New worlds for old words / Mundos nuevos para viejas palabras

The impact of cultured borrowing on the languages of Western Europe / El impacto de los cultismos en los idiomas de Europa occidental

Christopher Pountain, Bozena Wislocka Breit (Eds.)

by Gloria Clavería Nadal (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain), Santiago Del Rey Quesada (Universidad de Sevilla, Spain), Isabel García Ortiz (Queen Mary University of London), Susana Guerrero Salazar (Universidad de Málaga, Spain), Carmen Varo Varo (Universidad de Cádiz, Spain), María del Carmen Rodríguez Caballero (I.E.S “Poeta Claudio Rodríguez”, Zamora, Spain), Bozena Wislocka Breit (Queen Mary University of London), Steven N. Dworkin (University of Michigan), Inmaculada González Sopeña (Universidad de Granada, Spain), Christopher Pountain (Queen Mary University of London), Alessandro Carlucci (University of Bergen, Norway), Rocío Díaz-Bravo (Universidad de Granada, Spain), Gael Vaamonde (Universidad de Granada, Spain), Ingmar Söhrman (Göteborgs Universitet, Sweden)

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This volume contains an introduction by the editors and thirteen scholarly studies, half of them in English, half of them in Spanish. The common topic concerns the adoption of words from the past into a later context. The source language is usually Latin, the more modern language is usually Spanish.
The contributors include both established and younger scholars. Steven Dworkin, Gloria Clavería Nadal and Christopher Pountain are among the best-known scholars in this field, and their chapters are comprehensive and wide-ranging: Steven Dworkin concentrates on fifteenth-century borrowings from Latin that came to replace synonymous inherited words; Gloria Clavería considers how such words have been treated in Academy dictionaries; Christopher Pountain shows how mass borrowings of verbs in the -ir conjugation affected the morphological nature of that conjugation itself. There are historical studies of individual words, including síntoma and a couple of Arabisms which survived in Granada (almofia, ‘a shallow cooking vessel’, and tarquín, ‘mud’); of the use of Latinisms by the sixteenth-century author Delicado; and there are studies based in the present day, including two on newspaper journalism (Latinisms in sports headlines, often invariant, such as in Los alter ego de Rafa Nadal, and the use of neological compounds such as necroturismo, ‘graveyard tourism’) and a report from a modern classroom. There is one study of Italian noun-noun compounds, concerning changes over time in the order of the constituents, and one Europe-wide discussion on the survival of ancient words for ‘magic’ and ‘magician’.
The book is consistently scholarly and informative, often original, and at times entertaining. Gloria Clavería Nadal hits the nail on the head as to why the topic is of interest: “Old words have actually become the most natural way for modern languages to name these new worlds created on a daily basis” (p.29), most obviously, but not only, in non-linguistic fields such as science and medicine. Thus this book will make clear why ‘cultured borrowings’ should not be dismissed as irrelevant, as they have tended to be in the past.

Roger Wright
Emeritus Professor of Spanish
University of Liverpool

The book is a collection of 13 original contributions on cultural borrowing. The languages of the book are English and Spanish (6 contributions), and the languages treated are in first place Spanish and other Romance languages (Italian). Several of the contributors are well-known scholars and authorities in the field of historical lexicology.
The issue – what traditionally used to be called “learnèd borrowing” – is an important one also in the light of more recent theoretical contributions that consider language dynamics not just as a homogeneous process of evolution but rather as a differentiated composite history of discursive traditions between “immediacy” and “distance” (a view explicitly mentioned in several of the contributions). The contact of modern European languages (mainly Spanish, but also other European languages) with classical languages via cultural contact and translation is treated in this volume from a wide range of perspectives: from medieval to contemporary borrowings, from philological, psycholinguistic to didactic approaches and including not only purely lexical, but also morphological aspects. The book is particularly of interest for advanced students and scholars in Romance linguistics.

