II Международный конкурс научно-исследовательских и творческих работ учащихся
Старт в науке


Ильяшенко Р.В. 1
Григорян А.В. 1
Автор работы награжден дипломом победителя III степени
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1. Introduction

The subject of the research is borrowings and false friends between Russian and English. The reasons for taking up this topic are the following: firstly, the personal interest of the author to this subject, little knowledge of its peculiarities by the author and her schoolmates. Secondly, to increase the knowledge. The third reason is the great desire to find out something very interesting and little known about borrowings and false friends between Russian and English.

So, the goals of the research are

  • to learn what is known about borrowings;

  • to find out the most interesting and little known information about loanwords in English and Russian;

  • to attract more attention of the schoolmates to the topic of borrowings and false friend in languages;

Then, the tasks of the research are

  • to fine borrowings and false friends in Russian and English;

  • to analyze the results of the search;

  • to study the facts about borrowings and false friends turning to different sources of information: students’ books, encyclopedias, authentic travel articles, the Internet resources;

The methods of the research are quizzes, studying the sources of information, comparison and analysis.

2. Borrowings

Loanwords are words adopted by the speakers of one language from a different language (the source language). A loanword can also be called a borrowing. The abstract noun borrowing refers to the process of speakers adopting words from a source language into their native language. "Loan" and "borrowing" are of course metaphors, because there is no literal lending process. There is no transfer from one language to another, and no "returning" words to the source language. The words simply come to be used by a speech community that speaks a different language from the one these words originated in.

The actual process of borrowing is complex and involves many usage events. Generally, some speakers of the borrowing language know the source language too, or at least enough of it to utilize the relevant word. They adopt the new word when speaking the borrowing language, because it most exactly fits the idea they are trying to express. If they are bilingual in the source language, which is often the case, they might pronounce the words the same or similar to the way they are pronounced in the source language.

There are the following groups: phonetic borrowings, translation loans, semantic borrowings, and morphemic borrowings.

Phonetic borrowings are most characteristic in all languages; they are called loan words proper. Words are borrowed with their spelling, pronunciation and meaning. Then they undergo assimilation, each sound in the borrowed word is substituted by the corresponding sound of the borrowing language. In some cases the spelling is changed. The structure of the word can also be changed. The position of the stress is very often influenced by the phonetic system of the borrowing language. The paradigm of the word, and sometimes the meaning of the borrowed word are also changed. Such words as: labour, travel, table, chair, people are phonetic borrowings from French; apparatchik, nomenklatura, sputnik are phonetic borrowings from Russian; bank, soprano, duet are phonetic borrowings from Italian etc.

Translation loans are word-for-word (or morpheme-for-morpheme) translations of some foreign words or expressions. In such cases the notion is borrowed from a foreign language but it is expressed by native lexical units, «to take the bull by the horns» (Latin), «fair sex» (French), «living space» (German) etc. Some translation loans appeared in English from Latin already in the Old English period, e.g. Sunday (solis dies). There are translation loans from the languages of Indians, such as: «pipe of peace», «pale-faced», from German «masterpiece», «homesickness», «superman».

Semantic borrowings are such units when a new meaning of the unit existing in the language is borrowed. It can happen when we have two relative languages which have common words with different meanings, e.g. there are semantic borrowings between Scandinavian and English, such as the meaning «to live» for the word «to dwell’ which in Old English had the meaning «to wander». Or else the meaning «дар», «подарок» for the word «gift» which in Old English had the meaning «выкуп за жену».

Semantic borrowing can appear when an English word was borrowed into some other language, developed there a new meaning and this new meaning was borrowed back into English, e.g. «brigade» was borrowed into Russian and formed the meaning «a working collective» , «бригада». This meaning was borrowed back into English as a Russian borrowing. The same is true of the English word «pioneer».

Morphemic borrowings are borrowings of affixes which occur in the language when many words with identical affixes are borrowed from one language into another, so that the morphemic structure of borrowed words becomes familiar to the people speaking the borrowing language, e.g. we can find a lot of Romanic affixes in the English word-building system, that is why there are a lot of words - hybrids in English where different morphemes have different origin, e.g. «goddess», «beautiful» etc.

2.1 Contact between Russian and other languages

The Russian language, like most others, has never existed entirely in isolation, and it is a great relief to learners of Russian to discover, that throughout the centauries a great number of borrowings penetrated into the language. Once they have learnt to decipher the Cyrillic alphabet, a large number of words that are familiar from their own language — Russian pecтopaн, for example, transliterates into restoran, and it is only a small leap of faith for English or French learners of Russian, for example, from there to the reassuringly familiar restaurant.

