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Genericization of Foreign Brand Names in Iraqi Arabic: A Linguistic Study



The study aims at investigating the exceptional use of companies and products‟ names to refer to things that are new or unfamiliar. This usually happens when people from different cultures, countries or cities come into contact with each other in different social situations. This contact leads people of one culture to exchange words, concepts and even products with various other cultures and nations for different purposes. This linguistic exchange is known as „borrowing‟ and the words being borrowed are „loanwords‟. Brand loanwords are regarded as a special case of interest as they are used colloquially and/or formally by people in Iraq and they vary enormously from scientific words to social words, from nouns to verbs, words used especially by the older generation and those used only by the young one, words used by the upper class and those used by the lower class, etc. However, any of such words could be a brand name that stands for a company or a product. This manuscript is divided into four sections: introduction, method, results and discussion.
ISSN online: 2414 3383
ISSN print: 2616 3810
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 - 
  +964-770-631-9061 :   - 
Genericization of Foreign Brand Names in
Iraqi Arabic: A Linguistic Study
The stud y aims at investigating the exceptional use of companies and products‟ na mes to
refer to things that are new or unfamiliar. This usually happens when people from different
cultures, countries or cities come into contact with each other in different social situations.
This contact leads people of one culture to exchange words, concepts and even products with
various other cultures and nations for different purposes. This linguistic exchange is known
as „borrowing‟ and the words being borrowed are „loanwords‟. Brand loanwords are regarded
as a special case of interest as they are used colloquially and/or formally by people in Iraq
and they vary enormously from scientific words to social words, from nouns to verbs, words
used especially by the older generation and those used only by the young one, words used by
the upper class and those used by the lower class, etc. However, any of such words could be a
brand name that stands for a company or a product. This manuscript is divided into four
sections: introduction, method, results and discussion.
Dr. Haidar K. Al-Ābedi
Cell: +964-771-513-9966
ORCID Identifier:
Baghdad - Iraq
Dr. Khalid Sh. Sharhan
Cell: +964-770-631-9061
Department of English,
Imam Kadhum University College,
Baghdad - Iraq
1. Introduction
This section is concerned with introducing the major pillars of the study: the problem
and its hypotheses. It places the limitations for the research and indicates the means of
collecting the data to prove or refute these hypotheses. It also states the objectives for
conducting such a research. It is divided into subsections for the purpose of giving more
illustrative details about the adoption of certain foreign names as authentic into Arabic.
1.1 The Problem
The function of this section is to state the problem of the study by providing authentic
examples for the concerned linguistic phenomenon from Baghdadi Arabic. Taking linguistic
forms, such as morphemes, words and expressions from one language and/or dialect by
another is a process known as „borrowing‟. Linguists, such as Larry Trask (1996), Grover
Hudson (2000), and David Crystal (2006) believe that the term „borrowing does not suit this
process, although it is the most common term in language studies. That is because the
borrowing-language does not usually return loans to lending-language, and simultaneously
the lending-language does not lose the loans being borrowed by any other borrowing-
language. There are still cases when the borrowed word is no longer used by the speakers of
the original source, such as the Arabic wordshatmanand
 „hagan‟ meaning really
which were borrowed by Persian and are no longer used by Baghdadis nowadays. In this
regard, Trask (1996: 18) suggests the term „copying‟ for this process. He says A better term
might be „copying‟ but „borrowing‟ has long been established in this sense.” That is why
many terms are concurrently used in this paper to explain the words being adopted into
Arabic. In the process of borrowing, there seems to be three components: the borrower, the
medium, and the lender:
Figure 1: Borrower-Lender Relationship
A variety of linguistic forms have been borrowed all the time from different sources, for
various objects and ideas usually in speech and to a lesser extent in writing. Thus, people
sometimes do not know the original source language from which loans were borrowed. Many
Baghdadis, for example, think that loans are either of English or Turkish origins, though
many loans were borrowed from other languages, such as Persian and French.
Misunderstanding takes place between the addresser and the addressee in speaking and/or
writing, when the addressee does not understand the foreigner or when the addresser expects
the addressee to know the loan.
