings from the English language, apart from single loanwords in the fields of shipping (e.g. Boot from boat) and politics (e.g. Parlament from parliament).[15] However, from the late 19th century anglicisms became conspicuous[16] and “[wurden] Gemeinschaftswörter, deren Gebrauch nicht auf bestimmte Fachbereiche beschränkt war”[17]. Before that, English expressions were merely known from philosophical, political and economical specialist literature. Reasons for this increase were, among other things, the Industrial Revolution and first signs of the democratization in Germany. After that, expressions such as Partner, Trust, Reporter, Interview and Mob enter the German language.[18] Then again, due to several technical developments in the 19th century like the “Ausbau des Eisenbahnwesens”[19] in England, many new borrowings appeared in the German language, such as Dampfer, Lift or Lore. “Daneben wurden allgemein gebräuchliche Ausdrücke wie Dandy, exklusiv, Flirt, Selfmademan, smart [und] Snob übernommen.”[20]

When in the thirties of the 20th century sports came into fashion, plenty of English expressions were used in German, like Derby, dribbeln, Foul, Jockey, Match, starten and many more.

Lediglich der Wortschatz des Boden- und Geräteturnens konstituiert sich fast ausnahmslos aus deutschen Wörtern. Die Terminologie dieser Sportarten geht weitgehend auf Turnvater Jahn zurück, der Fremdwörter im Zuge allgemeiner puristischer Bestrebungen bewusst vermied. Auch auf anderen Gebieten bemühte man sich um die Eindeutschung fremder Fachwörter, [wie etwa im Tennis und Fußball].[21]

From the beginning of the sixties, there is a significant increase in anglicisms in German that did eventually rise in the nineties. The reasons for this are the economical, technological, military and cultural supremacy of the United States and of the Anglo-Saxon speech area. The phenomenon of English expressions in German manifests itself particularly in the fields of media, entertainment and leisure (e.g. Movie, Musical, Quiz, Bungee Jumping, Skateboard), technique and science (e.g. Radar, Transistor, Microchip), economy and politics (e.g. Boom, Marketing, Trend), in the information technology (e.g. Computer), the service industries (e.g. Leasing) and in the area of personal hygiene, clothing, food and living (e.g. Makeup, Fashion, Blazer, Ketchup, Swimmingpool). Consequently, anglicisms appear especially in sectors where technical innovations are or have been made.[22] Since the United States are the most progressive country in the world concerning technology and industry, it is clear that they have also “eine sprachliche Geberrolle”[23] in many respects.

Also, the development since the Second World War has led to the dominance of English as undisputed lingua franca and to the expansion of its very prestige and influence. It is true that until the seventies French still had a worldwide high prestige and until the twenties also German. However, concerning German the loss of its status as a donor language happened gradually due to the First World War, the Nazi regime and the fact that Germany was the trigger for the outbreak of two world wars. Additionally, in the first half of the twentieth century, people adopted another attitude towards their own language, so that they did no longer take great pride in German. The result was that there was an enormous readiness for the usage of English expressions in the media and in public areas.[24]

Today, it is especially the increasing use of computers at work, as well as the private use of PCs and the internet during the last years that the English language could spread rather rapidly to such an extent, because more than half of the websites are still written in English.[25] One might ask why English appears to be so attractive, so that even a low or missing knowledge of English, a negative attitude towards English lessons and towards the English language as such cannot stop the spreading of English borrowings. This will be discussed in the following.

2.3 Reasons for the Use of Anglicisms

„Wenn wir alle Fremdwörter,
auch die eingewurzelten, wegließen,
so bliebe vieles Leere ungesagt.“[26]

(Stefan George)

Since new items and goods are produced and introduced into our society, it is evident that new expressions must be created in order to fill the ‘Benennungslücken’.

Es entsteht [also] entweder ein Benennungsbedarf in allen Bereichen des modernen Lebens, der die Einführung immer weiterer neuer Termini zur Folge hat. Diese werden entweder mit Hilfe diverser Wortbildungsmittel neu gebildet […], oder sie werden eben aus Fremdsprachen entlehnt, wobei hier ganz klar das Englische im Mittelpunkt steht.[27]

Also, it is due to the attraction of the English language that “alle anderen Erwägungen aus[geschaltet werden]”[28]. The only thing that counts then is the sound of English expressions and the association with the Anglo-American culture. Nevertheless, it is almost impossible to clearly define the functions of anglicisms, “weil es sich u.a. um individuell geprägte Prozesse handelt, über die man durchaus unterschiedlicher Auffassung sein kann”[29]. In the following, we will concentrate on some internal linguistic and on some extralinguistic factors.


