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Adapting English into Chinese

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 March 2004

Associate Professor of English at the University of Jiangsu, China


WHY IS English a global language? Although the reasons are manifold – historical, geographical, economic, political, social, cultural – the key reason, it seems to me, is linguistic: its morphology is simple, many of its words are short and pithy, and among the key world languages it has the largest vocabulary. These features have helped it become the most widely used language in the world: a situation that makes Uncle French and Grandpa German envious. English has been open-minded since childhood. In the long process of exchange, English words lost most of their inflections and words of different origins were mixed together (Burchfield 1984:13). Unlike traditional German and French, English has been open to foreign penetration and never drives new words out. It is this openness that continually enriches the language. Chinese also likes to borrow from other languages. Old Chinese borrowed 35,000 words from Buddhism, and Modern Chinese has absorbed countless words from Western civilizations. This paper inquires into the mutual borrowing between English and Chinese, summarizes the techniques of borrowing words from English into Chinese, and asserts that semantic transliteration is the best approach to adopting foreign words.

Original Article
© 2004 Cambridge University Press

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