TRANS Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 17. Nr.
Februar 2010

Sektion 8.13. National Self-Identity in the Context of Global Events | Nationale Selbstidentität im Kontext der globalen Ereignisse
Sektionsleiter | Section Chair: Dmitry Yurchenko (Staatliche Linguistische Universität Pjatigorsk, Russland)

Dokumentation | Documentation | Documentation

Mass Media Influence on the National Language in the Epoch of Globalization

Eugenia Morozova (Vladimir State University, Russia)



Globalization is understood as the process of economic, political and cultural integration based on the world division of labor, general expansion of monetary, human and industrial resources all over the world, standardization of economic and technological processes, as well as rapprochement of cultures of different countries.(1)

Globalization has come as a result of the latest achievements in technologies that led to very rapid sea, railway and air shipping operations and accessibility of long-distance telephone communications. In 1947 the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade focused its attention on surmounting obstacles in international trade. Some years later a number of agreements between the leading capitalist states and some developing countries were signed. As a consequence, in 1995 World Trade Organization was founded that united 75 countries – participants of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Later on, 21 countries joined World Trade Organization, and 28 states including Russia, are carrying on negotiations for joining this organization.

In politics globalization manifests itself, on the one hand, in the weakening role of national states, and on the other hand, in the increased power of such influential international organizations, as United Nations, World Trade Organization, European Community, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

While considering economic aspects of globalization one can single out the following ones: free capital flow; rapid amalgamation of businesses within the state and at the transnational level; quick distribution of financial information all over the world via the Internet; intense advertising in mass media; vague distinctions between information and advertisement; income stratification of population in both developed and developing countries.

In the sphere of culture globalization implies rapprochement of business-like and mass culture between different countries of the world; wide use of the English language for international communication; the increasing role of the Internet as a tool for getting information and communicating; a wide distribution of American films, TV programmes and computer software all over the world, and the growth of international tourism.

Relations between cultures and civilizations and their interaction have a long history but this dialogue implies a two-way process enjoying equal rights. That couldn’t but affect the sphere of languages. European languages have always been the languages for international communication and undoubtedly, have every right to occupy a highly important place. In the second half of the 20th century one of the European languages – English – became dominating and has maintained this position up to now. Here many questions arise. Can predominance of one language result in fatal consequences, such as mass disappearance of national minority group languages and exhaustion of the national languages of individual countries? How inevitable are these tendencies, how can they be controlled and what are their limits? What influence do these tendencies have over the dialogue of cultures and civilizations?

According to some researchers, one of the factors that contribute to strengthening the position of the English language is the majority of people learn the languages characterized by so called “communicative values”. But in the epoch of globalization that features more pragmatic relations between people the communicative values of the language are often understood as connected with money or career, so the appeals to use various languages for international communication made by linguists and politicians turn out to be disregarded. 

Speaking about English as the language of international communication we can’t but mention its American variant. Owing to its dominating position in the world America propagates its concepts and ideas in linguistic and cultural communities of nearly every country (including Russia) through the language. In recent years a lot of words have been borrowed from American English, for example: killer, dealer, barman, manager, label, distributor, healer, management and many others, let alone the new language of teenagers: gerla (from “girl”), parenty (from “parents”), fazer (from “father”) and so on. Today’s social economic situation in Russia has given all opportunities for importing American words, mostly advertisements, everywhere – in mass media, streets, shops, news-stalls of Russian cities and towns and eventually for deep penetration into the Russian language. Along with the words, American concepts have come into the present-day life of Russia (a good example is the concept “manager”).  The “invasion” of new concepts demonstrates the powerful influence of economic and social standards over the changes in the language.(2) 

In these days Russian society is facing the problem of changing, or redrawing boundaries of the literary language, its structure and standards. The language is developing very quickly, its forms of expression are changing, undesirable tradition and culture integrity gap is becoming a reality. The initiators of such careless use of the language are many Russian mass media. At the heart of the occurring processes are changes in psychological state of people.

