The attitudes towards anglicisms in German. A survey analysis focussing on age-related differences

Term Paper, 2020

26 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Table of contents

1 Introduction

2 Previous research
2.1 The spread of English
2.2 Anglicisms (in German)
2.3 Linguistic purism

3 Methodology

4 Results

5 Discussion

6 Conclusion



This paper is concerned with the subject of anglicisms. Anglicisms are lexical items, which are transferred into our everyday language use. They are surrounded by a constant debate about their necessity. While linguists mostly appreciate their advantages, linguistic purists regard them as a threat and try to remove or limit them. Through analyzing a survey, this study presents the attitudes towards anglicisms in German. Thereby, the influence the participants’ age has on their attitudes is especially focused on. After setting the scene by giving an overview about already existing research on the spread of English, anglicisms in German and linguistic purism, the survey analysis shows that older generations’ attitudes towards anglicisms tend to be more negative. As the paper focused on the social characteristic ‘Age’, future studies could discuss the influence class affiliation or education has on the attitudes towards anglicisms.

1 Introduction

„Die Welle der Anglo-Amerikanisierung schlägt über uns zusammen und droht das deutsche Sprachschiff auf den Grund zu schicken.“

[The wave of Anglo-Americanization breaks on top of us and threatens to sink the ship of the German language.] (Raeithel 2000)

„Die Notwendigkeit einer internationalen Sprache für die Wissenschaft ist unbestritten. Ihre Existenz allein ermöglicht es, daß sich Wissenschaft ungeachtet aller Grenzen in der ganzen Welt entfalten kann.“

[The need for an international language is unquestioned. Its existence enables science, despite all boarders, to spread across the whole world.] (Skudlik 1990: 210)

Such opposing statements, as they were uttered by the German americanist Gert Raeithel and Sabine Skudlik, clearly represent the debate and discourse on which this study is based - the long lasting debate about anglicisms and its adaptation in German.

On the one hand, language is never only communication itself but always also carries national identity and culture. Thus, there are many people who are very protective towards it. The influence of English, which also carries culture, values and social structure, is therefore often regarded as a threat to ones own culture and values (see Fischer 2008: 4). On the other hand, there are also proponents of the use of anglicisms, who do not disregard their manifold opportunities and even think of them as something natural and necessary. These two ‘camps’ can be described as the camp which regards the English influence as language decay and the camp which regards it as language change.

These opposing attitudes towards the use of anglicisms in German, are the center of this paper. As older generations’ youth hood did not consist of the confrontation with anglicisms that much, they often struggle at getting used to them. Therefore, my research question is the following: Are older persons’ attitudes towards anglicisms in German more negative than younger persons’?

In order to answer that question, at first, previous research about the spread of English, about how and why it has become the worlds’ lingua franca, will be presented. Afterwards, the term ‘anglicism’ will be explained and its different categories will be introduced. A short overview about societies which committed and still commit themselves to ‘linguistic purism’ will then finish the background information chapter off. Subsequently, the methodology of the conducted survey will be summarized before presenting, interpreting and analyzing its results with reference to the research question.

2 Previous research

2.1 The spread of English

„The English tung is of small reach, stretching no further than this island of ours.“ (Roger Mulcaster 1582 in Fishman et al. 1977: front page)

„English at the end of the twentieth century is more widely scattered, more widely spoken and written than any other language has ever been. It has become the language of the planet, the first truly global language.“ (Mc Crum et al. 1992 in Ross 1997:30)

More than four-hundred years have passed between the first and the second quote. During that time, the world and its language use must have changed massively. English advanced from a very local language to the worlds’ lingua franca and is now, according to, spoken by over 1,2 billion people (2020). To trace back the general expansion English has gone through, Jennifer Jenkins’ book “World Englishes - A resource book for students“, will be used (2009).

The spread of English can be categorized into two categories - the first dispersal and the second dispersal. The first dispersal began with the migration of English-, Irish- and Scotchmen to North America, Australia and New Zealand. The migration, which first only started as small expeditions, started with Walter Raleigh’s expedition to America in 1584. The first migrants, who permanently settled in America, arrived in 1607. In the time following, around 25.000 people migrated to America, built new settlements and implemented different varieties of English in America. While America was already settled since the 16th or 17th century, the migration to Australia started a little later. It was only after 1770, the year in which James Cook discovered Australia, that it was established as a penal colony and that the first prisoners began to arrive. As the prisoners were born all across England, they brought completely different dialects to Australia.

The last country which was affected by the first dispersal, was New Zealand. The first immigrants arrived there in the 1840s. While at first only Britons were part of that migration movement, since the 1860s, people from Australia, Ireland, America and Scotland also moved there (see Jenkins 2009: 5-7).

