Semantic Change in Latvian under the Influence of English

Andrejs Veisbergs (University of Latvia)

The impact of English as a global language upon Latvian has been growing exponentially in the last 20 years. It results not only in traditional borrowing and loans, but affects also the sphere of semantics – native Latvian words and earlier loans modify and change their meanings under the influence of English. Latvian linguistics for about 100 years has preferred to ignore or condone semantic change, though it has always been rife. The paper views the change from a novel point of view as reflected in new meanings (retorika, izdegt), broadening and narrowing of meaning (instruments, pieredze), connotational change (pilsonisks, militārists), conceptual recategorization (burbulis, tuša) and shifts in idiom loans (tauriņi vēderā. nāk ārā). Though some of the changes may seem unnecessary, redundant and even confusing, there seems to be no way of resisting it, as it is the result of a massive impact of language contact which envelops all layers of lexis and styles. Many of the changes are characteristic of the traditional meaning development of Latvian lexis, some of the changes are of nonce character and transitory. Finally these processes depend not so much on the linguistic particularities of the languages involved, they reflect the change of the modern society and its cultural paradigms.

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