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In linguistics, an internationalism or international word is a loanword that occurs in several languages (that is, translingually) with the same or at least similar meaning and etymology. These words exist in "several different languages as a result of simultaneous or successive borrowings from the ultimate source" (I.V.Arnold)[This quote needs a citation]. Pronunciation and orthography are similar so that the word is understandable between the different languages.
It is debated how many languages are required so that a word is an internationalism. Furthermore, the languages required can also depend on the specific target language at stake. For example, according to Ghil'ad Zuckermann, the most important languages that should include the same lexical item in order for it to qualify as an internationalism in Hebrew are Yiddish, Polish, Russian, French, German and English.
European internationalisms originate primarily from Latin or Greek, but from other languages as well. However, due to English being the main lingua franca of the Western world, an increasing number of internationalisms originate from English. Many non-European words have also become international.
Internationalisms often spread together with the innovations they designate. Accordingly, there are semantic fields dominated by specific languages, e.g. the computing vocabulary which is mainly English with internationalisms such as computer, disk, and spam. New inventions, political institutions, foodstuffs, leisure activities, science, and technological advances have all generated new lexemes and continue to do so: bionics, cybernetics, gene, coffee, chocolate, etc..
Some internationalisms are spread by speakers of one language living in geographical regions where other languages are spoken. For example, some internationalisms coming from the English in India are bungalow, jute, khaki, mango, pyjamas, and sari.
Use in constructed IALs
Due to their widespread use, internationalisms are often loaned into international auxiliary languages. Many constructed IALs borrow vocabulary that is already known by learners, so that they are as easy as possible to learn.
Internationalisms that occur in many languages are usually eligible to be included in Interlingua. Early internationalisms, such as those from French and German, tend to be part of Interlingua's basic vocabulary. Later internationalisms, often from English, tend to be Interlingua loanwords. Among Asian languages, Arabic most often provides basic vocabulary, while Japanese contributes recent loanwords.
- Centre (Center)
- International scientific vocabulary
- Hybrid word
- Classical compound
- Greek and Latin roots in English
- Phono-semantic matching
- Peter Braun, Burkhard Schaeder, Johannes Volmert (eds.): Internationalismen II. Studien zur interlingualen Lexikologie und Lexikographie (Reihe Germanistische Linguistik. Band 246), Tübingen: Niemeyer 2003, ISBN 3-484-31246-7.
- Pages 187-188 in Language Contact and Lexical Enrichment in Israeli Hebrew, by Ghil'ad Zuckermann, Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.