The second dispersal took place in the eighteenth and nineteenth century and lead to the spread of English in South Africa, South Asia, South-East Asia and Colonial Africa. From the 1850s onwards, East Africa was settled by British colonists. Countries such as Zambia, Zimbabwe or Uganda became British colonies, were heavily influenced by the English language and are still English speaking countries. South Asia’s confrontation with English reached its peak in the eighteenth century. Even though the East India Company already ensured English some influence since the 1600s, it only culminated with the British sovereignty in India1. South-East Asia began to be influenced by Britain, in the end of the eighteenth century. The most important regions were Singapore, Malaysia or Hong Kong. West Africa embodies the only exception of the second dispersal. Even though British traders already travelled to West African countries in the late fifteenth century, they did not establish permanent settlements. Still, many English-based pidgins and creoles developed during that time (see Jenkins 2009: 7-8).

The two dispersals which were just presented, led to the development of languages that can be divided into the ‘inner circle’ and the ‘outer circle’ of Kachru’s Three-Circle Model of World Englishes. Countries that can be divided into the ‘expanding circle’, were only extensively introduced to the English language more recently (see Jenkins 2009: 18-19 and Kachru 1992: 356). In addition to the different timeframe, English’s expansion in the ‘expanding circle’ also had different reasons than the expansion in the ‘inner circle’ and ‘outer circle’. While the reasons for the spread of English in the first two circles were mainly colonialism and migration, the reasons for the spread in the ‘expanding circle’ are diverse.

According to Tove Skutnabb-Kangas & Robert Phillipson (2003), the reasons are the following:

„1. English is an integral part of ongoing globalisation processes in commerce, finance, military affairs, science, education, and the media.[…] 2. The Americans and British have invested heavily in promoting their language globally since the mid-1950s. 3. There has been substantial investment in the teaching of English in the education system of continental European countries.

4. The popular demand for English is strongly connected to a language that is projected in advertising and the media as connoting success, influence, consumerism, and hedonism“ (Skutnabb-Kangas & Robert Phillipson 2003: 84).

As Germany is part of the ‘expanding circle’, these above listed reasons also apply for the promotion of English in Germany. Although English is not our official language, it is a widely used as EFL2 and has transferred many lexical items into our everyday language use.

2.2 Anglicisms (in German)

The lexical items, which are transferred into our everyday language use, are called ‘anglicisms’. An anglicism is, according to Görlach (2002: 1), “[…] a word or idiom that is recognizably English in its form (spelling, pronunciation, morphology, or at least one of the three), but is accepted as an item in the vocabulary of the receptor language“. As the word ‘accepted’ is highly debated, I would rather tend to use the word ‘used’.

The amount of anglicisms in German is almost impossible to estimate. The English influence did more or less increase steadily. While in 1500 there were almost no anglicisms in the German lexicon, in 1800 there were already five hundred. Between 1900 and 2000, the increase did even speed up more. The amount of anglicisms doubled from about one thousand seven hundred to around three thousand five hundred (see Kettemann 2002: 62). Given last century’s steady increase, it can be assumed that todays amount of anglicisms is even higher.

As discussed in chapter 2.1, the reasons for the spread of English in Germany were globalization, promotion of the English language and the investment in the teaching of English. Nevertheless, the reasons for the takeover of English words into the German lexicon are different ones. According to Altleitner (2007: 21), the semantic gap is the most common of those reasons. If an English word allows us to describe something for which no German word has yet existed, it is more likely to be implemented into our lexicon. Another reason for borrowing3 is the language economy. During the last decades, the tendency to rather use short, ideally monosyllabic words, grew in popularity. Therefore, the affinity to use English words can not only be observed in situations in which there is no appropriate German word, but also in situations in which the English word is just more efficient (see Stedje 2007: 215). A third reason is, according to Rudolf Muhr (2002: 12), the prestige that English words carry. Especially in marketing, anglicisms should help to convey modernity, juvenility and innovation.

The anglicisms, which are used in German, can be subdivided into three categories: complementary anglicisms4, differentiating anglicisms5 and superseding anglicisms6. Complementary anglicisms are those that fill the semantic gap, in other words they introduce new means of expression (e.g. ‘T-Shirt’ or ‘Interview’). Differentiating anglicisms are those that can be exchangeably used with existing German words (e.g. ‘Beauty Farm’ or ‘Bodybuilder’). The most controversial category are the superseding anglicisms. These are the words which are used despite the existence of other German words and even supersede them (e.g. ‘ticket’ or ‘keeper’) (see (a))

As just shown, not all anglicisms are the same. The reasons why they are used (e.g. semantic gap, language economy and prestige) differ as well as the categories in which they can be subdivided. Therefore, this paper will also try to figure out if the attitudes towards anglicisms differ with respect to the category they belong to.

2.3 Linguistic purism

Negative attitudes towards anglicisms can often be connected to linguistic purism, but what exactly is linguistic purism? To define the term I will use a definition by George Thomas (1991: 12), who said:

“Purism is the manifestation of a desire on the part of a speech community (or some section of it) to preserve a language from, or rid it of, putative foreign elements or other elements held to be undesirable (including those originating in dialects, sociolects and styles of the same language). It may be directed at all linguistic levels but primarily the lexicon. Above all, Purims is an aspect of the codification, cultivation and planning of standard languages“.

