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Acceptability and diffusion of luxury Anglicisms in present-day Romanian

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In the context of the current heated debate surrounding the pervasive influence of the English language and Anglo-American culture on other languages, as well as the widespread purist attitude towards some contact-induced language change phenomena, both abroad and in Romania, our article discusses the situation of English lexical borrowings in present-day Romanian, focusing on the perception and processing of the so-called luxury Anglicisms (Sections¬†2 and 3) by young Romanian native speakers, in an attempt to see whether such an analysis can help clarify their acceptability and diffusion across our target population. We propose an alternative cognitive, psycholinguistic approach to the study of contact-induced lexical borrowings, aiming to show that there is no difference in the young Romanian native speakers’ processing of sentences containing luxury Anglicisms and their established Romanian counterparts. Such findings may support our claim that the acceptability and diffusion of such Anglicisms are pervasive across our target population, even if the official position generally condemns such uses, considering them gratuitous and a burden in communication, even making it unintelligible sometimes.

Our analysis starts from the observation that most (but not all) Romanian academics, whether linguists or not, tend to embrace a purist attitude, while on the other hand young Romanians accept such Anglicisms and tend to use them extensively. In fact, such uses are not limited to young people, who have been the subjects of our research, but are the ‘norm’ in daily conversations and elsewhere across the general population (Stoichioiu Ichim 2006). Thus, there seems to be a gap between the actual acceptability and diffusion of luxury Anglicisms among Romanians and the ‘official’ recommendations. Based on the results of a sensicality task, meant to show how 188 Romanians, aged 18–22, process and perceive sentences with or without luxury Anglicisms (see Section¬†6), we will try to show that luxury Anglicisms are accepted and, by recurrent use, diffused among the Romanian community. For a more accurate picture of their diffusion, the findings will be further correlated with data from CoRoLa, the only official corpus of present-day Romanian (beginning 1989) made available under the auspices of the Romanian Academy, as well as a corpus currently in the making, and the Internet (see Section¬†7).

Besides showing that luxury Anglicisms cannot really be blamed for burdening or impairing processing, and thus communication, and explaining why such uses should not be censured or disapproved, we hope that our study of acceptability and diffusion will demonstrate that we are dealing with a complex, multi-layered phenomenon that can be better understood by going beyond a diachronic and synchronic analysis of particular words and a frequency count, and should incorporate more experimental data.

Last but not least, we suggest that, on the practical side, such experimental studies as the one described here could be used as an additional criterion for the lexicographic inclusion of lexical borrowings.

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Keywords: acceptability; diffusion; linguistic purism; luxury lexical Anglicisms; present-day Romanian; psycholinguistic experiment

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 31, 2018

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