Prestige as explanatory factor for borrowability: a Cognitive Contact Linguistic approach.
Why do the Dutch refer to their best friend as their 'soulmate' instead of their 'zielsvriend'? Why do the French use 'pipole' to talk about 'celebrities'? More generally, why do people borrow words from other languages? The two most popular answers linguists have provided are lexical gaps and prestige. It is not hard to understand the importance of lexical gaps: new objects or concepts need new names, and borrowing words is a convenient way to add new names to a language. This strategy is especially popular when the new object is introduced by a specific country or socio-cultural field of influence (e.g. English words for IT products). But what about prestige? Although the factor is often mentioned in unison with lexical gaps, hardly any attempts have been made to empirically assess just how important it is for borrowing. One reason for this lack of research is the methodological complexity of measuring something as multi-faceted and psychologically motivated as the prestige of a language. This project tries to tackle these difficulties by conducting three case studies, each using different methods to capture different facets of prestige. Respectively, the studies focus on social variation in lexical choice between borrowed forms and native alternatives (e.g. 'soulmate' vs. 'zielsvriend'); on elementary school children’s subconscious attitudes towards English words; and on the spread of Valley Speech patterns ('I was like: oh my God') amongst young female adolescents.