Universals of structural borrowing

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The chapter is devoted to the questions whether certain categories are more easily borrowed than others, whether there are inherent semanticpragmatic functions that make some categories more borrowable than others, and what this tells us about the motivations behind borrowing. Rather than view borrowing as a transfer of structure from one system into another, I view it as the removal of an invisible demarcation line that separates subsets within the linguistic repertoire (or the speaker's 'languages'). I take the perspective of language processing by speakers in multilingual settings, and argue that there is a functional advantage to compromising this mental demarcation line. Based on recent sampling of languages in contact, I review a set of borrowing hierarchies and identify a number of motivations that prompt speakers to merge the representation of categories across their bilingual repertoire, leading to identical cross-system representation of those categories, or 'structural borrowing'.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLinguistic Universals and Language Variation
PublisherDe Gruyter Mouton
Number of pages31
ISBN (Electronic)9783110238068
ISBN (Print)9783110238051
StatePublished - 30 Jun 2011
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2011 Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin/New York.


  • Borrowing
  • Contact
  • Contrast
  • Discourse
  • Gaps
  • Hierarchies
  • Interaction
  • Language processing
  • Prestige
  • Presupposition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


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