A Corpus-Driven Study of Loanwords: Synchronic and Diachronic Change of English-Derived Words in Contemporary Japanese

Mayuko Inagawa (2010). A Corpus-Driven Study of Loanwords: Synchronic and Diachronic Change of English-Derived Words in Contemporary Japanese PhD Thesis, School of Languages and Comparative Cultural Studies, The University of Queensland.

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Author Mayuko Inagawa
Thesis Title A Corpus-Driven Study of Loanwords: Synchronic and Diachronic Change of English-Derived Words in Contemporary Japanese
School, Centre or Institute School of Languages and Comparative Cultural Studies
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2010-11
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Dr Noriko Iwashita
Professor Nanette Gottlieb
Total pages 218
Total colour pages 24
Total black and white pages 194
Subjects 20 Language, Communication and Culture
Abstract/Summary This thesis explores the linguistic evolution of certain loanwords, more specifically, English-derived words in the contemporary Japanese language over place and time via a corpus-driven approach, with special reference to word frequency and usage. The purpose is twofold: to identify how, and to what extent the application and implication of English-derived words used in the Japanese language have diverged from their counterparts in English (i.e., over space); and to examine how and to what extent the word frequency and the usage of English-derived words used in the Japanese language have changed over a fifteen-year period between 1991 and 2006 (i.e., over time). These goals are achieved by an analysis of corpora consisting of Mainichi newspaper articles published in 1991 and 2006. The main argument is that both place and time are significant factors in language change dynamics, and such change involves intra- and extra-linguistic factors. Japanese has a long history of borrowing words from other languages, and a significant number of loanwords exist in the Japanese lexicon. Loanwords are called gairaigo in Japanese, which literally means “words that come from outside”. Among these loanwords from foreign languages, English is by far the most prominent source for gairaigo, and words of English origin have become an indispensable part of Japanese. Gairaigo have been a fascinating topic in scholarly work, and a great deal of research on loanwords has been carried out from diverse points of view. Some of these look at the process of nativisation that the loanword undergoes whilst being adopted into Japanese, others look at the functions of gairaigo, the social and cultural issues concerning gairaigo, people’s attitude towards loanwords, and impacts of gairaigo upon English/Japanese language learning, and so on. Despite the existence of substantial studies on loanwords in the Japanese language, empirical research into language change of certain English-derived words, with special focus on word usage or meaning over place and time, is scarce. First, from the point of view of language change over place, similarities and differences in word usage between English-derived words in contemporary Japanese and their parent words in English have yet to be fully examined. It is known that there is a gap in word usage between the two languages. However, this observation tends to be overwhelmingly based on intuition, mapped by one’s linguistic knowledge of the two languages (i.e., English and Japanese) and/or descriptions based on introspections. It has hardly ever been derived directly from texts and presented in a systematic and informed way. In addition, contrary to the availability of extensive research demonstrating language change in the proportion of gairaigo in the Japanese language over time, there has been little research conducted that focuses on the language change of loanwords in word usage over time. It is evident that the number of gairaigo has grown over the decades, but an inquiry into whether or not, and to what extent the usage or meaning of loanwords in the Japanese language have changed over time has not yet been carried out. Investigating not only change in the number of gairaigo but also in their word usage/application is essential in order to capture a more accurate picture of language change in loanwords in the contemporary Japanese language. Responding to this unexplored field, this study first describes and quantifies the extent of language change in word frequency and usage of loanwords originating from English in the contemporary Japanese language over place and time by employing a corpus-driven approach, which allows both quantitative and qualitative interpretations of language behaviour. Findings show that both place and time are forces lying behind language change of certain English words in Japanese. In terms of place the results demonstrate that it is often the case that loanwords have undergone semantic modification whilst being adopted into Japanese and/or in the course of their use in the language. This modification includes meaning narrowing and broadening. This study further discusses the etymology of such Japanese-specific usage from the viewpoint of the shortening of words, influence of the receipt language (i.e., Japanese), and semantic extension of the words of the donor language (i.e., English). Regarding time, this thesis identifies that time is also a highly significant factor contributing to language change, demonstrating that some English-derived words in Japanese have changed in word frequency and/or meaning over years. The findings confirm that language change occurs in response to social and cultural change in the society. It is argued that such language change can be effected by fashion trends, economic climate, consumption behaviour, and social events, for example.
Keyword language change
synchronic and diachronic studies
Japanese sociolinguistics
corpus study
Additional Notes 23,74, 149, 155, 158, 161, 163, 168, 169, 203, 205-218

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Created: Thu, 14 Apr 2011, 04:02:14 EST by Ms Mayuko Inagawa on behalf of Library - Information Access Service