Postindustrial era Russia and all countries are entering requires speed, efficiency, development and continuous changes. Traditional foundations of society, the previous social system are interpreted by the majority of people as obsolete. That concerns not only ideology and social order, but the manner of speech and the whole language too. Together with the regular changes in spirit and public opinion demanded by the market economics of globalization era changes in public opinion are accompanied by a lot of negative social phenomena. One of them is so called “mass culture” which is spreading very quickly and is having a destructive effect at all levels, especially in borrowings – internal (from the language of uneducated people, slang, dialects), external (mostly from American English), as well as word-formation and semantic changes. That can be considered as the distinctive feature of the modern Russian language.

Borrowings, or loan words from American English are considered to be the most remarkable feature of today’s Russian language. Like practically in any country of the world, people in Russia, especially the young people, look on the United States as the centre of technological achievements, the model of public order and economic prosperity, the state with ideal standards of living, culture, taste, manners of speech and behavior. 

Let us consider some examples that will help us to prove that such categories as taste and fashion influence the development of the Russian language and define its future.

Following the tendencies of the past years English words are very widely used in Russian mass media even though there are appropriate Russian equivalents. This can be illustrated by the following examples: konversiya from English “conversion” instead of Russian “preobrazovanie”, stagnatsia from “stagnation” instead of “zastoi”, consensus instead of “soglasie”, image instead of “obraz”, “pluralism” instead of “mnozhestvennost’ mneniy”, prezentatsia from “presentation” instead of “predstavlenie”, cottonoviy from “cotton” instead of “khlopchatobumazhniy”, corrumpirovanniy from “corrupt” instead of “prodazhniy”, transparentniy from “transparent” instead of “prozrachniy”,  pilotniy from “pilot” instead of “opytniy” and many other examples. 

It should be noted that the words that came into the Russian language from other languages have been replaced by the English borrowings. The Russified French words “multiplikator”, “multiplikatsionniy” may serve as good examples – they have been replaced by animator, animatsionniy from English “animator”, “animated”. I can give some other examples: briefing (press-conferentsia, instruktazh), display (ekran), rating (avtoritet, popularnost’), cartridge (patron), make-up (makiyazh), slang (zhargon), publicity (reklama), show (spektakl’). German borrowings in Russian are being ousted by English words: sandwich instead of “Butterbrot”, bestseller, hit instead of “Schlager”, slogany from English “slogans” instead of “Losung”. Foreign words seem (at least at the very beginning) to be attractive because no associations are connected with them that can divert us from the required shade of meaning.(3)                         

In this regard it is rather interesting to compare the recent English borrowing sponsor and the word “metsenat” (“patron”) commonly accepted in Russian. In contrast to the meaning of the word “metsenat”, that can be used for an individual who gives disinterested help, the word “sponsor” is widely used for a person who gets a profit from his or her charitable activity by being granted an exemption from taxes or at least having got business advertising. Meanwhile these words with two quite different meanings can often be found in Russian mass media in one and the same context.

Another example is the word summit that has become widespread in recent years in spite of its equivalent “vstrecha v verkhakh” or “na vysshem urovne” with the meaning “the meeting of the leaders of several governments” that has been used in the Russian language since the 1950s. In this connection it should be noted that the word “summit” in Russian mass media underwent change of meaning and is used in a figurative sense to describe any meeting.

We can not but admit that sometimes it is more convenient to use a new word that comes into the language instead of the phrase that has been used before. Since recently we have been using the English word rating to denote the position of a company in the list of similar ones, image to give a description for a company or a person. Not only words rule over people, but people also add new meanings to the well-known words. It can be illustrated by the following examples. In August 1998 a new term default that in English has the meaning “a failure to do something that you are supposed to do according to the law” came into the Russian language, but with quite different meanings: “bankruptcy”, “crisis”, “catastrophe”  that have been preserved until now. The French word boutique (“a small shop”) is used in Russian to denote a luxurious shop.