Over the centuries, English and Russian have borrowed a multitude of words from different languages; thus enriching their vocabularies. Until the late fifteenth century, the main linguistic influences on Russian had been the Scandinavian, Greek, Polish and Latin languages. Then, Russia started to look to Western Europe for diplomatic and cultural ties. Ivan IV (1533-1584) established close ties with Venice and imported merchants from Germany, England and Scotland. Peter the Great (1682-1725) continued to court relations with experts in architecture, shipbuilding, and military engineering from Germany, Holland, England and France, bringing many to live in Russia and serve in his court. These experts brought with them their own languages, from which new words were adopted into Russian — armada,akustika (acoustics), admiral. Catherine the Great (1762-1796) favoured the French, and so French became the language of the court and the educated classes, with French vocabulary in the areas of fashion, etiquette, and philosophy, among others, entering the Russian language at a remarkable rate — sigareta, beret, kolledzh (college), realizm,radikalizm.

In the early twentieth century, the vocabulary of revolution was imported from French and German and entered the everyday language of ordinary Russians; words likemarksizm (Marxism), revolutsiya (revolution), demonstratsiya (demonstration),natsionalizm (nationalism) and other words from Latin and Greek which had entered the languages of Western Europe previously.

2.2 English words in Russian

After the Russian revolution in 1917, English became the most common source of borrowings into Russian. Throughout the twentieth century, the borrowing trend continued with new words borrowed into Russian whenever there was a need to fill a gap in the lexicon. Thus, Russian adopted metro from French at the time of the building of the Moscow underground in the early 1930s. Borrowings from English in this period included dzhaz (jazz), pulover, biznes, regbi (rugby), to name just a few.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 brought a new and more powerful flood of English words into the Russian language, this time primarily from American English and most notably in the areas of computing, trade and business. Now it is not unusual to hear words like biznes-vuman (businesswoman), menadzher (manager), nou-khou (know-how),lep-top (laptop), gamburger (hamburger — there is no 'h' sound in Russian, so the soft 'g' is used to approximate it), and softver (software). Of course, the adoption of an English word was not always absolutely necessary but rather followed the dictates of fashion or expediency — my Russian-English dictionary, published in 1984 (OUP, 1984), says that the Russian word for 'software' is programmnoye obespecheniye, but it hardly seems surprising that this is rarely, if ever, used these days, being abandoned in favour of the more simple softver.

2.3 Russian words in English

English, of course, is not without words borrowed from Russian. Russian has given us culturally-specific words such as vodka, cosmonaut, sputnik, borscht, balalaika, soviet,tsar. It also, more surprisingly, gave us bistro, from the Russian word for 'fast'.

2.4 Control over borrowing

As has happened in many other countries around the globe, concern has been growing in Russia to prevent borrowings from taking over from perfectly good home-grown words. In February 2003, the Russian parliament passed a law forbidding the use of foreign words where suitable Russian ones already exist. Clearly, nobody is suggesting finding Russian words for borrowings like futbol (football), that have been around since the early twentieth century, but it is easy to understand the impulse to stem the tide of new words flooding into Russian today. But a look at the history of language contact between Russia and the countries of Western Europe shows that borrowing is not a new phenomenon, but has occurred in significant spurts throughout the centuries, and that there is every reason to be optimistic that Russian will remain the beautiful, vibrant, evolving language it has always been.

3. False friends between Russian and English

Over the centuries, English and Russian have borrowed a multitude of words from different languages; thus expanding and enriching their respective vocabularies. However, although certain words may look and sound similar in the two languages, they do not always have the same meanings in modern usage. This can create confusion and mistakes when translating terms that share the same origins but have evolved differently over time.

Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines the word “false friend” as a word in a foreign language that looks similar to a word in your own language, but has a different meaning. For instance, in Russian, «familiya» means last name, not family, and «magazine» means store, not magazine. Sometimes, the differences are more subtle. For example, student means university student, not high school or elementary school student.

As well as false friends, there are also “true friends” – words that appear the same and have the same or very close meanings, e.g. sport/спорт, hotel/отель, radio/радио. However, just because words look or sound similar does not mean we should automatically assume they have the same meanings in our two languages.The English learner of Russian may be daunted by the new alphabet, but has on their side a lot of similar words that exist in the two languages: телефон(telefon) means 'telephone'; такси (taksi) means 'taxi'; сестра (sestra) means 'sister', and since both Russian and English took a large number of their technical words from Greek, дипрессия (dispepsiya), география (geografiya), астрономия (astronomiya) all mean exactly what one might expect. But the English learner of Russian and the Russian learner of English must still exercise the same caution as any learner of a foreign language, as dangers may be lurking anywhere. o(bog) means, not 'bog', but God.

