Lexical Nativization

Julia Kim (English)

How Does the Lexical Nativization Affect Intelligibility in World Varieties of English?: The Case of Japanese English (Katakana Eigo)

This study investigates whether English loanwords in Japanese are intelligible when incorporated into spoken English in order to test Jenkins’ (2006) and Bruthiaux’s (2010) assumptions that indigenized forms of English may lack intelligibility. Japanese has increasingly borrowed lexicon with up to 10% of common Japanese vocabulary considered foreign borrowings, many from English (Honna, 2008; Inagawa, 2012). Loan words become nativized through linguistic processes, including morphological clipping, semantic shift, applying Japanese phonological constraints, and new coinage. 

The study involves U.S., Filipino, and Korean college students, who listened to digitized speech samples in English read by a Japanese speaker who incorporated loanwords commonly used in Japanese. The survey locations represent Kachru’s (1992) Inner, Outer, and Expanding Circles, respectively. Subjects completed two listening tasks. Task 1 presented short, single sentence utterances in English including a single loanword with phonological modification to meet Japanese phonological specifications. The subjects wrote exactly what they heard. For Task 2, English utterances were presented with loanwords including morphological and semantic modifications. The subjects guessed the meaning of each expression. 

Overall listener trends in phonological, morphologic and semantic modifications, and listener features such as age and home language are correlated with item-by-item listener assessment of intelligibility. Comparisons among the three groups examine differences in how Anglicized Japanese words affect comprehensibility, contributing to wider discussions of intelligibility in world varieties of English.

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