The inspiration of this study comes from a conversation that took place in a car
between two brothers who intended to go to a wedding party for offering their
congratulations. The younger brother in the mid forties used the English verb „cancel‟ within
Len der
Med i um
Borrowe r
his Arabic discussion and hence the older brother, who was in the sixties, did not understand
what his younger brother said or meant and this compelled the addressee to ask „What? What
do you mean?‟
Loan-forms may have an impact on the vocabulary of the borrowing-language. In
most cases, the borrowing-language has its native equivalents for the new words and
expressions borrowed but for some reasons, explained in the next section, those loans are
borrowed and sometimes used in the standard language. This causes concern to Arabs about
their language, as it is one of the most widely spoken languages and one of the six world
languages. Anshen states that “Arabic, of course, has tremendous prestige as the holy
language of Islam as well as a long and important literary tradition”, (2003: 710). It has been
a lending-language for many other languages for many centuries, especially where Islam is a
dominate religion. A lot of English scientific words in use now were originally borrowed
from Arabic, such as „algebra‟, „almanac‟, „alkali‟; names of liquids, such as „alcohol‟,
„simoom‟, „sherbet‟; names of animals such as „camel‟, „cat‟, „gazelle‟; names of brands,
such as „Mocha‟ and „Arabesque, etc. Copying loans is a normal phenomenon in the social -
linguistic interactions between speakers of different cultures and nations. Arabic, meanwhile,
has borrowed many English words referring to almost all aspects of life, including brand
names of products or companies, and replaced their genuine equivalents, such as „air-
condition‟, „battery‟, „plug‟, „toilet‟, „switch‟, cigarettes‟, „Tide‟, „oven‟, „Ford‟, „Valium‟,
„makeup‟, „fabrication‟, „Primus‟, etc. Moreover, some of the English words - adopted into
Arabic - are originally French, Greek, or Latin. So, borrowing works into different directions,
i.e., each language gives and takes. But, the quantity of borrowed words into each language is
not alike, since languages naturally follow a barter system where linguistic items are
exchanged for others and the dominant language is usually the richer one. That is because
Borrowing of words can go in both directions between the two
languages in contact, but often there is an asymmetry, such that
more words go from one side to the other. In this case the
source language community has some advantage of power,
prestige and/or wealth that makes the objects and ideas it brings
desirable and useful to the borrowing language community. For
example, the Germanic tribes in the first few centuries A.D.
adopted numerous loanwords from Latin as they adopted new
products via trade with the Romans. Few Germanic words, on
the other hand, passed into Latin.
(Kemmer: 2003)
The exchange of words relies mainly on nations‟ education and cultural contact between the
speakers of the borrowing and lending languages. A problem takes place when people have
native equivalents but give them up to get new terms - due to reasons discussed in the next
section - especially when such new terms are merely brand names.
1.2 The Hypotheses
It is hypothesized that Baghdadis generally tend to borrow nouns more often than
other parts of speech. In the meanwhile, majority of loan nouns are originally English or
adopted from other languages through English. It also hypothesized that brand names can
both be foreign and native and it is possible to substitute them by employing a number of
commercial and productive mechanisms.
1.3 Scope of the Study
This study is devoted to collecting, recording and analyzing all brand-names adopted
into Arabic of Baghdad Province and are frequently used as generic terms, whether in the
formal or colloquial form.
1.4 Data of the Study
1. Personal observations.
2. Checking out documents, newspapers, websites, etc. produced by different
3. Books, articles, encyclopaedias, etc.
4. Questionnaire conducted at colleges.
1.5 Objectives of the Study
The study has the following objects:
1. to identify, collect and record all brand names that are borrowed and commonly used
as generic names in Baghdad;
2. to develop a greater language awareness about the use of foreignisms;
3. to analyze loans through various linguistic disciplines and find out the type of words
borrowed from other languages into the area.
Nevertheless, the first section above gives a thorough introduction to the main points of the
whole study. It establishes the general framework according to which the points are clarified.
2. Method
The purpose of this section is to identify, record and analyse all loan brand names
(whether native or foreign) that are commonly used as generic in the Baghdadi dialect of
Arabic. It also gives detailed explanations for the possible motives of borrowing, its methods,
and its types by providing illustrative examples in both English and Arabic along with their
transliterated forms. It also indicates the three techniques used to conduct the research paper.
2.1 The Procedure
Recording loan words is a complicated task since linguistic items can be invisible and
visible elements and the whole process depends on all language skills - listening, speaking,
writing and reading. Systematic observations and practical questionnaires can also be
required. Recording the number of mammals, for example, in a certain area could be easier
than collecting loanwords in the same area. This is partly due to various linguistic and
paralinguistic features, such as tangibility and visibility. A researcher of such a study needs
not only time but he/she also needs to follow an organized procedure. Therefore, there are
techniques by which loan-forms can be collected.
