The World Loanword Database (WOLD)11 – see head describes a loanword as “a word that was copied from another language, either by adoption or by retention, at some point in the history of the language. Even if a loanword is fully integrated, it is still a loanword, and a loanword never ceases to be a loanword.”22 – Martin Haspelmath & Uri Tadmor (eds.) World Loanword Database (Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, 2009). Available online at https://wold.clld.org/terms (Accessed 11 June 2019) The loanword is always tracked, always gesturing to a somewhere else. Even within complex sociolinguistic networks, systems that transform through multiplicitous ways, including vertical shifts within and horizontal involvements from outside;33 – “The study of contact between languages is important in historical linguistics because it brings to light the different forms of horizontal flow between dialects, as opposed to the vertical flow of norms through generations. In addition to the flow of linguistic materials between neighboring dialects in a continuum, language may be affected by flows of non linguistic materials, such as the migration of a population of speakers who are the organic substratum of a dialect.” Manuel De Landa, A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History (New York: Swerve Editions, 1997), pp.193-4. a loanword drags around its history. This definition is fertile in that it adds a certain depth: movements are no longer along a never-ending surface, as there is an essential inclusion of a history of word use that resists being flattened,44 – There are perhaps analogies here with blockchain technology, however these differ from loanwords in that as they are separated into distinct parts, they continue to be tracked, whereas loanwords relinquish a tracking of neologisms, even if inclusive of a loanword root. Blockchain has more links to the 'data set', which is discussed in leg 4 but it also raises questions of limits, of integrations. Ongoingness embraced, but kept-an-eye-on, kept-in-check.
To trace their effect and relation to ongoing, it seems necessary to take a more detailed look at loanwords, which louse refuses to be, and borrowing patterns, which louse ignores.
A more technical definition of the loanword55 – at least as defined in the Loanword Typology Project (which lead to the creation of WOLD) describes a loanword as “a lexeme that has been transferred from one lect into another and is used as a word (rather than an affix, for example) in the recipient language.”66 – Martin Haspelmath and Uri Tadmor (eds.) Loanwords in the World’s Languages: A Comparative Handbook (Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 2009), p.13 - words from substate languages were also included, as were ones that moved between one regional dialect of a language to another, and between a more prestigious and less prestigious dialect A loanword can enter a language in three ways, it “can enter into a lexicon where no earlier word for that meaning existed, can replace an earlier word, or may coexist with an earlier word of roughly the same meaning.”77 – Ibid, p.16 These ways are distinct88 – Albeit in a way that gets muddied by differences in lexical meanings covered by the words, “of course lexical meanings do not have to fit into predefined slots.” Ibid, p.49. from each other in that the term ‘cultural borrowings’ designates a new concept that has come from outside, as the first mode of entry displays, whilst ‘core borrowings’ are duplications of meanings that already exist in a native language. The type of borrowing suggests the type of cultural interaction - or contact situation - that lead to the borrowing: for example, cultural borrowings might indicate non-native speakers imposing properties of their language onto a recipient language (which might be part of and follow from colonization), or core borrowings might imply native speakers adopting elements from other languages, often due to ideas of ‘prestige’. Borrowing types forge an entry into examining intricate historic (and continuing) cultural relationships, as through tracking loanwords and borrowing, the movements, interactions, networks of peoples can be followed historically. These borrowing relationships display as web-like movements across linguistic groups.99 – Although there is a certain temporal linearity to the sociolinguistic approach, movements seem to be omnidirectional and simultaneous; what if words were seen as matter, indeterminate, jittering around as quanta, only giving account of themselves at the point of use? (see leg 1 on Karen Barad’s ‘TransMaterialities’)
One distinction worth clarifying here is that between ‘lexical borrowing’, which is the transfer of words along with their meaning, as is our focus with louse, and ‘semantic borrowing’, which is the transfer of meanings without the words. Semantic borrowing includes calques - complex word-to-word translations, such as the phrase ‘flea market’, which is argued to come from the French ‘marché aux puces’; a phrase that has lent itself to languages too numerous to mention here, the flea intact throughout.
