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Loan translations versus direct loans: The impact of English on European football lexis

Journal article
Authors Gunnar Bergh
Sölve Ohlander
Published in Nordic Journal of Linguistics
Volume 40
Issue 1
Pages 5-35
ISSN 0332-5865
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Education and Special Education
Department of Languages and Literatures
Pages 5-35
Language en
Keywords direct loans, English football vocabulary, European languages, language policy, loan translations, Linguistics
Subject categories Linguistics, Specific Languages


Football language may be regarded as the world's most widespread special language, where English has played a key role. The focus of the present study is the influence of English football vocabulary in the form of loan translations, contrasted with direct loans, as manifested in 16 European languages from different language families (Germanic, Romance, Slavic, etc.). Drawing on a set of 25 English football words (match, corner, dribble, offside, etc.), the investigation shows that there is a great deal of variation between the languages studied. For example, Icelandic shows the largest number of loan translations, while direct loans are most numerous in Norwegian; overall, combining direct loans and loan translations, Finnish displays the lowest number of English loans. The tendencies noted are discussed, offering some tentative explanations of the results, where both linguistic and sociolinguistic factors, such as language similarity and attitudes to borrowing, are considered.

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