Nigel J. Ross

Italian Clippings

Many languages nowadays use vast numbers of words borrowed from English, often to the dismay of purists. The borrowings are frequently modified in the new language, pronunciation and spelling being common aspects affected. A rather special way that Italian (and other Romance languages) modifies borrowed English terms is to 'clip' them, in other words to use only the first part (usually of a two-word expression). 'Un water' is therefore 'a water-closet', and 'una top' is 'a top model'. This paper not only provides many examples - principally, but not only, from Italian - but also looks at the linguistic reasons for such clipped forms. Since this process has been going on for centuries, some fascinating insights into English vocabulary of the past can emerge, though there are also many recently clipped terms to be noted. Lastly, a look at one or two clipped Italian terms lent to English proves that the same thing can even happen in reverse.

published in World Englishes (Vol. 18/3, March 1999), Blackwell, Oxford, UK.

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webpage of article: Blackwell Publishers: Italian Clippings: abstract




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