Regardless of the borrowing type, the loanword waves and calls loudly, draws attention to itself. This never ceasing of a loanword asks a question of limits; whether if in the constant reaffirming of what it once was, there is a restriction as to what it can become. A constant reminder of an earlier form, its parents arriving with childhood photos, deflating moments of possibility. What might provide a line of escape for the loanword is in an exclusionary aspect of its definition: “Excluded from the class of loanwords are neologisms (= productively created lexemes) which consist partly or entirely of foreign material, because they are created in the recipient language, and not transferred from a donor language”.1010 – Martin Haspelmath and Uri Tadmor (eds.) Loanwords in the World’s Languages, p.13. Even if the main root of a neologism is a loanword, its mode as never-ceasing definition is escaped - adapted by manipulated use, it has slipped off radar (onto another one). This getaway from confinement is undoubtedly a technique of ongoingness, an interaction with other forms to become something else, a making-with; the loanword may continue as is, whilst its variants scatter elsewhere. In Anne Carson’s translation of Paul Celan’s poem Tübingen, Jänner, in which he praises Holderlein’s private language toward the end of his life, she brilliantly chooses to translate ‘mowenumschwirrt’ as ‘gull-whirredaround’.1111 – Anne Carson and Lanfranco Quadrio, Nay rather (Lewes: Sylph, 2014), pp. 28 - 30. Michael Hamburger translates the same part of the poem as ‘circled by whirring gulls’, which doesn’t have quite the same effect. Paul Celan, Selected Poems with translation by Michael Hamburger (England: Penguin Books, 1996), pp.180-181 Gullwhirredaround! That taking of borrowed units and the mutating of them, an inventiveness to form something else entirely, something unwordly. Louseremain.
The neologism-turn holds similarities with Roger Caillois’ notion of ‘mimicry’ not being simply a defence mechanism, but instead having the actual goal to “become assimilated into the environment”,1212 – Roger Caillois, ‘Mimicry and Legendary Psychasthenia’ in The Edge of Surrealism: A Roger Caillois Reader, edited by Claudine Frank (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2003), p.98 into “a veritable lure of space”,1313 – Ibid, p.99 in which an instinct d’abandon attracts “towards a kind of diminished existence”,1414 – Ibid, p.102 a “depersonalization through assimilation into space”.1515 – Ibid, p.100. The loanword could also be seen as diagrammatic, with this move into space only a reading of some cartographic points - see hair The space here would be seen as the space opened up by the recipient language, where loanwords can depersonalise by adapting their traits, sometimes in mimetic ways to be accepted in the first place,1616 – “Borrowing a word often entails a certain modification of the source word, required for the integration of the word into the recipient language” Martin Haspelmath and Uri Tadmor (eds.) Loanwords in the World’s Languages, p.16 and then diminish their existence as loanword (and simultaneously strengthen their continuing) through an obscuring via neologism. Of course, this hints at a linguistic agency that has little to do with the speaker’s intent, or their word-ing - a ‘magic’ in the Caillois sense.
The neologism brings a focus on dispersal within a language, which, in dispersing, achieves an ongoingness as various forms, of multiple directions. Lexical borrowing is a too complex picture to be able to describe such movements as just ‘effects’ of loanwords - historical borrowing is a blurring of cause/effect - but there’s something to be said of the havoc loanwords can invoke, changes as chains across various systems. The notion of ‘prestige’ plays a part here.