The most valuable technique is listening, where many loan-forms can be traced. This
would seem well-organized when the researcher engages people into different conversations
of various interesting topics in order to find as many loans as possible in their speech. The
disadvantage of this technique is that it requires time more than other techniques.
The second technique is questionnaire that was carried out through the college
students where interviewees/informants are asked for words and expressions which -
according to their perception - are foreign or strange to the mother-tongue. This can also be
efficiently accomplished through a radio or TV program, which was not accessible at that
time. However, questionnaires are also very helpful, but with some problems, as the
informants sometimes start to invent words which do not exist at all, or make up hybrid
words which are not used in the area. The other slight disadvantage about this technique is
that informants do not usually abide by the instruction of the questionnaire (stated in
Appendix 1) and accordingly they report a substantial number of different types of loan
words that are irrelevant to the brand names under the scope of the study. This number of
words is seen valuable in studies that cover other linguistic aspects.
Another objective way, which relies completely on personal observation, is to
physically check and read documents, letters, newspapers, websites, receipts, etc. produced
by different institutions to find out any written use of loan brands. The advantage of this
technique is when the researcher visually checks a list of famous companies and/or their
products and figures out if their brand names have been adopted as generic words in Arabic.
Appendix 2 at the end of the study encloses a sample of such documents, where the brand
names are underlined to give them more attention to the words borrowed.
All these three techniques are employed together in this study, which usually takes a
considerable time to complete. It is worth mentioning that it should be updated as linguistic
changes take place from time to time, especially in our fast growing world.
2.2 Techniques of Borrowing
It has been indicated above that loan-forms are borrowed into any language through
different media, which could be done directly or indirectly. That is, loan-forms are either
copied directly from the source language (lending language) or copied indirectly through an
intermediate language (a third language). The words „bodyguard‟ and „Kleenex‟ are
borrowed directly from English without any intermediate language. The words  „marka‟
meaning brand and  „cafeteria‟, for example, are borrowed indirectly from Greek and
Spanish respectively into Arabic through English. In this regard, Fromkin et al (2003: 512)
corroborate that “A la nguage may borrow a word d irectly or indirectly.” The following figure
illustrates this process:
Figure 2: Techniques of Borrowing
3. Results
In the section, the data that are relevant to the discourse and collected by the
questionnaire are discussed sequentially so as to come up with logical results and justify the
discussion of the study.
Origina l Source
inte rmediary
Reci pent
3.1 Motives of Borrowing
Attempts are made by people - whether spontaneously or intentionally - to enrich their
vocabulary. English, for example, has become very rich in the last centuries as terms and
expressions are constantly borrowed from almost all languages. This would sometimes lead
to a situation where a speaker has two synonymous terms for the same concept/object in their
language/dialect such as „freedom‟ and „liberty but each one was adopted from a different
language: the former is French and the latter implies the influence of Italian culture. In some
cases, each term has different connotations, for example, the Arabic word  „murashah‟
meaning filter carries a connotation of being an old word. Although the two terms (murashah
and filter) are synonyms, Baghdadis use the latter more often than the former to refer to the
same apparatus. The only interpretation for such borrowing is that people find it necessary to
differentiate between the old and the new in their culture and this phenomenon consequently
leads to enriching their vocabulary.
So, the motives for borrowing vary from people to people and from culture to culture.
Arabic, for example, has a huge number of words more than many other languages and
therefore many people think that necessity to copy words from other languages does not seem
to be a major reason. So, the goal of this section is to find out the reality of such thoughts and
the true motives.
3.1.1 Necessity
According to the number of loan brand names recorded for this study, lack of
vocabulary in the borrowing-language or dialect sounds to be the first motive to copy loan-
forms from other language or dialect. Though Arabic is a very elaborate language, its
speakers copy loans from other languages. That is because of the development in the different
fields of technology and inventions by cultures of the recipient languages, which
consequently lead to the growth of their vocabulary. Therefore, people in Baghdad have
either to copy native forms invented by speakers of other Arabic dialects, especially in other
Arabic-speaking countries, or borrow loans from foreign languages. Most people, for
example, use the loan  „mobile‟ whereas a few use the invented native forms 
„naqqal‟ literally meaning mobile or  khilawi literally meaning cell-phone. In this
regard, Blake (2008: 222) indicates that “Languages frequently borrow words from other
languages, particularly words for new artifacts and ideas.” Because of necessity, loan-forms
„cream‟ „capsule‟ „medal‟, etc. are usually used in Baghdad. Based on these grounds, words
of measurements, like „meter‟, „gigabyte‟, „megabyte‟, „kilo‟, „ton‟, etc. and many brand
names (foreignisms) like „Tide‟ for any type of detergent, „Valium for a type of medical
sleepingtablets, „Kalashnikov‟ meaning rifle, etc. have been borrowed into Arabic. Names of
currencies, vehicles, products and even most cities - such as „dollar‟, „Chevrolet‟, „IPhone‟,
„London respectively - are always transliterated into Arabic since they are international
semantic signifiers and used likewise almost everywhere.