Dr. Johannes Kabatek
University of Zurich

This book comprises a set of works presented at a colloquium that took place in London in September 2019.
It consists of 13 chapters, the common thread of which is the past and present influence of words borrowed from Latin and Greek. They are known as "cultured borrowings". What is transcendent and makes the present studies a source for further research, is that, in many cases, by process of metaphorization, the lexical piece taken from the classical language becomes a term of the common language, and its oral version.
This is the first strength of this publication. The second is that much of the research presented is part of ongoing research, developed not individually, but by team members of recognized quality.
The third strength is the origin of the data handled. They have either arisen from surveys carried out in order to have accurate data or from consulting existing databases. Or, likewise, they come from lexicographic information. Explanations are not ventured but are given with the support of reliable sources.
There is a fourth strength, and it is the volume and quality of the bibliographies that each author has provided at the end of their chapter.
For the specialized reader, there is a fifth strength: almost all the authors mention that theirs is an open investigation, which will be outlined in future works.

Dr. Emma Martinell
Professor Emeritus
University of Barcelona, Spain

The central idea of the contributed volume, edited by Christopher Pountain and Bozena Wislocka Breit is that the concept of "learned borrowing" - regardless of the definition that the authors have provided in their respective chapters - should be seen as a palpable linguistic consequence of one of the best-documented cultural contacts ever in the history of Western Europe. This idea, as a common thread, (re-)appears cunningly through the book, showing that learned borrowing - regardless of the source and target languages - has been very productive either in earlier or in the present states of the studied languages of Western Europe. Thus, each of the 13 chapters addresses the linguistic as well as the extralinguistic causes and mechanisms contributing to its output, seen from different linguistic perspectives.

Dr. Andrzej Zieliński
Instytut Filologii Romańskiej
Uniwersytet Jagielloński, Krakow, Poland

Every student of the history of a Romance language learns the distinction between popular words inherited from Latin that changed over time, like Spanish “delgado” ‘thin’, and learnèd words borrowed from Latin later, like “delicado” ‘delicate’. Despite the crucial nature of this distinction and students’ interest in it, this topic is rarely addressed in textbooks or even in the scholarly literature. The thirteen chapters in New Worlds for Old Words take a welcome step toward filling this gap by providing an in-depth look at “cultured borrowings”. An outstanding feature of the book is the range of topics and approaches applied to the study of these borrowings. The authors consider the role of cultured borrowings, and in some cases borrowings from Arabic, English, or other languages, in orthographic, lexical, semantic, and morphological changes in Spanish, and in the formation of compound words in Italian, such as “terremoto” and “scuolabus”. Furthermore, the information is gleaned from a wide variety of sources, such as dictionaries, newspapers, literary works, translations from Latin to four Romance languages, and corpora of written Spanish and English. The reader comes to appreciate the changes in cultured borrowings since their introduction, such as the semantic changes in the word “síntoma” ‘symptom’, and the changes in the frequency of use of terms for modern and classical languages. Especially interesting are the cases where cultural borrowings like “elegir” and “adquirir” led to even greater irregularity in the paradigm of “-ir” verbs and where they ousted inherited words, like the triumph of “ejército” over “hueste” and “masticar” over “mascar”. By considering the changes in cultured borrowings since their adoption and their impact on modern languages, this volume gives them the attention they deserve.

Dr. Diana Ranson
Professor of French and Spanish
University of Georgia

[...] Se trata, en términos generales, de un monográfico de gran valor para el estudio de la historia del léxico culto, sobre todo, pero no solo de la lengua española, ya que se plasma en él una visión conjunta de la situación actual en la que se halla la investigación en los campos de la lexicología y la morfología léxica, entre otras. El carácter bilingüe de la obra, en tanto que recoge contribuciones en inglés y en castellano, ayuda, por otro lado, a internacionalizar un campo de estudios que solo en pocas ocasiones suele traspasar las fronteras lingüísticas del castellano u otras lenguas románicas. [...]

