The Ecology of English Loanwords in Chinese: A Case Study of Cement

  •  Ruifeng Mo    
  •  Hao-Zhang Xiao    


From an ecolinguistic perspective, this study focuses on five English loanwords in Chinese related to the field of cement, as defined in the Modern Chinese Dictionary. The research quantitatively examines the ecological dynamics of these loanwords using two indicators: lexical niche breadth and overlap. The goal is to uncover the evolutionary mechanism governing their adaptation. The findings show: (1) The emergence of English loanwords is intricately linked to specific social environments. As new concepts and items are introduced from abroad, the masses initially make new loanwords, which are later standardized by authoritative bodies. (2) The vitality of loanwords correlates with their niche breadth. The competition among lexical variants is influenced by niche overlap. The loanwords for cement, ranked by vitality in descending order, are ShuiNi (3.221), YangHui (2.350), ShuiMenTing (1.385), HongMaoNi (1.202), and ShiMinTu (0.879). (3) The endangerment of loanwords results from a combination of external (social environment) and internal (language system) factors. Intense competition arises due to the presence of multiple synonyms for the same entity, and localization challenges occur when the loanwords do not precisely fit the entity. Among the five loanwords for cement, the first two exhibit higher vitality and continue to develop sustainably, while the last three show lower vitality and are gradually becoming endangered. As these loanwords undergo continuous evolution, a lexical ecocontinuum emerges: extinct in the wild—ShiMinTu; critically endangered—HongMaoNi; endangered—ShuiMenTing; vulnerable—YangHui; least concerned—ShuiNi.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
  • ISSN(Print): 1923-869X
  • ISSN(Online): 1923-8703
  • Started: 2011
  • Frequency: bimonthly

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