In trade register, the number of such words is higher but only some - that stand for
very famous, useful, or unique products - pass into the general vernacular of Baghdadi
people. “Loanwords give evidence of the nature of political, social, or cultural relations
between language groups”, (Hudson, 2000: 247). Without such relations, words of any sort
would not be used by speakers of these groups. So, the trade register can be influenced by a
number of factors such as the aforesaid relations, merchants importing/exporting the
products, TV channels, commercials, celebrities making commercials, quality and quantity of
product, etc. This provides an opportunity to such social class to use brand names connected
to products being imported from other foreign countries, as they are most probably the first to
deal with them. This is why some linguists believe that loans used by the upper class are
more than those used by the lower class.
Fromkin et al explainEnglish is also a lender of copious numbers of words to other
languages, especially in the areas of technology, sports, and entertainment. Words and
expressions such as „jazz‟, „whisky‟, „blue jeans‟, „rock music‟, „supermarket‟, „baseball‟,
„picnic‟, and „computer‟ have been borrowed by languages as diverse as Twi, Hungarian,
Russian, and Japanese” (2003: 514). Some of the abovementioned words are irreplaceable in
Arabic as it does not have native equivalents for such names, e.g. jazz and whisky, whereas
others - such as computer and picnic - are replaceable. A few - such as baseball and
supermarket - are used simultaneously with the native equivalents as in  korat
alqaeda‟ and  „matjar kabeer‟ respectively which are calques. This is confirmed by
the fact that
Perhaps the most obvious reason is sheer necessity. People
need to develop words for new and unfamiliar concepts - new
technology, new plants and animals, and in the example above,
new and unfamiliar foods . . . there is nothing odd about the
suggestion that we have concepts for which we lack words.
(Radford et al, 1999: 254).
In many cases, Iraqi people in general like to be specific in exchanging information with one
another. Thus, addressers are required to give detailed information to their addressees
straightaway, for example, they do not only say  „khubez which is a general word
referring to „bread‟ but they immediately specify the type of bread that they are interested in
by saying, for instance,  „simon‟, which was a brand name of a French bakery in
Baghdad. A very common example is that all Iraqis refer to rice by adopting the word 
„temen‟ meaning ten men which - according to many people - was an Indian brand name
imported at the beginning of the Twentieth Century. Though it is a brand, „Kleenex‟ is also
adopted as a generic name referring to tissue or paper handkerchief’ in many languages
including English and the Arabic equivalent „mandeel wargi often appears in
formal texts. Oxford Advanced Learner‟s Dictionary also lists Kleenex as a generic name.
The brand names „Primus‟ and „Thermos are both adopted as generic words in Iraqi
colloquial Arabic. The former refers to a square type of ice-container and the latter is usually
specified to carafe. They replaced the Arabic words  „hawia‟ and  „quneena‟
correspondingly. For those who usually purchase „Nido‟ at homes, they occasionally use the
brand to denote milk. More recently is the use of the brand  standing DHL to refer
any mail post. The best interpretation that can be given is that the government post services
have become so slow and ineffective and this has gradually led people to use DHL for their
delivery. So, this acronym has gradually been growing up as an intact generic Arabic name,
which is the only originally brand acronym traced in Baghdadi Arabic.
Vehicle brand names are also used in Baghdad, such as Ford, Tata, Coaster, and more
recently Kia which all refer to sizes of minibus  „hafila sagheera‟. Many people
asked for the motives of using the aforementioned brand and almost all gave the same answer
- they want to have easy and straightaway conversation without being asked for further
details. Other common examples are the brands „Nivea‟ and „Vaseline‟ that both refer to
body-care cream, whose Arabic equivalent is  „muratib bashara‟ that is also used.
Necessity for adopting words from other languages is caused either by the total lack of
native equivalents, or by speakers‟ attempts to give a more detailed piece of information.