Extract from book review published in the journal 'Revue de Linguistique Romane' (vol. 86, 2022/1). ISSN: 0035-1458. Reviewer: Matthias Raab

"New worlds for old words / Mundos nuevos para viejas palabras" is a collection of chapters on the theme of lexical borrowing in the languages of Western Europe with particular focus on borrowing from Latin, or from Greek via Latin, into Spanish. Such cultured, or “learnèd” borrowing—as it has sometimes been designated—, is an especially intriguing feature of the Romance languages, since they also derive from Latin. It is also of particular interest to historical linguists since it is an example of what has been called “change from above”: innovation first evidenced in the written usage of the culturally élite which then diffuses into more general acceptance, with the result that some cultured borrowings (e.g. problem/problema, social, program(me)/programa) are now amongst the most common words in the modern languages. Despite their enormous influence on such major languages as English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Italian, the mechanisms by which these borrowings become established in their host languages have to date been relatively little studied. This book seeks to make a contribution to this question and revive interest in what has become a neglected area of historical linguistics and contains contributions both by internationally respected scholars and new researchers in the field.
This bilingual collection will appeal to academics, scholars, and postgraduate students of Hispanic Studies, Cultural History, and particularly Historical Linguistics and Romance Linguistics.

"New worlds for old words / Mundos nuevos para viejas palabras" es una colección sobre los préstamos léxicos en los idiomas de Europa occidental, centrándose sobre todo en los préstamos del latín, o del griego a través del latín, al español. Los cultismos son un rasgo especialmente interesante de las lenguas romances, ya que ellos mismos proceden del latín. También es de gran interés para la lingüística histórica dado que es un ejemplo de lo que se conoce como “cambio desde arriba”: cambios atestiguados primero en la lengua escrita de la élite cultural que luego comienza a tener un uso más generalizado, y cuyo resultado es que algunos de estos cultismos (por ejemplo “problema”, “social”, “programa”) se encuentran entre las palabras más comunes en los idiomas modernos. A pesar de su enorme influencia en lenguas tan importantes como el inglés, el español, el portugués, el francés o el italiano, los mecanismos por los que estos préstamos se establecen en los idiomas de acogida se han estudiado relativamente poco hasta ahora. Este volumen es una contribución a esta cuestión y su objetivo es reavivar el interés en lo que se ha convertido en un área olvidada de la lingüística diacrónica. Se incluyen capítulos de académicos conocidos internacionalmente y de investigadores noveles.
Esta colección bilingüe será de gran utilidad para académicos, investigadores y alumnos de posgrado en estudios hispánicos, estudios culturales, y particularmente lingüística histórica y lingüística de las lenguas romances.

List of figures
The authors

Chapter 1
Cultured borrowings in the light of dictionaries
Gloria Clavería Nadal
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Chapter 2
Learnèd borrowings induced by translation: Paratactic lexical groups as interference phenomena in Medieval and Early Renaissance Romance texts
Santiago Del Rey Quesada
Universidad de Sevilla

Chapter 3
Apuntes sobre la integración de un cultismo médico: la historia de la voz síntoma
Isabel García Ortiz
Queen Mary University of London

Chapter 4
El latinismo en los titulares de la prensa deportiva española
Susana Guerrero Salazar
Universidad de Málaga

Chapter 5
Datos psicolingüísticos en torno a la vitalidad y la neologicidad de la composición culta en la prensa escrita en español
Carmen Varo Varo
Universidad de Cádiz

Chapter 6
Cultismos en el aula de enseñanza de la secundaria
María del Carmen Rodríguez Caballero
I.E.S. “Poeta Claudio Rodríguez”, Zamora

Chapter 7
“Classical" and “modern" languages
Bozena Wislocka Breit
Queen Mary University of London

Chapter 8
Latinisms as Lexical Substitutes in Late Medieval and Early Modern Spanish
Steven N. Dworkin
University of Michigan

