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Ways of the World’s Words

Language Contact in the Age of Globalization


Zsuzsa Hoffmann

This book investigates lexical borrowing processes of our era in a sociolinguistic context. Innovatively, it seeks to examine language contact in a comprehensive way, taking into account socio- and psycholinguistic aspects as well as implications for language politics.
As the sociolinguistic focus is primary, the volume also discusses how technology influences languages and to what extent it creates new conditions for language contact. As a result, it is proposed that the term language contact needs to be reevaluated, since the context of globalization has changed its very essence.
As the increase in the importance of English has been the most significant global geolinguistic event in the past fifty years, the role of English as an international lingua franca in modern borrowing is analyzed in detail. Two case studies are also given, one on the role of English in the EU and another on the linguistic situation of multilingual Switzerland. The characteristic features of lexical borrowing are illustrated in a complex way on linguistic material of a total of over 5000 recent loans in English, Spanish, German and Hungarian.


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2. English as a global language 15


15 2. English as a global language 2.1. General questions and issues It is a commonplace not only in linguistics, but also in everyday think- ing that English is the world’s leading language in our days. Leitner (1992: 179) attributes a special status to it even among pluricentric languages, for it is the major means of communication between people of different native tongues in the world. Regarding the number of its speakers, however, it is not the largest language of the world, not even of the European Union. Nevertheless, its present central role in inter- national communication cannot be denied, either in a global sense, or in just Europe. Its great significance is also supported by the fact that it has a larger number of non-native speakers in the world than native speakers (Trudgill 2001: 27). Relevant numbers of speakers found in different sources strongly differ, which is partly due to the fact that defining the very concept of first or native language is in itself an in- triguing question (cf. Siguan 2001: 126). Whereas Crystal (2004: 9) estimates that around 400 million people in the world speak English as a first language, Trudgill (2001: 27) approximates this number only to 300 million. Cseresnyési (2004: 132), on the other hand, relies on the 2000 figures of the CIA Factbook and claims that 340 million people in the world speak English as their mother tongue. It is an even more challenging task to gauge the number of those speaking English...

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