On semantic calquing and ‘secondary borrowing’ in Russian at the turn of the 21st century

2015. №1, 87-101

Andrei A. Gorbov
St. Petersburg State University, St. Petersburg, 199034, Russia; verde2002@yandex.ru


The paper discusses the mechanism of loan translation as one of the major instruments of foreign language contact influence on Russian, which has seen a sharp rise at the turn of the 21st century. Particular attention is paid to semantic calquing — a type of loan translation that is more difficult to reveal due to the absence of formal similarities in source and target language structures. Case studies show that direct meaning translation correspondence between a word in the source language and a word in the replica language is a basic criterion to decide whether or not a particular transferred meaning is a case of semantic calquing (polysemy copying). In connection with the discussion of semantic calquing, the paper criticizes the concept of “secondary borrowing”, which is sometimes claimed to be a language contact mechanism distinct from both direct lexical borrowing and loan translation (calquing). The analysis shows that this concept includes essentially different phenomena — instances of polysemy copying (semantic calquing) as well as cases of direct borrowing of lexemes homonymous with previously borrowed loanwords. The paper thus proves that direct borrowing and calquing are the only two language contact mechanisms operating on the lexical level, while the term “secondary borrowing” can only refer to (sometimes random) formal coincidence between a new and an existing loanword.