In his examination of the way French words flowed into Middle English, Manuel De Landa explains how these words tended to exist as ‘core borrowings’, as synonyms to pre-existing words. The abundance of synonyms created a hierarchical structure in English, in which words belonged to different registers, with each register being used for a particular purpose, from casual to formal.1717 – This is termed “stylistic stratification”: casual - between friends and family; formal - institutional, with strangers, superiors; and technical - workplace, communicating with other professionals. De Landa does point out that the vocabularies needn’t come from different languages, but are instead impacted by the ‘care’ in their use. Manuel De Landa, A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History, pp. 204-5. Prestige here displays the heterogeneity within language, the situational determination of its use. De Landa describes how “middleclass speakers, in their anxious usage of the high-prestige variant in their now more impersonal and fragmented social networks, tended to "hypercorrect" their dialectal speech, adding an additional source of variation and heterogeneity”.1818 – Ibid, p.212 Hypercorrection - a use of an erroneous word form or pronunciation that is based on a correct, perhaps a more prestigious, form - leading to increased linguistic change, a higher degree of entropy.
fig.2 Great Vowel Shift diagram/caravan. Arieh Frosh, 2019
Hypercorrection is one possible instigator for the Great Vowel Shift, which primarily occurred between the 14th and 17th centuries, in which “the long vowel sounds of English changed their values in a fundamental and seemingly systematic way, each of them moving forward and upward in the mouth.”1919 – “The "o" sound of spot became the "a" sound of spat, while spat became speet, speet became spate, and so on. The "aw" sound of law became the "oh" sound of close, which in turn became the "oo" sound of food. Chaucer's Iyf, pronounced "Ieef," became Shakespeare's life, pronounced "Iafe," became our "life." Bill Bryson quoted in Manuel De Landa, A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History, pp.209-210 As a sound moves towards another and becomes more similar to it, this other sound moves as well (push chain), and simultaneously the empty spaces left by the movement of certain sounds are filled by other sounds (drag chain), therefore producing a major shift in the sounding of the language.2020 – These dynamics are explained on p.210 of Manuel De Landa, A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History
These are impacts that can’t necessarily be traced to specific loanwords, but they nevertheless lurk behind, pulling the occasional string. Impacts that can be centuries long-lasting: the way we sound Robert Hooke’s microscopic observations is more or less as it was sounded when published in 1665; the same applies for English poetry of the time, such as the works of John Donne.2121 – Writing, too, has its effects. In John Donne's The Flea - as Aviva Dauch points out - Donne took advantage of how the customary writing of “the letter ‘s’ when written at the beginning of a word became longer typographically, looking more like the letter ‘f’, the visual pun of line three, ‘Me it suck'd first, and now sucks thee’, could explicitly allude to exactly what the narrator thought the flea was doing and he himself wished to be doing…” https://www.bl.uk/shakespeare/articles/a-close-reading-of-the-flea (accessed 11 June 2019) One of the major ideas that this particular mechanism points to is how hidden influencers might impact the continual, intensely collective, evolution of languages. Heterogeneous language systems meet and hybridise in parts, often in unseen forms, and impact indefinitely, to points beyond our ability to trace them. These are the ways languages continue; amongst each other, with countless minor dialects2222 – and related minor literatures within them, with personal language use at the smallest scale. Ongoing as a many-limbed, taking, absorbing, decanting, cross-fertilizing mass of momentums.
Even louse, who remains where it is, on all sides, amongst linguistic exchange, gets taken in by certain collective endeavours. During the Great Vowel Shift the sounding of the word louse moved from ‘u:’ - a high back vowel mouth positioning - lous / lu:s (which sounds a bit like ‘loose’, before it tightens up) to a ‘əu’ sound in one stage, before shifting again to the ‘au’ sounds that we know of today as louse.2323 – https://youtu.be/zyhZ8NQOZeo?t=216 (accessed 11 June 2019) - louse sounds different in English dialects in the north of England as certain sounds deepened less, and in Canadian English due to Canadian raising Louse, as figural ongoingness, seemingly unafraid of taking part in momentous shifts, for if ongoing is stablest elsewhere, then elsewhere it shall go.