In the 1990s the language of American business and electronics was widely adopted in Russia. Business, computer, press-release, image are just a few examples of the words one can come across in modern mass media. One of the reasons foreign words are borrowed very easily is the peculiarities in the structure of the Russian language characterized by numerous prefixes and endings that make invasion of new words possible. Management, brokery from “brokers”, dilery from “dealers”, konvertatsia from “conversion”, leasing and kholdingovye companii from “holding companies” burst into the sphere of Russian commerce without any difficulty. Penetration of English terms into electronics, first of all computer science is the most visible. An obsolete Russian term “vychislitelnaya mashina” (“computing machine”) was ousted by the Western term computer. Some other examples are: laptop, floppy, software, joystick that have pronunciation similar to that of the English words. The only exception here is the device called “mouse” in English but “mysh” in Russian.

In these days the Russian press, radio and television are making very persistent attempts to popularize new terms and declaring that the mass media language keeps pace with the times, thus deeply affecting all language styles. Since the meanings of new words are grasped very quickly and don’t need to be explained any longer, they became widespread in all social and professional groups – from business circles to young people.

Of special interest are new terms used in technology, office work, computing machines and other electronic communications devices: they enter the language easily and their number is constantly growing. This is illustrated by the following examples: computer, or PC and its derivatives computerizirovat’, computerizatsia (from “computerize”, “computerization”), kseroks (from “Xerox machine”), video (videomagnitofon from “video taperecorder”, videocamera, videocassette, videofilm, videoclip), tuner, player, radiotelephone, walkie-talkie (portable radio stations), equalizer, scanner, modem and fax-modem, teletype, telex, printer, composer, floppy disk, compact disk, camcorder, timer, file, bit and byte, hardware and software, clip.

Modern mass media are overflowed with the new words that came into the language of advertisement and sports. Most words have been borrowed without any reason, it is just an obvious attempt to follow the fashion. We can give some examples: OK, fifty-fifty, no problem, coditsioner volos (from “hair-conditioner”), cruiz (from “cruise”), lunch. Sport commentators can not do without such words as pressing and forcing, outsiders and referee.

Speaking about mass media influence on the national language I’d like to dwell on the concept of “international jargon”, or “interjargon” that has recently come into use in the whole world (and Russia is not an exception). The term “interjargon” is used to describe the young people slang that resulted from a large amount of information in English distributed all over the world, the general tendency of learning English (and American English in particular) as the language of international communication, imitation of American life-style. This jargon is connected with adaptation of English expressions picked up mainly from films and songs, booklets and catchy packages. It is adapted to phonetics and grammar of the language, occurs in many languages and even provides mutual understanding between people having common interests. Interjargon unites young people that share similar ideas and spiritual values and serves as the means of self-affirmation. Using such words as superhit (from English words “super-” and “hit”), smikshirovannye kompozitsii (from “mixed compositions”), maxi-single, disk-gigant  (from the words “disk” and “giant”), happening and many others, mostly names of well-known singers and musicians, rock-groups and individual hits young people make immediate contact with each other. 

In connection with the problem of mass media influence on the national language the following questions arise. What can the current tendency of including numerous loan words, such as shopping, promotion, challenge and others into the national language result in? Can it have grave consequences that could threaten self-identity of the language? Must these tendencies be limited or controlled?

The fact is, any word of the mother tongue features a lot of associations that help make up for a deficiency in meaning when required. With a foreign word everything is somewhat different, therefore, on the one hand, the word is recognized without any effort and on the other hand, it has an uncertain meaning – everyone understands it in his or her own way. Traditionally, the tendency to use borrowings in mass media is appreciated negatively and the numerous foreign words politicians, sport commentators, managers of small and large offices use in their speech displease the public. Many Russian linguists state that the negative consequence of cultural globalization is impoverishment and lack of expressiveness of the people’s speech. On the other hand, they understand the necessity of borrowings in the Russian language, but make an appeal to use them in speech very carefully and assert that it is possible and desirable to express any concept using Russian words.

