Loanword and borrowing in sign language

It's not unusual that a spoken language has a number of words and phrases borrowed from another spoken language. English has quite a large number of loan words from other languages from Latin and Greek to French and German.

Arabic: algebra
French: music
German: kindergarten, sauerkraut
Greek: comedy, drama
Spanish: cigar, taco, tortilla.

The names of places and locations are a common loan from one language to another, whether it be spoken or signed.

Borrowing and calquing are two of many word formation processes in spoken and signed languages.

Borrowing in sign language

Borrowing is the word formation process in which a word from one language is borrowed directly into another language. The following common English words are borrowed from foreign languages, for example:

pizza from Italian, haiku from Japanese, algebra from Arabic, kindergarten from German.

The following ASL words are borrowed from foreign languages, for example:

koala from Auslan, Japan from Japan, china from China, and so no.

Borrowing signs for some countries (e.g. thailand, sweden, etc.) from other signed languages is one of the most common borrowing processes. The other most common borrowing from English into ASL are the fingerspelled loans.

The glosses of fingerspelled loans usually start with the hash (#) which represents a fingerspelled loan. It's not the same as fingerspelling, but rather a borrowed word from English is stylized into a fingerspelled loan as an ASL sign.

The following ASL fingerspelled loans are some examples:

#style, #dog, #no.

Loanword and calque

What is a calque or loan translation? How is a calque different from a loanword?

A loanword is a foreign word or phrase borrowed from another language and is maintained in its original form in the target language. English has a plenty of them, such as crepe from French, kindergarten from German, etc. ASL has some "lexicalized loans" from written English, such as #STYLE, #NO, etc.

Unlike a loanword, a calque is a word or phrase borrowed from another language and translated literally word-for-word into the language. In other words, a loanword isn't translated into the target language. These English phrases are some examples that some bilingual Deaf signers use a literal translation from English into ASL signs, "Got it?", "cannot stand it", etc.

The word "loanword" is a calque from German. It's a literal translation of the German word "Lehnwort", whereas the term "calque" is a loanword from French. The French verb "calquer" means "to copy, to trace". Mind-knotting?

When to use calques and when not to? Avoid using them when they sound unnatural or when they betray the target language. Use ASL phrases where they exist. For example, use "UNDERSTAND?" instead of "got it?"

Another thing, even tough many Deaf bilinguals understand calques, it's not unusual that they may use some literal translations (transliteration rather than calques) for interpreters to convey how they want interpreters to use the terms instead of other possible interpreted phrases or words to avoid misunderstandings or undesirable choices of words.

Related posts

Also see compounding and blending in sign language.

Fingerspelled loans are another loanwords in sign language.

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