10 ways speakers of World English are changing the language
When people think of world varieties of English and their contribution to the language, they tend to think in terms of unusual loanwords that conjure visions of exotic, faraway lands. Indeed, in countries such as India, Hong Kong, and the Philippines, where English is primarily used as a second or even third language alongside local vernaculars, borrowing remains the biggest source of new words.
However, lexical innovation in World Englishes is far from being limited to direct borrowing. The following are some ways in which speakers of emerging varieties of English all over the world shape the vocabulary of the language, illustrated by entries from the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).
1. By adding affixes
Formed by the addition of the –able suffix to the noun president, this word is used in Philippine English to denote a person who is a likely or confirmed candidate for president.
2. By combining English words to create compounds
This combination of the English words batch and mate is first attested in a 1918 article from a Jamaican newspaper, but it is now more commonly used in Philippine and Indian English. The word refers to a classmate or a member of the same graduation class as another.
3. By combining two words from different languages to create hybrid compounds
balikbayan box, noun
In Philippine English, a balikbayan is a term borrowed from Tagalog that means a Filipino visiting or returning to the Philippines after a period of living in another country. It is combined with the English word box to form the hybrid compound balikbayan box, which is a carton shipped or brought to the Philippines from another country by a Filipino who has been living overseas, typically containing items such as food, clothing, toys, and household products.
4. By shortening words
This abbreviated term for a beauty treatment comprising both a manicure and a pedicure has been traced back to a 1972 Philippine publication, but is now used all over the English-speaking world.
5. By making up an initialism
KKB, interjection and adjective
This Philippine English initialism stands for the Tagalog phrase ‘Kaniya-kaniyang bayad’, which literally translates to ‘each one pays their own’. It is used as an interjection or adjective to indicate that the cost of a meal is to be shared.
6. By making an analogy with another English word
This is an Indian English word meaning a procession, parade, or convoy of cars, typically one escorting a prominent person. The word is formed with the –cade suffix as an analogy with the English word motorcade, which itself was modeled after the much older word cavalcade.
7. By translating a word or expression from a local language
go down, verb
In Tagalog, the word bumaba means to go down or descend, but also to alight. For this reason, Filipinos tend to use the English phrasal verb to go down also in the sense of alighting from a vehicle, or getting off a bus, train, etc., especially at a specified stop.
8. By continuing to use words that have fallen out of use in standard British or American English
comfort room, noun
This expression began life in the United States in the late 19th century, where it was originally used to refer to a room in a public building or workplace furnished with amenities such as facilities for resting, personal hygiene, and storage of personal items. It is now rarely heard in America, but it is still in widespread use in the Philippines, where it is the most common term for a public toilet, equivalent to the words restroom and loo.
9. By changing a proper noun to a common noun
Suzie Wong, noun
Suzie Wong was the name of the leading character in the novel The World of Suzie Wong, a 1957 novel by R. L. Mason. The name has since become Hong Kong slang for a woman who consorts with visiting servicemen.
10. By changing the meanings of words
A gimmick is usually a clever trick or publicity stunt, but in the Philippines, it means a fun night out with friends.
The above examples show just a few of the creative tools for word innovation at the disposal of World English speakers. These colourful new expressions are increasingly making their way into the OED and other Oxford Dictionaries, and one important means of collecting information on this type of vocabulary is by asking from input from the very people who use it.
This weekend, Oxford Dictionaries will be at the Free Linguistics Conference (FLC) in Manila, where we will be connecting with over a thousand linguists, teachers, students and other language enthusiasts, and gathering interesting evidence of usage, definitions, antedatings, and pronunciations of World English words.
To contribute your words via social media, tweet @OxfordWords with the hashtag #flcworldenglishes.