Chapter 9
Sustituciones léxicas en los arabismos del reino de Granada (siglos XVI y XVII)
Inmaculada González Sopeña
Universidad de Granada

Chapter 10
Cultured borrowing of verbs: the case of the Spanish -ir conjugation
Christopher J. Pountain
Queen Mary University of London

Chapter 11
The Impact of New Contacts on an Old Pattern: the Modifier–Modified Order in the Formation of Italian Compounds
Alessandro Carlucci
University of Bergen

Chapter 12
Los cultismos en una novela dialogada del siglo XVI: un estudio de sociolingüística histórica
Rocío Díaz-Bravo y Gael Vaamonde
Universidad de Granada

Chapter 13
Magic, witches and magicians in a semantic and etymological perspective in European languages
Ingmar Söhrman
Göteborgs Universitet

Index of topics
Index of words in Romance languages, Latin, Greek, Arabic and English

Christopher J. Pountain is Emeritus Professor of Spanish Linguistics at Queen Mary University of London and a Life Fellow of Queens’ College Cambridge. He has an extensive publication record of articles and chapters on a wide range of Romance linguistic themes and is the author of two major books on Spanish, A History of the Spanish Language through Texts (Routledge) and Exploring the Spanish Language (Routledge). He currently leads the ‘Loaded Meanings’ research strand on the ‘Language Acts and Worldmaking’ project based at King’s College London. He has worked on the phenomenon of Latin influence on the Romance languages for many years and is author of the reference essay ‘Latin and the Structure of Written Romance’ included in Cambridge History of the Romance Languages (Cambridge University Press).

Christopher J. Pountain es profesor emérito de lingüística española en la Queen Mary University de Londres y miembro vitalicio del Queens’ College, Cambridge. Ha publicado numerosos artículos y capítulos sobre una variedad de temas de lingüística romance, y ha escrito dos libros de gran importancia sobre el español: A History of the Spanish Language Through Texts y Exploring the Spanish Language (ambos de Routledge). En la actualidad, lidera la línea de investigación “Loaded Meanings” en el proyecto “Language Acts and Worldmaking” del King’s College, Londres. Ha estudiado el fenómeno de la influencia del latín en las lenguas romances durante años, y es el autor del ensayo de referencia “Latin and the Structure of Written Romance” incluido en Cambridge History of the Romance Languages (Cambridge University Press).

Bozena Wislocka Breit is a Post-Doctoral Researcher at Queen Mary University of London, working on the impact of cultured borrowings on Spanish. She is a graduate of the Jagiellonian University, Kraków, and the Complutense University, Madrid. She holds a PhD in Linguistics and a postgraduate Diploma in Translation. She has taught at the Jagiellonian University, the Technical University of Madrid, and the Instituto Universitario de Lenguas Modernas y Traductores of the Complutense University of Madrid. She has published papers on a wide range of topics, such as the history of Polish translations into Spanish, Spanish and English oenological language, and the language of sensory perception in the 16th-century Spanish.

Bozena Wislocka Breit es investigadora post-doctoral en la Queen Mary Unviersity, Londres, y estudia el impacto de los cultismos en el español. Cursó estudios en la Universidad Jaguelónica, Cracovia, y la Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Tiene un doctorado en lingüística y una diplomatura en traducción. Ha sido profesora en la Universidad Jaguelónica, en la Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, y el Instituto Universitario de Lenguas Modernas y Traductores de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Ha publicado artículos sobre diversos temas, como la historia de las traducciones del polaco al español, el lenguaje enológico en español e inglés, y el lenguaje de las percepciones sensoriales en el español del siglo XVI.

Lexical borrowing, Classical languages, Romance languages, Corpus linguistics

Bibliographic Information

Book Title

New worlds for old words / Mundos nuevos para viejas palabras

Book Subtitle

The impact of cultured borrowing on the languages of Western Europe / El impacto de los cultismos en los idiomas de Europa occidental





Number of pages


Physical size



49 B&W

Publication date

September 2021