I'm trying to remember a word the Mac OS X Word of the Day screensaver showed me a few days ago. It's something along the lines of "using one language's words with another's syntax or grammar". This is not linguistic blending, or portmanteaux, or loan words, but more about the grammar and constructs of two languages mixed together. Can anyone think of a word that describes this kind of polyglot phenomenon?

  • One language's words with another's syntax use you could, I think. – Andrew Leach Oct 20 '15 at 20:36
  • Perhaps transliteration, i.e. change letters, words, etc. into corresponding items of another alphabet or language. – Graffito Oct 20 '15 at 21:00
  • 1
    One of the definitions of 'pidgin' might be close. "denoting a simplified form of a language, especially as used by a non-native speaker." google.co.uk/?gws_rd=ssl#q=pidgin+definition – chasly from UK Oct 20 '15 at 21:25
  • ‘Pidgin’ (or ‘creole’, I suppose) is the closest I can think of offhand, too, though I doubt that's it. I don't think I've ever come across a word for this in particular. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 20 '15 at 22:27
  • I know the word wasn't pidgin, but the concept is closest to what I'm looking for. – anahata Oct 21 '15 at 21:23

Heh, here's a side-attack on the problem. How about looking for the word list used by the screensaver? I found a thread that says you can find it at:

/System/Library/Graphics/Quartz\ Composer\ Plug-Ins/WOTD.plugin/Contents/Resources/NOAD_wotd_list.txt

The full thread: https://apple.stackexchange.com/questions/95038

It's a technical approach, but I bet would be successful in tracking down the word you saw.

  • This seems like a good way to find the word, assuming it hasn't changed since I asked the question! The timestamp suggests it hasn't, thankfully. – anahata Mar 12 '16 at 5:19

Sounds like a calque, a word-for-word translation from one language to another.

  • While similar, calques are single words or phrases, not whole sentences that would be influenced by the sentence syntax the op is probably wondering about – Azor Ahai Oct 21 '15 at 17:31
  • I specifically remember the gloss had something about syntax. calque sounds similar to gallicism (with the added step of translation of course). – anahata Oct 21 '15 at 20:29

Could the word have been code-mixing or code-switching?

Wiki defines insertional code-switching as involving "the insertion of elements from one language into the morphosyntactic frame of the other" (quoting Donald Winford).

But this is unlikely to have been a word of the day.


What about this? From Wikipedia,

In linguistics, relexification is the mechanism of language change by which one language replaces much or all of its lexicon, including basic vocabulary, with that of another language, without drastic change to its grammar. It is principally used to describe pidgins, creoles, and mixed languages.

Relexification seems like the word you are looking for, plus it is also principally used to describe pidgins and creoles which concepts are among the closest to what you are looking for (as you said in the question's comment).

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