Below is a list of some of the most common false friends in English and Russian:

Russian word

English false friend

recommended translation


English Word

Correct Translation

Russian Mistake



Прерывать, прекращать

Аборт (abortion)




Аккорд (chord)




Аккуратный (tidy, smart)



Фактический, реальный

Актуальный (urgent, topical)



Переулок, узкая улица

Аллея (avenue, lane)




Ангина (tonsillitis)



Воздушный шарик

Баллон (cylinder, container)



Муз. Группа, лента

Банда (gang, mob)




Бог (God)



Отличный, блестящий

Бриллиант (diamond)




Кабинет (study, office)




Камера (cell, chamber)



Картонная упаковка

Картон (cardboard)




Шеф (boss, manager)




Клей (glue)



Общий зал, перекресток

Конкурс (competition)




Дата (date)




Декада (10 days)




Фабрика (factory, plant)




Фамилия (surname)




Фарт (luck)




Гимназия (grammar school)




Инсульт (stroke)



Ум, интеллект

Интеллигенция (intelligentsia)



Превращать в жидкость

Ликвидировать (eliminate)




Лист (leaf, sheet, piece)



Сумасшедший, безумец

Лунатик (sleepwalker)




Магазин (shop)



Апельсиновый джем

Мармелад (fruit jellies)



Метка, пятно

Марка (stamp)



Размножение, умножение

Мультипликация (animation)




Проспект (avenue)




Презерватив (condom)



Делать вид, притворяться

Претендовать (try to get)



Гарантия, обязательство

Облигация (bond)



Понимать, осознавать

Реализовать (implement)



Кулинарный рецепт

Рецепт (prescription)




Резина (rubber)




Стул (chair)



Сочувствие, сострадание

Симпатия (a liking for)




Талон (coupon)



Капкан, ловушка

Трап (gangway, ladder)



Отряд, pl. войска

Труп (corpse)




Вельвет (corduroy)




Виртуозный (masterly)

The problem with many of these words is that Russian borrowed them from the same source as English borrowed them from, but Russian kept closer to the original meaning. Thus, chef was borrowed from French into English with the more specific meaning of 'chief cook', while it was borrowed into Russian as шеф (chef) with the meaning of 'leader', 'chief', or 'boss', which was, and still is, the original meaning in French. Thus, chef is a false friend between both English and French and English and Russian, but a 'true friend' between French and Russian. The same is true of фабрик (fabrik), which means 'factory', as it does in the original French. Эвентуальный (eventual), meaning 'possible', and актуальный (actual), meaning 'topical', will be familiar to anyone who has studied Czech, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Danish and many other European languages. These two slippery customers were discussed in detail in the article on Language Interference in the 7thissue of MED Magazine (May 2003).

Sometimes, a word entered both English and Russian from a third language with the same meaning intact, but thereafter developed a different meaning in one or both, and so, what looks like a reassuringly familiar word becomes a potential source of confusion or embarrassment. This is what happened to the first word in the list above. The English word angina originally came from Greek agkhon, meaning 'strangling'. This was assimilated into Latin angere, from which we also got anger and anguish. In mid-16th century English angina referred to a medical condition involving suffocating pain, in particular quinsy, a severe throat swelling, usually occurring as a complication of tonsillitis. This meaning is now very rare in English. In the mid-18th century, anginabegan to be used in English as a shortening for angina pectoris, severe chest pain caused by inadequate blood supply to the heart. This is what it refers to today. Russian, however, has retained the original, 16th-century, meaning of angina — quinsy, or severe tonsillitis. This false friend landed one English journalist in a tight spot in 1996, just before the Russian presidential elections. On being told that Boris Yeltsin was unavailable because he was suffering from ангина (angina), the unfortunate journalist reported that the presidential candidate had a heart condition, when all he had (at that time) was tonsillitis.

Words can be very slippery customers. All the more so when they start to travel around the globe, mixing in with native words and evolving, as they will, and always have. Cognates — words which have come from the same source, however long ago — are perhaps the most slippery of them all. But at least they keep us on our toes.

4. Conclusion

We can come to conclusion that throughout the centauries a great number of borrowings penetrated into the languages and enriched each other. The English and the Russian languages are not the exceptions. After the Russian revolution in 1917, English became the most common source of borrowings into Russian. Throughout the twentieth century, the borrowing trend continued with new words borrowed into Russian whenever there was a need to fill a gap in the vocabulary.

It will be interesting to see how borrowing continues between the two languages, especially given the speed of modern communication and change. Will Russian begin to be inundated with more and more English words and will there be more Russian words that seep into English? Keeping track of these changes will be a challenge for linguists, lexicographers, language learners and language teachers alike.

5. References

1. Cambridge International Dictionary of English, Ed. P. Procter (CUP, 1995)2. John Ayto, Bloomsbury Dictionary of Word Origins (Bloomsbury, 1990) 3. For a list of words borrowed by English from many different languages, see:www.wordorigins.org4. For a list of false cognates discussed by Steve Shabad at the 42nd annual conference of the American Translators' Association, 2001, see: www.ata-divisions.org/SLD/PDF/False-Cognates.pdf4. For a fascinating in-depth history of Russian language contacts, by Eva Lopatkin Easton, see: http://eleaston.com/rel/rel2.html

5. http://www.english.language.ru/curious/curious8.html

6. http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~kemmer/Words04/structure/borrowed.html

7. http://www.interpress.kz/booksell/mcdivision/ffbre

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