[1] These lyrics are taken from the group Blumentopf and their song ‘Liebe & Hass’. Cf. NoMoreLyrics. Blumentopf Lyrics. http://www.nomorelyrics.net/song/ 169524.html. 2005

[2] Junker, Gerhard H. Der Zeitgeist spricht Englisch. in: Zabel, Hermann (Ed.). Denglisch, nein danke! Zur inflationären Verwendung von Anglizismen und Amerikanismen in der deutschen Gegenwartssprache. Paderborn: IFB Verlag, 2003. 119

[3] Wikipedia – The free encyclopedia. Language contact. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language _contact

[4] It is important to mention that not only the spoken but also the written contact between different speech communities is a cause for language change.

[5] Other forms of language contact, which will not be discussed in this term paper, are bilingualism, language shift and creolisation. Cf. Wikipedia. Language contact.

[6] Wikipedia – The free encyclopedia. Anglicism. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglicism

[7] Today, English is the official or semi-official language in over 60 different countries and has a prominent place in further 20 countries. Cf. Weikopf, Otto. Englisch - Neuenglische Periode. http://www.weikopf.de/Sprache/Englisch/Neuenglisch/neuenglisch.html. May 2005

[8] Weikopf

[9] Hedderich, Norbert. Language Change in Business German. http://www.mgmt.purdue.edu/ centers/ciber/publications/gbl/GBL%20-%202003/3d.%20Hedderich%20Norbert-47-55.doc. 2003

[10] Milroy speaks of speaker contact instead of language contact, because it is the speakers “who form weak and uniplex ties when two populations first come into contact”. Cf. Grey, Duncan. Milroy's Belfast Study. http://www.putlearningfirst.com/language/research/milroy.html. 2005

[11] Muhr, Rudolf. Anglizismen als Problem der Linguistik und Sprachpflege in Österreich und Deutschland zu Beginn des 21. Jahrhunderts. in: Muhr, Rudolf; Kettmann, Bernhard (Hrsg.). Eurospeak – Der Einfluss des Englischen auf europäische Sprachen zur Jahrtausendwende. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang GmbH, 2004. 11

[12] Hedderich.

[13] Guardian Weekly 28/03/2001

[14] Verein Deutsche Sprache e.V. Sprüche und Zitate zur deutschen Sprache. http://www.vds-ev.de/literatur/zitate.php . Last update: 18 March 2006

[15] Langner speaks of a continuous influence of the English language on German from the beginning of the 18th century. According to her, it is especially ‘loan substitutions’ (Lehnprägungen) from the field of politics, such as Oberhaus (from Upper House) or Hochverrat (from high treason) that occurred due to the merely rudimentary knowledge of English. Nevertheless, in most sources an increasing influence is only related to the 19th century. Cf. Langner, Heidemarie C. Die Schreibung englischer Entlehnungen im Deutschen – Eine Untersuchung zur Orthographie von Anglizismen in den letzten hundert Jahren, dargestellt an Hand des Dudens. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang GmbH, 1995. 32; Gester, Silke. Anglizismen im Tschechischen und im Deutschen. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang GmbH, 2001. 31

[16] In the 18th century, English literature, theatre (e.g. Addison, Defoe, Fielding) and thinkers (e.g. Locke, Shaftesbury) influenced Germany, which is why English borrowings are predominantly from the intellectual area. Cf. Kupper, Sabine. Anglizismen in deutschen und französischen Werbeanzeigen – Zum Umgang von Deutschen und Franzosen mit Anglizismen. Marburg: Tectum Verlag, 2003. 36

[17] Kupper. 35

[18] Kupper. 35

[19] Langner. 33

[20] Italics made by the authors. Langner. 33

[21] Langner. 33

[22] Muhr. 9f.; Kupper. 35

[23] Muhr. 10

[24] Muhr. 10f.

[25] Schelhas, Karin. Der Einfluss des Englischen auf die deutsche Sprache. http://www.hausarbeiten.de/faecher/hausarbeit/dep/11891.html. 2001

[26] Verein Deutsche Sprache e.V.

[27] Kupper. 23

[28] Kupper. 17

[29] Gester. 151

Excerpt out of 30 pages


English Influence on German
Humboldt-University of Berlin  (Institut für Anglistik/Amerikanistik)
The Politics of English as a Global Language
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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English, Influence, German, Politics, English, Global, Language
Quote paper
Hanna M. Stoll (Author), 2006, English Influence on German, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/65457


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