Now that a working definition of the term ‘linguistic purism’ is given, the history of puristic activities in Germany, will be portrayed. The first puristic endeavors, focussing on the English influence in German, took place at the end of the nineteenth century. The ‘Allgemeiner Deutscher Sprachverein’ was founded in 1885 and dedicated itself to the removal of foreign words and the strengthening of the national consciousness (see Hilgendorf 2007: 134). During the Third Reich, purism was banned from Germany. As Hitler used foreign words for his propaganda, he forbade every puristic intention.

After the Nazi era the ‘Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache’ was established (see Core 2003: 56). They were not as nationalistic as the ‘Allgemeiner Deutscher Sprachverein’ and just wanted to promote the German language. In the course of the movement of 1968, the English language was accepted and regarded as modern. Therefore, linguistic societies lost their importance. That changed after the fall of the Berlin Wall. National consciousness reappeared and the demand for a pure German language came back. In 1997, today’s most important language society was founded - the ‘Verein Deutsche Sprache’7 (see Kontulainen 2008: 12-13).

Their guiding principles can be summarized with the protection of a multilingual Europe and the promotion of loyalty towards the German language. They do not want to isolate German from foreign influence but want to preserve its language culture because they fear a language decay. The ‘VDS’s’ attitudes towards anglicisms vary. They acknowledge the importance of complementary anglicism but reject superseding ones (see (b)). The ‘VDS’ quarterly publishes a newspaper (‘Sprachnachrichten’), runs the ‘Anglizismen-Index’ (see vds-ev-de (c)) that should help to find German alternatives for anglicisms and sarcastically awards the ‘Sprachpanscher des Jahres’8 (see Wirth 2010: 229, 238, 290). Furthermore, they are in favor of a language protection law (see Pfalzgraf 2008: 460).

To sum up the attitudes of the ‘VDS’ towards anglicisms and towards the German language, it can be said that they regard anglicisms as relatively negative and that they are quite protective towards the German language. The following survey will now try to find out if the society’s attitudes - namely rejection of most anglicism and the fear of a language decay - are in accordance with those of any participant’s age group.

3 Methodology

To collect data about the attitudes towards anglicisms in German, a survey was created and conducted. As the survey’s aim was to elicit the attitudes of Germans, I chose to ask all questions in German. For the purpose of better understanding, the English translation will be given in square brackets. The survey consisted of the following ten questions:

1. Wie alt sind Sie? [How old are you?]
2. Welches Geschlecht haben Sie? [Which gender do you identify with?]
3. Welche Folgen hat die häufige Verwendung von Anglizismen? [Which consequences does the frequent usage of anglicisms have?]
4. Bewerten Sie die Notwendigkeit der folgenden Anglizismen: App, Charts, T-Shirt, Musical, Server. [Rate the necessity of the following anglicisms: App, Charts, T-Shirt, Musical, Server.]
5. Bewerten Sie die Notwendigkeit der folgenden Anglizismen: Briefing, Facility Manger und Quality Management. [Rate the necessity of the following anglicisms: Briefing, Facility Manager und Quality Management.]
6. Bewerten Sie die Notwendigkeit der folgenden Anglizismen: Mailbox, Bachelor, E-Mail und Butler. [Rate the necessity of the following anglicism: Mailbox, Bachelor, E-Mail and Butler.]
7. Empfinden Sie Anglizismen im Deutschen als störend? [Do you regard anglicisms in German as annoying?]
8. Worin liegen Ihrer Meinung nach die Vorteile der Nutzung von Anglizismen im Deutschen? [What do you think are the advantages of the usage of anglicisms in German?]
9. Worin liegen Ihrer Meinung nach die Nachteile der Nutzung von Anglizismen im Deutschen? [What do you think are the disadvantages of the usage of anglicisms in German?]
10. Würden Sie ein Sprachschutzgesetz befürworten, welches die Nutzung von Anglizismen beschränkt? [Would you support a language protection law, which would restrict the usage of anglicisms?] (see Appendix A)

These questions can be divided into different categories. Question 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 10 are single selection questions. Question 3 is a multiple choice question and question 8 and 9 are open text questions. During the creation of question 3, an already existing survey was consulted its different choices were copied to compare their results with those from this survey (see 2008).


1 Also called the ‘British Raj’, was the British rule over the Indian Empire from 1765-1947

2 English as a Foreign Language

3 The term ‘borrowing’ must be used with caution because ‘borrow’ always implies that something is given back. In the case of lexical borrowing, that is mostly not the case. In this case, it used to refer to the implementation of English words into the German lexicon.

4 About 3% of all anglicisms are classed as complementary ones (see (a)).

5 About 18% of all anglicisms are classed as differentiating ones (see (a)).

6 About 79% of all anglicisms are classed as superseding ones (see (a)).

7 From now on, the abbreviation ‘VDS’ will be used

8 According to the ‚VDS’‚ a ‘Sprachpanscher’ is someone whose German consists of many unnecessary and unreflected anglicisms.

Excerpt out of 26 pages


The attitudes towards anglicisms in German. A survey analysis focussing on age-related differences
University of Bremen
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
Anglicisms, Attitudes, German, Survey, Analysis
Quote paper
Nico Röhrs (Author), 2020, The attitudes towards anglicisms in German. A survey analysis focussing on age-related differences, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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