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Borrowed Words Help Languages to Improve not to Corrupt - An Analysis about Language Change

Language Change
Languages have always been ever-changing, and will continue to change in the future. Linguists believe that this change is an expectable reality of languages (Yule 2003:222). In this sense, the important thing to be considered is how they change and to which direction the languages go; corruption or improvement. Actually, according to Lass (1980, as cited in Chapman-Skousen, 2005) change of a language can be analyzed and told in details but this process cannot be explained why and how it appears, and it is an important challenge trying to understand that (p. 333). In this essay, other than understanding how, it is planned to be focused on trying to enlighten whether this change helps a language improve or causes the corruption of it by borrowing words from other languages.

The Reasons to Change
            First of all, languages change for many reasons, and these should be defined. It occurs sometimes because of social, economical and political grounds and in some cases because of invasions, colonization and migration. It is also possible “even without these kinds of influences, […] if enough users alter the way they speak”[1] and write it such as in media. Thus, the inevitability of change appears just before us.
There are other reasons as well which are quite natural in a developing world in every aspect. People need new words to define new things, and that simply leads to change. Technology is always finding things that are never defined before and which are needed to be called something just like cell phones, internet and computers.[2] Therefore, by the new terms that are just created the change occurs in its own nature. This creation of new words, improvement, is not the same in every language. Some create new words, and some borrow these words from its original one, just like English and Turkish do in many cases.

Change in English
            As it is the most obvious source of change, the cultural transmission (Yule 2003) is applicable to language change as well. This is of course by ‘borrowing words’. This exchange is considered to be the most important source of finding new words for a language (Fromkin, Rodman, Hyams 2003). Furthermore, Yule (2003) finds this process as a quite normal feature of languages. It could not be implied in a clearer way that borrowing words is an improvement for not only the English language and also for the others by linguists. It is not a perfect explanation but a good one, of defining the borrowing process as it is a development just because it is inevitable. This idea is from an optimistic point of view. But no one can predict the future of a language however it is still appropriate to say that this progress seems like an enhancement for now. As there is nothing to do to stop this, we only can talk about it and try to control it explaining its positive sides.
            Therefore, taking new words into a language should be considered as an enhancement just like English linguists believe. There is no way out of not using these words if the speakers keep using them, which shows that the speakers play a really important role altering the language as it is mentioned before. There is also another reason why it is a good thing for English. English is a wide language and it does not have some strict rules like Turkish does. Accepting these new words is easy for it and that is because the words in English do not have to follow some certain rules to be considered as they are originally English. On the other hand, in Turkish the words have to obey some rules such as palatal and labial vowel harmony[3] which defines the words whether they are originally Turkish or not. It is probably one of the reasons of the strong objections to the borrowing words by the Turkish linguists as the ideas of them will be given in further pages. 

Change in Turkish
            There seems to be nothing wrong about taking words from other languages and making the language rich in vocabulary when you observe this change superficially, but it is not the same for every one of them. The Turkish language is one of them which is in effect of change by borrowing words. Clearly Turkish linguists consider this process as impoverishing the language. They have presuppositions that are not good at all about Turkish in the case of using words from foreign languages. According to Aksan (2005), if the change in a language happens with the help of borrowing words from other ones, this shows us how worse and further it can go in altering the language, destroying the rules of target one (pp. 135-6). It is not clear what he meant by saying “how worse and further it can go”, but the thing is that his approach to the change is prejudiced already, and it will be more obvious that Turkish linguists think alike in the further quotes from others.  
            In addition, in the years of the Ottoman Empire because of the Islamic improvements in the country many Arabic words were used in Turkish language and eventually they became a part of it. Poets and authors borrowed words from Arabic for nothing more than just to satisfy their artist sides. It was very common to use another language that one of the most important works of the Ottoman era, Osmanlı Şeyhnamesi, was totally written in Persian. Influenced by this move, many writers started and competed to use foreign words and thus Turkish language was exposed to change by borrowing words some of which have still been used since then (Muallimoğlu 1999:214). Because of this change, today it requires a special education to be able to understand a work of even a century ago in Turkish.
            Alike change is happening right now again. People in Turkey are aware of it and they do not think like English linguists do. For them, this is neither a normal progress nor an improvement. Being asked whether the borrowing of words from English is due to inadequacy of Turkish or not, Sinanoğlu (2006) gives an example to enlighten the situation. We all know about Ireland. It is invaded not by force but changing its education language. In Turkey, the same strategy has been carried out since 1953 when TED (Turkish Education Association) was turned into a private college. As we know in Turkey ‘college’ refers to missionary schools. Furthermore, these foundations have been supported by the media and hidden societies founded for the purpose of changing Turkish society by changing its language (p.113). This claim seems over exaggerated and shows the weakness of fighting against borrowed words. It is also just an idea and a really strong belief of an important figure in Turkey, supporting the idea that change leads to impoverishment of the language. By this example, we can clearly see that change should not be considered as bad as and as deep as it is stated here. This is not the reason people in Turkey use foreign words now, but it is just the inevitable process of the language.
            It is believed that borrowing words would destroy the rules of the language, thus changing these rules would lead to corruption by Turkish linguists. They even believe in conspiracy theories which are popular in Turkey and widely considered to exist in reality by many people. This situation explains the reasons of the strong objections by even academic researchers to the normal process of the language. It is not supposed to be based on the beliefs but realities and facts to define a scientific ‘progress’ of a language and consider it as an improvement or corruption.
            Therefore, with the findings and scientific ideas from both Turkish and English linguists it is shown that the language change is perceived differently by the researchers. But, since the change is inevitable in languages and helps languages enhance the vocabulary and most importantly because it is the speakers who boost the process, it would be wrong to say that borrowing words impoverishes the languages. It should be accepted that the borrowed words help languages to keep up to date and live longer by providing the needs of their speakers leading to the improvement of the languages.


1.     Aksan, D. (2005). Türkiye Türkçesinin dünü, bugünü, yarını. Ankara: Bilgi Yayınevi.

2.     Chapman, D., & Skousen, R. (2005). Analogical modeling and morphological change: the case of the adjectival negative prefix in English. English Language and Linguistics, 9.2, 333-357.

3.     Fromkin, V., Rodman, R., & Hyams, N. (2003). An introduction to language. United States: Thomson Heinle Press.

4.     Language Change. (2008). In National Science Foundations. Retrieved April 17, 2009, from National Science Foundations:

5.     Muallimoğlu, N. (1999). Türkçe bilen aranıyor. İstanbul: Avcı Ofset Matbaacılık.

6.     Sinanoğlu, O. (2006). Büyük uyanış. İstanbul: Alfa Basım Yayım Dağıtım.

7.     Turkish language. (2009). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved April 19, 2009, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online:

8.     Yule, G. (2003). The study of language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[2] See 1


  1. C1368


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