-1

Europeans and Americans often use Greek roots to coin new words for new concepts. For example, the telephone was invented in the United States of America, and the word telephone is itself derived from Greek roots tele (τῆλε) and phone (φωνή). Later the term telephone was adopted into the vocabulary of many other languages, including Greek itself of course. It's τηλέφωνο in Greek.

Here comes the question. The word telephone was coined from Greek roots in a place out of Greece, and later adopted by Greek itself. Do native speakers of Greek consider it a loanword from English? Or do they consider it whatever the nationality of the people who first coined the word and so it’s still a loanword from Greek, as long as it use Greek morphemes?

  • 1
    by the definition of 'loanword', yes – user180089 Jul 10 '16 at 17:03
  • 4
    Shouldn't this be on Greek.stackexchange.com? (Which doesn't exist yet.) – Peter Shor Jul 10 '16 at 17:07
  • 3
    @Itux ~ Just because it's derived from Greek doesn't make it the same word as in Ancient Greek. I'm pretty sure they didn't have telephones back then. So the fact that Greeks adopted a foreign word instead of creating their own makes it a loanword. – user180089 Jul 10 '16 at 17:23
  • 1
    @ltux native speakers of Greek can understand it because they were raised using it. Your average Greek has no idea that τῆλε meant far or distance or whatever it meant exactly. Granted, φωνή also exists in Modern Greek so that much they'd get, but all they'd understand without context is that it might have something to do with voice. A native Greek today can't understand a text written in Ancient Greek anymore than an Italian or a Spaniard can understand Latin. – terdon Jul 10 '16 at 18:01
  • 2
    To give an example from English: Pokémon is a familiar Japanese loanword—which was coined from the English words "pocket" and "monster". I doubt most English speakers know that, or care, or would consider it an English term as a result. (Of course, both "pocket" and "monster" were borrowed from French, and that "é" in the middle looks kind of French, too...) – 1006a Jul 10 '16 at 18:14
5

The online Merriam-Webster defines loanword as

a word taken from another language and at least partly naturalized

So, yes, any word that enters a language from another, irrespective of what the roots of that word happen to be, is a loanword. The question becomes clearer when considering that Modern Greek is not Ancient Greek. You could even consider all Ancient Greek words found in Modern Greek to be loanwords (although that might be taking it a bit too far and is likely to get you lynched in the streets of Athens). But let's put that aside and accept that Modern Greek is a direct descendant of Ancient Greek so any words that have survived the journey can be considered autochthonous. Even so, as you correctly point out, τηλέφωνο is not one of them.

To give another example, the word for internet in Italian is, surprisingly enough, internet. That's a word that was created from Latin roots. Would you not consider it a loanword in Italian? It came straight from English. That it happened to have been created using the roots of one of the Languages that Italian is derived from is not relevant and doesn't change the fact that it came into Italian from another language.

Finally, since you ask about native Greeks, I can give you the opinion of one. Sadly, Greeks tend to be very chauvinistic about their language and often put national pride above linguistic analyses. I would bet that your average Greek would indeed consider that word Greek and not a loanword at all. That, however, does not mean that said Greek would be correct to do so. I am a native speaker of Greek and I, personally, would consider it a loanword for the reasons stated above.

  • The more sophisticated Modern Greek etymologists do make a point of pointing out exactly that; the late Evangelos Petrounias, the etymologist of the Triantafyllidis Dictionary, was an early proponent of that, and the the Triantafyllidis Dictionary etymologies are meticulous in point that out. – Nick Nicholas Mar 23 '18 at 14:01
  • 1
    @NickNicholas indeed. Unfortunately, those are not always the most heard voices. – terdon Mar 23 '18 at 14:11

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.