Expressive loan

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An expressive loan is a loanword incorporated into the expressive system of the borrowing language, making it resemble native words or onomatopoeia. Expressive loanwords are hard to identify, and by definition, they follow the common phonetic sound change patterns poorly.[1] Likewise, there is a continuum between "pure" loanwords and "expressive" loanwords. The difference to a folk etymology is that a folk etymology or eggcorn is based on misunderstanding, whereas an expressive loan is changed on purpose, the speaker taking the loanword knowing full well that the descriptive quality is different from the original sound and meaning.

South-eastern Finnish, for example, has many expressive loans. The main source language, Russian, does not use the front rounded vowels 'y', 'ä' or 'ö' [y æ ø]. Thus, it is common to add these to redescriptivized loans to remove the degree of foreignness that the loanword would otherwise have. For example, tytinä "brawn" means "wobblyness", and superficially it looks like a native construction, originating from the verb tutista "to wobble" added with a front vowel sound in the vowel harmony. However, it is expressivized from tyyteni (which is a confusing word as -ni is a possessive suffix), which in turn is a loanword from Russian stúden' .[2] A somewhat more obvious example is tökötti "sticky, tarry goo", which could be mistaken as a derivation from the onomatopoetic word tök (cf. the verb tökkiä "to poke"). However, it is an expressive loan of Russian d'ogot' "tar".[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Laakso, Johanna. Contact and the Finno-Ugric languages. In "The Handbook of Language Contact", edited by Raymond Hickey. Wiley 2010. [1]
  2. ^ Jarva, Vesa. Some expressive and borrowed elements in the lexicon of Finnish dialects. In "Ideophones", edited by Erhard Friedrich Karl Voeltz, Christa Kilian-Hatz. John Benjamins Publishing 2001. [2]
  3. ^ Vesa Jarva (23 August 2003). "Väitös: Tökötti tököttää, tytinä tytisee (Jarva)". Archived from the original on 2006-10-10.  (English abstract available)