In conclusion I should like to say that the process of borrowing words from one language into another one is permanent and despite a lot of negative consequences it is efficient while the destiny of some words is not definite. In principle, the presence of foreign words in any language is not an extraordinary thing, and it is not possible to become familiar with the world culture without them. It should be noted that loan words often contribute to internationalization that is, no doubt, a very progressive process until it encroaches upon unique identity of the nation. But we must not forget that excessive number of foreign words in our speech clutter it up, especially when there exist their Russian counterparts or in case their meaning is uncertain or they are used thoughtlessly, for the sake of following the fashion or demonstrating pseudoscholarly approach. In this connection it is appropriate to mention here “ecology of the language”, the science aimed at harmonious combining unavoidable changes in the language and concern for its inviolability as the national historical heritage.

Undoubtedly, the Russian language is changing visibly, losing its self-identity and developing more quickly than it is required, it has a vocabulary quite different from the one it has had before. Nevertheless, we don’t need to exaggerate the threat: Russian is by no means on the verge of ruin or went into recession. It assumes a new look that is misapprehended, mostly by the older generation, as spoiling something that has always been habitual and reliable. Transition of the language to a new stage is a permanent historical process that must not be considered as degradation, impoverishment, decline, degeneration. In the social aspect this transition is regarded as a part of continuous process of the language adaptation to changing conditions of life, ideals of the society, its views and principles even though its extremely large speed threatens stability and continuity of literary expression.

The tendencies of using the Russian literary language, its distinguishing features in the near future depend on psychological state of people, their desire to follow the standards established by the influential part of society, educated people who deform the standards and style peculiarities of the literary language deliberately and consciously.

Transition of the language to a new stage is unavoidable, but it must ensure continuity of literary expression not disregarding the traditions that have been followed for centuries. Thoughtless following the fashion, artificial invasion into the language result in changing the people’s taste for the worse bringing it down to populism and primitiveness. One of the ways to solve this problem is to pay more attention to culture of everyday life and to familiarize people with the standard literary and classical language.


1 About globalization see: Barber Benjamin R. Jihad vs. McWorld // Globalization and the Challenges of a New Century / Patrick O’Meara, Howard D. Mehlinger, and Matthew Krain (Eds). Bloomington and Indianapolis, 2000. P. 23-33; Berger Peter L. Four Faces of Globalization // Ibidem. P. 419;  Fukuyama Francis. The End of History? // Globalization and the Challenges of a New Century. P. 161-180; Nethersole Reingard. Models of Globalization // PMLA Journal. Vol. 116. No 3. May 2001; Said Edward W. Globalizing Literary Study // PMLA Journal. Vol. 116. No 1. January 2001; Nethersole Reingard. Models of Globalization // PMLA Journal. Vol. 116. No 3. May 2001; Stade Roland. The Cultures of Globalization // American Ethnologist. Vol. 26. No 3. August 1999; Alle, M. Globalization: Destruction of Employment Conditions and Economic Growth. Empirical Evidence. – M., 2003; Beck, U. What Is Globalization? – M., 2001; Soros, J. About Globalization. – M., 2004 et al.
2 Shakhovsky V.I. Emotional Cultural Concepts: Parallels and Contrasts // Language Personality: Cultural Concepts. – Volgograd: Volg. State Ped. Univ., 1996
3 More detail see: Kostomarov V.G. Language Taste of Epoch. From Observations of Mass Media Speech Practice. – M., 1994.

8.13. National Self-Identity in the Context of Global Events | Nationale Selbstidentität im Kontext der globalen Ereignisse

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For quotation purposes:
Eugenia Morozova: Mass Media Influence on the National Language in the Epoch of Globalization - In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 17/2008. WWW:

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