The semantics of English Borrowings in Arabic Media Language: The case of Arab Gulf States Newspapers

Anwar A. H. Al-Athwary


The present paper investigates the semantics of English loanwords in Arabic media language (AML). The loanword data are collected from a number of Arab Gulf states newspapers (AGSNs). They  are analyzed semantically from the points of view of semantic change, semantic domains, and the phenomenon of synonymy resulting from lexical borrowing. The semantic analysis has revealed that AML borrowings from English occur in fifteen distinctive semantic domains. Domains that are related to terms of technical and scientific nature are found ranking much higher (9% - 18%) than those domains containing nontechnical elements (1% - 8%) with the computer and technology category (18%) is the most dominant domain. Almost all common mechanisms of semantic change (extension, restriction, amelioration, pejoration, and metaphorical extension) are found at work in the context of AML borrowings. The tendency of semantic change in the overwhelming majority of AML borrowings is towards restriction.  Factors like need, semantic similarity, and factors of social and psychological considerations (e.g. prestige, taboo) seem to be the potent factors at interplay in semantic change. The first two, i.e. need and semantic similarity, are the most common reasons in most types of semantic change. The problem of synonymy lies in those loanwords that have “Arabic equivalents” in the language. The study claims that this phenomenon could be attributed to the two simultaneous processes of lexical borrowing and?ištiqa:q (the modern efforts of deriving equivalent neologisms).



Loanwords, semantic change, semantic domains, synonymy, Arabic media language

Full Text:



Abdul Razak, Z. (2011). Modern media Arabic: A study of word frequency in world affairs and sports sections in Arabic newspapers. An unpublished PhD thesis, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK.

Al abed, F. & Smadi, O. (1996). “Spread of English and Westernization in Saudi Arabia”. World Englishes, 15(3), 307-317.

Al-Qinai, J. (2000). Morphophonemics of loanwords in Arabic. Studies in the Linguistic Sciences, 30(2), 1-25.

Al-Saidat, E. (2011). English Loanwords in Jordanian Arabic: Gender and number Assignment. Language Forum, 37 (1), 59- 72

Babrakzai, F. (2002). Is English a lingua franca in the Gulf? TESOL Arabia Perspectives, 10. p 1.

Bader, Y. (1990). Semantic Change in Arabic Loanwords from English and French. Abhath Al-Yarmouk Journal, 8 (2), 33-48.

Boyle, R. (2011). Patterns of change in English as a lingua franca in the UAE. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 21(2), 143- 161.

Boyle, R. (2012). Language contact in the United Arab Emirates. World Englishes, 31(3), 312- 330.

Heath, J. (1989). From Code-switching to Borrowing: Foreign and Diglossic Mixing in Moroccan Arabic. Kegan Paul: London.

Hope, T. (1963). Loan-words as Cultural and Lexical symbols. Archivum Linguisticum, 14, 111-121.

Jarrah, A. (2013). English Loan Words spoken by Madinah Hijazi Arabic Speakers. AWEJ Special issue on Translation, 2, 67-85.

Lehner, A. (1974). Semantic Fields and Lexical Structure. North-Holland Publishing Company: Amsterdam

Lehner, A. (1985). The influence of semantic fields on semantic change. In Jacek Fisiak (ed.), Historical Semantics, Historical Word Formation, 283- 296.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, (2015). Pearson Education Limited, sixth edition.

Mahmoud, A. (2013). A linguistic perspective of the effect of English on MSA: Manifestations and ramifications. Journal of King Saud University – Languages and Translation, 25, 35-43.

McArthur, T. (1992). The Oxford Companion to the English Language. Oxford University Press: Oxford & New york.

Newman, D. (2002). The European Influence on Arabic during the Nahda Lexical Borrowing from European Languages (ta'rib) in 19th-Century Literature', Arabic Language and Literature 5, pp. 1-32.

Palmer, F. (1996). Semantics. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

Poplack, S., Sankoff, D. & Miller, C. (1988). The Social Correlates and Linguistic Processes of Lexical Borrowing and Assimilation. Linguistic, 26, 47-104.

Pyles, T. (1964). The Origins and Development of the English Language. Harcourt, Brace and World, INC.: New York.

Sankoff, G. (2001). Linguistic Outcomes of Language Contact. 2001. In Peter Trudgill, J. Chambers & N. Schilling-Estes, eds., Handbook of Sociolinguistics. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 638-668.

Sharma, D. (1980). A Study of Loan Words in Central Pahāri. R.K. Malhotra, Punjab University: Chandigarh.

Stetkevych, J. (1970). The Modern Arabic Literary Language: Lexical and Stylistic Developments. The University of Chicago Press: Chicago and London.

Thornburg, L. (1980). Arabic Loan Phonology: The Assimilation of English Lexical Items. Linguistics, 18,523-542

Ullmann, S. (1983). Semantics: An Introduction to the Science of Meaning. Billing and Sons Ltd.: Worcester.

Versteegh, K. (2009). Loan Verbs in Arabic and the Do-Construction. In T. Muraoka and C.H.M. Versteegh (eds.), Studies in Semitic Languages and Linguistics, 53, 187- 200.

Versteegh, K. (2010). Contact and the development of Arabic. In Raymond Hickey (ed.), The Handbook of Language Contact, Wiley-Blackwell.

Wafi, A. (1945). fiqhu l-luġah [Philology]. Dar al-Nahdhah: Cairo.

Weber, A. (2011). Politics of English in the Arabian Gulf. From proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Foreign Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics, Sarajevo, May 5-7, 60- 66.

Witalisz, A. (2011). Linguistic Globalization as a Reflection of Cultural Changes. From proceedings of the 19th Annual Conference of the Global Awareness Society International, Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland, 1- 12 .



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2012-2022 (CC-BY) Australian International Academic Centre PTY.LTD

International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the journal emails into your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders.