Trans Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 16. Nr. Juni 2006

1.4. Reproduktionen und Innovationen in Sprache und Kommunikation verschiedener Sprachkulturen / Reproduction and Innovation in Language and Communication in different Language Cultures
Herausgeber | Editor | Éditeur: Rudolf Muhr (Universität Graz)

Dokumentation | Documentation | Documentation

Borrowing in Modern Standard Arabic

Zeinab Ibrahim (American University in Cairo)



This paper describes the process of borrowing in Modern Standard Arabic (MSA). MSA is the variety of high-level language used especially in the print cultures of Arab countries. This project began in 1987 and was completed in 2005. In the 1980s, the main objective of the research was to investigate and describe the phenomenon of borrowed words in the written Arabic of the internationally circulated Egyptian newspaper, Al-Ahram. With the dawn of the new millennium, it was time to reinvestigate the phenomenon of borrowing to determine whether the practice had evolved and new variables had come into existence. In 2005, with the increasingly important role of communication technology, it was necessary to re-examine the practice and significance of borrowing.

This study compared issues of Al-Ahram newspaper from 1987-1988, 2000 and 2005. Over eighteen years, the persistence and evolution of borrowing is evident. This paper examines changes throughout the period under investigation, exploring the static and dynamic aspects of the borrowing process. Although the practice of borrowing persists, the fields in which it occurs have changed and expanded throughout the period in question.


1. Borrowing and Language Choice:

"The world's language system is undergoing rapid change because of demographic trends, new technology, and international communication. These changes will affect both written and spoken communication." (Graddol, 2004)

Graddol’s recent statement reflects a linguistic reality. It is impossible to deny the influence of technology, not only on language, but also on our daily lives. The process of borrowing is one of the many ways in which technology affects language. Although linguistic borrowing is a universal phenomenon that has been noted historically, it is of interest to investigate this practice and its patterns in the present era.

Language choice is an important issue within the field of Sociolinguistics. Language choice can manifest itself as code switching, where two or more languages are used interchangeably, or code mixing, "...where pieces of one language are used. When they are words, the phenomenon is called borrowing" (Fasold, 1984, 180). In 1989, Heath published From Code Switching to Borrowing: Foreign and DiglossicMixing in MoroccanArabic. The book includes chapters on the borrowing process, its fields and some of the phonological and morphological adaptations of foreign words, focusing mainly on the spoken dialect. Khalil (1984) investigated borrowed words from French and English in the spoken Egyptian dialect. Previous works have focused on spoken language, whereas this study aims to fill a gap in the research by surveying the process of borrowing in written language rather than spoken.


2. Media and Borrowing Domains:

As Sapir argued, "The simplest kind of influence that one language may exert on another is the borrowing of words. When there is cultural borrowing there is always the likelihood that the associated words may be borrowed too" (1921, 206). All communications media, including radio, television and newspapers, are in constant need of new terms, especially when new concepts are introduced to a culture. Daulton, who investigated the same phenomenon in Japan, wrote, "Thus, the most common source of socio-cultural contact with the English language in Japan is the mass media, for instance, fashion magazines and commercial advertisements of modern technology. Whereas Anglicism in the speech community arises mainly from needs to fill lexical gaps for concrete things (Signification is the preferred method for encoding Western concepts), it is in marketing and media where the most intensive Anglicism is found" (2004, 286). Two of Daulton’s important points concern the means by which the loanword gets into the borrowing language, namely the media, and the areas in which loanwords occurred, which in the context of Japan were fashion magazines and advertisements. Dogancay-Aktuna et al (2005), while investigating the same phenomenon in Turkey, agree with Daulton on the role of the media: "What seems an important factor though is the number of borrowing used in Turkish newspapers. Indeed, the infiltration of foreign words and phrases seems to begin with their use by public figures on TV or in newspapers" (2005, 261). Al-Hamazawii (1988), Walwiil (1989) and Sharf (1980) made the same observation years before when they wrote that due to the press’ need to quickly find new words to use for new inventions or concepts, journalists often coin them. For example, the Egyptian press originally had only the Turkish word /buusta (t)/ for "mail," but the press innovated /bariid/ to Arabize it in order to fill the lexical gap (Sharf, 1980).

Although the media plays a definitive role in the process of borrowing, various studies have indicated that borrowing occurs in other fields as well. For example, Michael (2003, 35) stated, "One area where Korea has enthusiastically adapted English (or near-English) terminology is on the sports field." Cortes et el (2005) conducted a study to explore the impact of English on the Spanish lexicon, specifically nouns in the food domain in Puerto Rico.

Ngom (2002, 46), when investigating the multilingual country, Senegal, wrote that "…French loanwords in Wolof generally fall in the fields of politics, media, education, and culture, while those from Arabic are mostly found in religious settings, both formal and informal.…The English influence (which is almost exclusively limited to the urban youth) is found in cultural context. This is due to the fact that the urban youth is the social group exposed to the American movie industry, American fashion, and rap and reggae music."


3. Why Borrow?

Fromkin et al stated, "Borrowing words from other languages is an important source of new words. Borrowing occurs when one language adds a new word or morpheme from another language to its own lexicon. The pronunciation of the borrowed item is often altered to fit the phonological rules of the borrowing language. The borrowed word, of course, remains in the source language, so there is no need for its return. Languages are as much lenders as borrowers, and why shouldn’t they be since they lose nothing in the transaction" (2003, 512). According to Ngom, "In other words, speakers might borrow a word to express a concept or thought that is not available in their own language, or they may borrow words simply because such linguistic units are associated with prestige, even though there may be equivalents in the borrowing language" (2002, 37-38).

Onysko investigated the reasons for using English words in German and found the following two reasons, among others: semantic motivation (denotation) when "new products and inventions are frequently accompanied by their original English terminology, as with Rollerblades, Internet, E-mail account, Coffee-Shop, Computer, and TV-Soap, to name but a few" (2004, 59-64). The other reason is "emotive, as English has the image of being modern, hip, and educated, and is used in the language of fashion, modern sports, and leisure, as with ‘beautify’ [and] ‘lifting’…" (Onysko, 2004, 62). There are many reasons for borrowing, among them are: lexical gaps for concepts, thoughts, and inventions, as well as issues of prestige and modernity.

There are historical factors, which also play a major role in borrowing. Ngom’s investigation of the phenomenon in Senegal reads: "In the same manner that the statistical comparison of borrowings between languages reveals the nature of the past or present relationships between communities, the examination of the semantic fields of loanwords shows the domains of contact and influence between communities" (2002, 46). Senegal, which was occupied first by the French and later by the British, and was culturally influenced by the Spanish and religiously by the Muslims (Arabic language), has many borrowed words from all these languages. Ngom explains the influence of other factors, such as imperialism, culture, prestige and religion, on the phenomenon of borrowing.

Some linguists do not think of imperialism as merely part of history, but rather as part of the present as well. In a discussion of the influence of English on the Greek dialect and the conference held in Cyprus especially to address this issue, Papapavlou wrote, "While some people have reacted mildly to the phenomenon, the majority express strong views, seeing the influx of foreign words as a linguistic ‘invasion’ that ‘violates’ and ‘contaminates’ their language, and referring to the ‘suppression’ of the Greek language by English. In addition, self proclaimed ‘protectors’ of language warn of colonialist ‘dominance’ of English in the lives of Cypriots and take it upon themselves to offer suggestions for the eradication of such a ‘detrimental’ and ‘catastrophic’ phenomenon" (2001, 169). Those who strongly object to borrowing and its influence on the borrowing language characterize the practice as a ‘catastrophic’ phenomenon.


4. The Linguistic Situation in Egypt

Egypt is an Arabic-speaking country, and, therefore, is among those countries in which two or more varieties of the same language exist. According to Ferguson, in a diglossic situation, "in addition to the primary dialects of the language, there is a very divergent, highly codified, superposed variety, the vehicle of a large and repeated boldly of written literature… and [it] is used for mostly written and formal spoken purposes" (1959, 325). However, Ferguson revisited his article in 1991 and wrote, "Another weakness that people have called my attention to was my failure to mention that diglossia is very often a part of a larger picture. For example, in Lebanon, there are many who make use of the high variety of Arabic as well as their local Lebanese dialect, and in addition speak French and/or English in their daily lives. These languages fit into different places in the communicative functions of the society, and this complexity is not at all unusual in the various types of speech communities in the world" (in Elgibali, 1996, 58).

Adhering to the definition of diglossia, the written language of Al-Ahram should be, and is, of the high variety. The high variety that Al-Ahram uses is Modern Standard Arabic. El-Hassan defines MSA as "the written language of contemporary literature, journalism, and spoken prose" (1978, 32). Al-Ahram, being a newspaper, uses this variety; at the same time, it is a medium of communication for publicizing both news and commodities. Furthermore, the language Al-Ahram uses is an implementation of Labov’s definition of language. According to Labov, language "is used by human beings in a social context, communicating their needs, ideas and emotions to one another" (1971, 152). Before going any further, it is not necessary to discuss, what is communication?

According to Vestergaard (1985, 15), "communication necessarily involves at least two persons. In the process of communication, meaning is transmitted between the two participants. However, meaning cannot be transmitted in abstract; it must be embodied in some code… Finally, any act of communication takes place in a situation, a context … but context also includes the wider cultural context of the addresser and addressee; and the knowledge which they share about their total situation and their culture."

From both Labov’s and Vestergaard’s words, it becomes clear that for communication to take place, there are two basic necessary elements: a common code (language) and a mutual cultural context between the communicator and the communicatee. In the case of Al-Ahram the written form of Arabic is used. Yet, as clarified below, a number of borrowed words occur and prevail in different areas, most notably in advertisements. In 1970, Stetkevych wrote:

A total challenge could be met successfully only by a total response. Fortunately enough, Arabic, with its lexical wealth and its characteristic morphological flexibility as regards (sic) derivation, is – in theory at least – well equipped to meet this challenge in several equally promising ways, one of which is the categorical application of the criterion of derivation by analogy. To modern Arabic cultural institutions like the academies, as well as individual writers and linguists concerned with the modernization of the language, the criterion of qiyaas became dynamically formative and not merely a normative harness. Furthermore, this criterion went beyond being a largely subconscious "spirit of the language," and became a rational, clearly purposeful proposition. (1970, 12)

The Arabic language academies were originally founded to discuss urgent issues concerning the Arabic language and, faced with an influx of borrowed words, to ensure that Arabic could be used in all of the sciences. This was necessary in order to maintain the currency of Arabic as a language in the modern era. Faris Namir established the first Arabic linguistic organization in Beirut in 1882, under the name the Eastern Scientific Academy. In 1919, the first language academy in the Arab world was established in Damascus, Syria. In 1932, a language academy was established in Cairo, Egypt. There are also language academies in Jordan, Sudan and the bureau of Arabization, associated with the Arab League, in Rabat.

Al-Hamzaawii reports that during the course of a year, twenty-one of the thirty-five sessions held at the Arabic Language Academy in Egypt were devoted to scientific and general terminology while the rest were devoted to phonetics, syntax, and other grammatical topics (1988, 163-64). In addition to reviving the language, one of the purposes of the academies was to preserve it as a tool for Islamic Arab culture. Dealing with the influx of new words and concepts, which were entering Arabic from other languages, was among their main goals. Referring to the academy in Egypt, Al-Hamazawii stated that "Arabization, which was not defined, was among the most important issues that has preoccupied the academy since its establishment" (1988, 335). Arabization is one of the methods used for coining new words in Arabic. According to Baker (1987, 187),

Arabization involves the rendering of foreign terms into Arabic in its original linguistic form, after introducing minor phonetic and/or morphological changes where necessary. This method has received much opposition from language purists, who fear that the assimilation of foreign terms may change the identity of Arabic and, if applied to excess, would even result in some form of a hybrid language. However, faced with the massive influx of new terms which need to be rendered into Arabic, even the purists have had to accept Arabized terms which have found their way into the language and increasingly gained acceptance, with or without academies’ approval.

Some of the borrowed words used in Al-Ahram went through these morphological modifications and others were left as they were.

To consider the relationship between history and language, as Ngom suggested, one must begin with French occupied Egypt from 1798 to 1801. Although the period of the occupation was only three years long, due to the book Description de l’Egypte [Description of Egypt] and the large number of French schools that were established, the French language had a huge cultural impact on Arabic. By the time of the British occupation in 1882, many ethnic groups lived in Egypt, among them Italians and Greeks.

"After 1945, the rise of the USA to world power in the fields of politics, economics, science, and technology created a surge of Anglicisms in German and other languages. American inventions and idea[l]s were integrated along with their terminology into many cultures and languages" (Onysko, 2004, 59).

Cortes et el (2005, 35-36) added, "English has become a universal lingua franca whose influence is manifest in many modern languages, a phenomenon that is motivated by the political and social pre-eminence of the United States." They noted, "Also in recent times, increasing globalization and tools of mass communication such as the internet, among many other factors, have strengthened the position of English as a global language" (2005, 35-36).


5. The Research:

The aim of this paper is to show that borrowed words from other languages exist in the written Arabic of the Egyptian newspaper, Al-Ahram. Moreover, the study investigates the fields in which borrowing exists and traces this phenomenon over a period of seventeen years to discover whether the borrowing process has been stable or whether changes have occurred.


6. Method of Research:

The local Friday issues of Al-Ahram newspaper were used, specifically those from the following periods: August 1987 to July 1988; October to December 2000; and April to August 2005. The total number of issues used was eighty-four (Appendix A). Friday issues were deliberately used, as most of the advertisements are included in this weekly issue. Borrowed words that occurred more than five times were considered dominant. The term "dominant" means that they are the words used instead of the Arabic equivalents (if one exists). For example, the Arabic word هاتف /haatif/ for "telephone," is not used as often as تليفون /tilifuun/ and they are sometimes even used simultaneously on the same page (Appendix B). (The website of the newspaper was not used, as it does not include advertisements.


7. Method of Presenting Results:

Results are presented in several tables of four columns. The first column contains the borrowed word that occurred more than five times and are written in Arabic, followed by their meanings in English. The third column contains a phonetic transcription of the word. The last column includes information about the origin of this word, if known. By origin, it is not meant from which language this word originally came, but rather through which language it made its way into Egypt. An example is the word "pyjama ." According to Collins Dictionary andThesaurus "Pyjama: C19 from Hindi, from Persian paileg + Jaama garment" (1998, 932). However, this word entered Egyptian society through the French language. In addition, A Dictionary of Egyptian Arabic was consulted for the origin of some words that are the same in both spoken and written Arabic. A heading indicating the context in which that word was used precedes each table. The titles for the columns are as follows:

  1. Advertisements: the table under this heading includes borrowed words used in the advertisement that occurred in that context. Within this heading, there are subtitles such as houses, cars, etc indicating the specific type of advertisement.

  2. Arts: includes painting, dancing, music, etc.

  3. Sports: includes all kinds of sports.

  4. Fashion: includes articles written on the topic.

  5. Internal issues: includes areas such as agriculture, electricity, and all internal affairs.

  6. International news: includes all articles discussing international issues.

  7. Titles of regular columns: including borrowed words used as part of the title.

After each table, a summary of the table’s findings is presented and any changes and/or stability in the borrowing process are discussed.

The tables below present different borrowing phenomena. However, as Onysko (2004, 61) points out, "The majority of borrowing are nouns," which is the case of this study’s findings. In some cases, there is an Arabic equivalent of the borrowed words. In others, the borrowed word is used as it is with some changes in vowels or consonants, or both. There are very few words do not undergo either morphological or phonological changes. Other words are sometimes given plural forms in Arabic. Ngom mentions that some of the loanwords in the Wolof language have been integrated into the language to the extent that they are the lexical items used by the monolingual Wolof speaker. This is the case with the monolingual Arabic speaker in Egypt as well. These tables show the results of the issues investigated in 1987-88, 2000 and 2005. Changing trends are discussed immediately after each table. Hu has proposed a semantic transliteration system when using loan words in Chinese and noted, "A great number of loanwords have come to us from English, and melted into our culture, so deeply that we forget its origin" (2004, 35). However, in this research, we have attempted to find the origins of words.



1. Advertisements

In the following section, all the words listed come from published advertisements.

Table 1: Loan words used in Al-Ahram advertisements - Houses

In Arabic


Phonetic Transcription


سوبر لوكس









smoked glass




















wall to wall carpeting




entrance hall furniture











































All of the words in Table 1 occurred in Al-Ahram issues in 1987-88, 2000 and 2005 with the exception of the last three words. "Terrace," "chalet," and "roof" occurred in the issues of 2000 and 2005, but not in 1987-1988. These should not be considered new inventions; they have simply become widespread words in the past few years. It will become clearer in this paper that the revolution in communication and globalization have had a clear and evident impact on the spread of new concepts and commodities, as well as other items, in Egypt.

The origin of most of the borrowed words used is French. This paper will show that the influence of French is evident in the domains of furniture, art, and fashion; whereas in the domain of technology, English is the sole source of influence.

In the word "villa," as regards phonetic realization or orthography, the sound [v] is non-Arabic, therefore it is written with an [f]. The same applies to all borrowed words that include this sound. Arabic does not have the [p] sound either, and [b] is used in its stead. In words where there is a [t] in brackets, this sound is silent and is not pronounced except in special cases.

Table 2: Loan words used in Al-Ahram advertisements - Cars

In Arabic


Phonetic Transcription







power steering

/bawir stiiring/






























Table 2 illustrates that most of the lexical items related to cars come from English. Several years ago, Al-Ahram began issuing a separate additional section on cars, in which it was found in the 2000 issues that "power steering" is now written and translated as عجلة قيادة اليةَّ / À agalat qiyaada(t) ? aaliyya(t)/, the Arabic equivalent of the English compound. Moreover, the Arabic word اطارات / ? i ÿ araat/ replaced /kawit S / for "tires," thus implying an active Arabization process.

Table 3: Foreign words used in Al-Ahram advertisements - Clothing

In Arabic


Phonetic Transcription












/ Z iinz/




/ Z aakit/


Three out of four lexical items used in the domain of clothes are borrowed from French. Moreover, in one of the 2000 advertisements about a fashion show the French word "defile" was written (Appendix C). Another apparent feature is that the word "sport," which means "casual" in French and was used for years, has now been replaced with the English equivalent and is written in Arabic as كاجوال /ka Z wal/, "casual."

Table 4: Foreign words used in Al-Ahram advertisements - Entertainment

In Arabic


Phonetic Transcription














In Egyptian history, the first artistic movement in entertainment took place when French and Italian theatre groups came to Egypt two centuries ago and performed in both Cairo and Alexandria. Thus, the origin of the above listed words might be Italian. In one of the 2000 issues "The Cairo Symphony Orchestra," اوركسترا القاهرة السيمفونى / ? okistraa ? al-qakira ? al-simfuunii/, was used as the proper name of the musical group. Thus, these words are now an integrated part of the Arabic language.

Table 5: Loan words used in Al-Ahram advertisements - Varia

In Arabic


Phonetic Transcription
























/ ? al-kataluug/













/ ? ukazyuun/






ديب فريزر

deep freezer

/diib friizir/
















/suber market/




/ma Z istiir/








/ ? il-bank/






In the issues from 2000, it was found that the word "diploma" had been replaced by an Arabic compound مؤهَّل متوسَّط /mu ? ahhil muutawassi ÿ /, which literally means "middle degree." Although "pizza" is originally Italian, it came to Arabic through the opening of American chains such as "Pizza Hut" and "Domino’s Pizza."

The advertisements included a large number of borrowed words, some of which showed evidence of Arabization. Some of these words, such as "villas," "telephones," "lifts," etc, had the Arabic feminine sound plural form /aat/. Other words, such as "battery," "tires," etc, had the definite article /‘al/, which means that these words have been integrated into the Arabic language.

Three important points should be considered. First, some of the words mentioned in the above table (for example, "bank" and "telephone") occurred not only in advertisements but also in other articles within the newspaper. Second, some of the words have an Arabic equivalent. For example, furniture has the Arabic word أثاث / ? a P aa P /, yet the French borrowed word "meuble," after undergoing some phonetic and morphological changes, was used in Arabic, موبيليا /muubilyaa/. Like "furniture," many other words still exist in Arabic such as the ones for "bank" (/mi § raf/ ), "perfume" ( À a ÿ r), "telephone" (haatif), and "computer" ( î aasib/ î aasuub/ ). Although they have an Arabic equivalent, the borrowed word is still used. Thirdly, some of these words do not have an Arabic equivalent and the borrowed word is the only existing word in the language. "Symphony," "video," "camera," and "plastic" are examples of such words. The three above-mentioned points apply to all tables.

In the sections below, all words listed occurred in different articles and are categorized according to the field to which they belong.

II. Loan words in Al-Ahram articles

Table 6: Loan words used in Al-Ahram in articles related to the arts

In Arabic


Phonetic Transcription






















In this area, all of the arts mentioned are originally western. Although they exist in Arab culture, no Arabic equivalent exists for them. Also, they reflect the history of Egypt, as a large number of French and Italians lived in Egypt in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.

Table 7: Loan words used in Al-Ahram in articles related to sports

In Arabic


Phonetic Transcription


















Again, three words in Table 7 have the definite article /’al/ which means that these words are being treated as part of the Arabic language in terms of the establishment of definiteness. "Medal" has the Arabic feminine sound plural form /aat/. Another sport, which appeared in the 2000 issues and should be added to the table above, is "golf." In the past few years, golf has become more popular among the upper classes and thus its appearance in the 2000 issues is not surprising. However, the prevalence of borrowed words for sports should not be taken to mean that no games have Arabic names. "Volleyball," "basketball," "soccer" and others all have Arabic equivalents, which are الكرة الطائرة / ? al-kura(t) ? al - aa ? ira(t)/, كرة السلةَّ /kurat ? al-salla(t)/, and كرة القدم /kurat ? al-qadam / respectively.

Table 8: Loan words used in Al-Ahram in articles related to fashion

In Arabic


Phonetic Transcription
















/ Z aakit/















costume jewelry

/ ? al- ? iksiswaar/








/ban ÿ aluunaat/




/ Z iinz/


Most of the borrowed words in Table 8 are in the plural form and have the Arabic feminine sound plural form /aat/, which is the trend with borrowed words. The only exception is the word ‘dress’ which has a broken plural form فساتين /fasaatiin/. As this is a Turkish word, it reflects Egypt’s history as a province of the Ottoman Empire. It should be noted that many of these words also occurred in the advertisement section.

Table 9: Loan words used in Al-Ahram articles - Internal issues

In Arabic


Phonetic Transcription




/ ? al-bitruul/




/ ? al- ? asmant/




/ ? istrati Z iyyaat/




/tiknulu Z yaa/








/dimukraa ÿ ii/
















/ ? utubiis/




/ ? akadimiyya(t)/




/ ? al-fituu/




/ ? al-hiruwiin/


All of the above-mentioned words are fully integrated into the Arabic lexicon and do not have an Arabic synonym, with the exception of "bus," which has an Arabic equivalent, حافلة / î aafila(t) /, but it is rarely used. It is worth mentioning that although these words were mentioned in the specified section in the investigated newspaper issues (internal affairs), they are commonly used in other fields as well.

Table 10: Loan words used in Al-Ahram - International news

In Arabic


Phonetic Transcription




/ ? al-kuungris/




/ ? al- ? iidz/






Although السيد / ? al- ? sayyid/, which is the Arabic equivalent of "Mister" exists, "Mister" tends to be used when preceding foreign names (Feb. 19, 1988 / Aug. 28, 1987). This usage did not appear, however, in the 2000 issues. Moreover, the "Senate" is referred to in the newspaper as مجلس الشيوخ /maglis ? al- S iyuux/ . Although "AIDS" has the Arabic equivalent نقص المناعة /naq § ? al-manaa À a/, it was found that both the English word and the Arabic might be used alternatively in one article. The word "diplomacy" is always referred to in Arabic as الدبلوماسيةَّ / ? al-diblumaasiyya (t)/. This is another instance in which borrowed words entered the Arabic language and went through morphological adaptation.

Table 11: Foreign words used in Al-Ahram articles - Titles of regular columns

In Arabic


Phonetic Transcription




/ ? istraati Z iyya(t)/














The words "strategy" and "parliamentary" both occurred in Arabic in a nisba adjective form (a rule by which a noun becomes an adjective; and adjectives are nouns in Arabic). Both words actually went through a morphological change from a noun to an adjective through Arabic grammatical rules, thus, conforming to the aforementioned rules of borrowing.

Additional 1980s Findings:

An instance of alternatively using the English borrowed word and the Arabic word occurs in the 20 Nov. 1987 issue, on the first page in the headline. The phrase اتصال تليفونى,, meaning "a telephone call" was written. In the headline, the word /tilifuuniyy/, which is a nisba adjective, was used, while the first line in the article used the Arabic form of the word "telephone," which is هاتف /haatif/ . On 29 April 2005, the same word "telephone" occurred in one page in two articles; one used the Arabic word /haatif/ and the other used /tilifuun/ (Appendix B). On 18 Sept. 1987, in one of the car advertisements عالزيرو / À alziiruu/, meaning "brand new," was written; its literal translation is "on the zero."

From all of the above, it can be concluded that the influence of French borrowed words is apparent in arts, fashion, housing, furniture, and clothing, while the domains in which English borrowed words prevailed were politics, sports, and technology. Finally, the majority of borrowed words occurred in advertisements.

Linguistic Borrowing in the New Millennium:

In the year 2000, the tendency to switch completely to English in some advertisements represented a new trend. Downes defines situational code switching as follows: "… the situation type will predict which variety a speaker will employ" (1998, 82). In this area, code switching took place from Arabic to English when international and multinational companies were advertising for job. The jobs advertised were in different fields (accounting, oil, pharmaceutical, etc) and, in some cases, nationality was mentioned.

Interestingly, when job advertisements published by international companies appeared only in English they stated that proficiency in the English language was a requirement. However, often job advertisements from Egyptian companies in English did not state English language proficiency as a requirement.

There are plausible explanations for the three cases mentioned above. For the international companies, it can be explained by their personal need to read the advertisement and perhaps also because they are recruiting different nationalities. For the Egyptian companies, printing the advertisement in English would definitely attract only the right caliber of people, as only those who are fluent in the English language would understand it and apply. All of these advertisements definitively indicate that English is becoming the language of business.

Another example of this situation is in two advertisements for immigration. One is in both Arabic and English and the second is in Arabic only. The first advertisement is about the ‘American Green Card Lottery’ and it is in both languages. The part that includes advertising for immigration is in Arabic, but all the mailing and information part is in English. The second advertisement is fully in Arabic and is about immigration to Australia. However, since the people to contact were all Egyptians, as stated in the advertisement, no English was needed.

The 1980s and the New Millennium:

Haugen states, "borrowing as here defined is strictly a process and not a state" (1972, 83). In comparing the 1980s with the year 2000, it is clear that borrowing is a process. In the 1980s, words such as "strategy," "computer," and "telephone," which continued to be used in Arabic, were at that time new concepts, products, or inventions that were entering Egyptian society as innovations. The same borrowing process is applicable today. In an advertisement for "Lipton Ice Tea," a new product in Egypt, "Ice Tea" is written in Arabic أيس تى / ? ays tii/ (Appendix D), with no translation. The Arabic translation is / S aay mu P allag /, meaning "iced tea," which could have been used. This could be a case where prestige plays a role in using the English term.

Online recruitment is another concept that is new to Egyptian society. In the advertisement for Egypt Recruitment, the phrase مفهوم جديد للتوظيف فى مصر appears, meaning, "a new concept of recruitment in Egypt." Next to this advertisement there is another advertisement indicating the website to go to if searching for a job.

Two other concepts were expressed in English, although both advertisements also used Arabic: one about "time share" and the other about "employment day." Also, another word indicating the concept "mall" (which was not previously present in Egypt) was written in Arabic مول /muul/.

In the era of globalization, many international brand name companies have established branches in Egypt. In many instances, the brand name is written in both languages and in others it is written in Arabic alone. For example, جنرال اليكتريك / Z iniraal ? ilikrtiik / (General Electric) was written in both languages. This feature was present in the 1980s as well as in the new millennium (Appendix E).

By 2000, English words from the field of technology, such as "laser," "fax," "internet," "remote control," and "digital," had found their way into the language. ( ليزر, فاكس, انترنت, ريموتكنترول, and ديجيتال respectively.) All have Arabized pronunciation and have been adapted to Arabic phonological rules. In 2005, vocabulary related to new inventions appeared in Al-Ahram, such as "multimedia," "flat" (for television screens), "plasma" (also for television screens), "turbo internet," "super turbo internet," and "hard disk," and all were written in Arabic and sometimes in English as well. However, the following were written in English only: "Ipod," "DVD," and "MP3 player."

The term "mobile" for cellular phone is borrowed from British English rather than from American English. "Mobile" is translated in Arabic as /ma î muul/, meaning "something carried." Both English and Arabic words appear in the newspaper. The reason for this could be phonological, as "cellular" is difficult to pronounce in Arabic while "mobile" is easier.

The physical page space occupied by English advertisements is also noteworthy. In the following table, it can seen that the number of pages has increased between 1987 and 2005 from twenty-four pages to forty. The dimensions of the page itself are also different. The length of the page in 1987 and 1988 was 55 cm and the width 38.5 cm. In 2000 and 2005, the length was 52 cm and the width was 34 cm. This is due to new printing techniques. The table below indicates the amount of space devoted to advertisements written in English in randomly chosen newspapers from the designated years.

Table 12: Amount of space dedicated to English-only advertisements

Percentage of English advisements

Total No. of cm of the newspaper

Total No. of pages


0.35 %



9 Oct. 1987




16 Sept. 1988




7 Oct. 2005



It is evident that borrowed words exist in issues of Al-Ahram and are used in the formal written variety of Arabic. Some of these words have Arabic equivalents, while others do not. Nevertheless, most of these borrowed words are subject to phonological and morphological changes. The main cause of the borrowing phenomenon may be that, as Baker stated, "translation activity in the Arab World is still too slow when compared to the speed with which new terms are coined for new concepts in the West and the frequency of their usage once coined" (1987, 88). This explains why some borrowed words do not have equivalents in Arabic and others have equivalents that are not used, as in the case of the word "bus." Once the media uses the borrowed words it becomes progressively more difficult to change them to the Arabic equivalents, because people have come to know and accept the borrowed words.

This study illustrates that, as a linguistic process, borrowing has been occurring since the 1980s. While the practice certainly predates this period and even dates back to pre-Islamic times, the scope of this research is limited to the past two decades. This borrowing is tied to new concepts, inventions, and other discoveries. While the French influence still dominates the fields of fashion and the arts, a new trend is emerging as English becomes the language of commerce, business, and trade. Linguistic borrowing is a result or reflection of history, politics, economics, inventions, prestige, and the slow process of coining new words from the borrowing language.

© Zeinab Ibrahim (American University in Cairo):


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المراجع العربية

بدوى ، السعيد. 1973 . مستويات العربية المعاصرة. القاهرة: دار المعارف.

الحمزاوى ، محمد رشاد. 1988. أعمال مجمع اللغة العربية بالقاهرة. بيروت: دار الغرب الاسلامى.

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Al-Ahram Friday Issues 1987:
January : 2, 16, 23
April : 17
May : 8
August : 7, 14, 21, 28
September : 4, 11, 18, 25
October : 2, 9, 16, 23, 30
November : 6, 13, 20, 27
December : 4, 11, 18, 25

Al-Ahram Friday Issues 1988:
January : 1, 8, 15, 22, 29
February : 5, 12, 19, 19, 26
March : 4, 11, 18, 25
April : 1, 8, 15, 22, 29
May : 6, 13, 20, 27
June : 3, 10, 17, 24
July : 1, 8, 15, 22, 29
September : 2, 16

Al-Ahram Friday Issues 2000:
October : 20, 27
November : 3, 10, 17, 24
December : 8, 15, 22, 29

Al-Ahram Friday Issues 2005:
April : 29
May : 6, 13, 20, 27
June : 17, 24,
July : 15, 29
August : 5, 12, 19, 27
October: 7

1.4. Reproduktionen und Innovationen in Sprache und Kommunikation verschiedener Sprachkulturen / Reproduction and Innovation in Language and Communication in different Language Cultures

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