The second one is the case with most Iraqi people who desire to communicate with one
another in a shortened and detailed language. Arabs like to speak or write with a short and
understandable speech. In this regard, there is a famous Arabic proverb 
„khair alkalam ma gal w del meaning the less said, the better which is very much similar to
English proverb „Brevity is the soul of wit‟. The pieces of evidence to be given here are the
two Iraqi brand names  „zahi‟ referring to a dishwashing liquid and  „raai‟ standing
for cooking oil. Both of them are used instead of the original generic words  „sael
ghaseel and  „zait tabukh‟ respectively. This means that people‟s use vastly depends
on a number of factors, such as the type of commercials made by different sorts of media, the
quality of products presented to customers, the competitive price, etc. which are somehow
related to the next subsection.
3.1.2 Prestige
Prestige is the second motive after necessity in terms of the number of loan brands
adopted by Baghdadis as generic. It is a linguisticphenomenon that exists in many languages,
for example, most of French loans such as „parliament‟, „court‟, „attorney‟, „sergeant‟, etc.
were copied into English, because French used to be the most prestigious language in Europe
at that time and it was also the language of administration and government in England.
English has also been a lender to other languages. Fromkin et al state that “English is also a
lender of copious numbers of words to other languages, especially in the areas of technology,
sports, and entertainment” (2003: 514). Many English loans, which are used in Baghdad,
have Arabic equivalents but the borrowers usually want to look prestigious and impressive
before others by showing their skills of speaking foreign languages or using foreign words.
There are two classifications of such words: those which still look prestigious like „bedygard‟
for bodyguard, „tob‟ for top, „lok‟ for lock, etc., and those which lost their prestigious status
like „mboez‟ meaning boss, „yefaiyk‟ meaning fake, „Motta‟ meaning ice-cream, etc. Hudson
states a reasonable justification for those who copy loanwords from other languages: “One
reason for using a word from such a language is to pretend, just for a moment, to be a native
speaker with whatever social characteristics we associate with the stereotype (1996: 55-6).
Therefore, prestige is the principal reason for borrowing words and expressions from other
languages, especially Turkish and English, into Arabic. Baghdadis, for instance, use the
brand name  „Braun‟ to mean a shaving machine of a good quality.
In daily life, one may meet language counterfeiters who are proud of speaking
different foreign languages. In this case, it is quite possible for linguists to find fake
borrowings, where the borrowed words have no roots in the lending language or they are not
similar by any means. This happens when Arabic-speaking people want to look prestigious
before others and thus start borrowing morphemes, words and expressions that may sound
English but they are not actually used in English. In this regard, Trask points out the same
sociolinguistic phenomenon with the English-speaking people:
English-speakers with a somewhat limited command of French
were trying to borrow something from French, but got it wrong,
and wound up inventing some fake French and borrowing that.
. . the reason is a simple one: prestige. . . Consequently, many
speakers of English (and of other languages) were eager to
show off their command of their prestigious language by
spattering their speech and writing with words and phrases
borrowed from French.
(1996: 19)
A possible example for this case in Arabic is the word  „duwanz‟ referring to a
specific recurring sound in the engine when its fuel is burnt improperly. The researcher
attributes the use of the aforementioned word to the English expression „two sounds‟. This is
partly because the first borrower was possibly unable to articulate the word correctly and
wanted to spatter his speech with English-looking terms. The aforementioned transliterated
word „duwanz‟ can be divided into two syllables: the first is „du that most probably refers to
two and the second is „wanz‟ that could refer to sounds where the last phoneme is voiced /z/.
Many Baghdadis were accustomed to prestigiously using the brand name  „Caterpillar‟
to refer to any male footwear with thick sole and heel. This seems to be gradually vanishing
as many competitive foreign and native brands are being introduced into the market. The
more recently prestigious half-adopted brand is „Kentucky originally form „KFC to
indicate any type of fried crispy chicken which is also replaced by  „dijaj
muqarmash meaning crispy chicken. However, prestige is not always the case, as people are
sometimes ignorant and have no idea what to say in Arabic, as stated below in the next sub-
3.1.3 Ignorance
While high-class people use foreign words to look prestigious, low-class people use
foreign words mainly because of ignorance. This is the general view about borrowers in Iraq.
In most cases, people copy loans from other languages just because they are unaware of the
fact that there are native equivalents for those loans in their language. Thus, some people use
the native forms whereas most, especially the illiterate ones, use the foreign forms. A very
distinguished example is that most Iraqis use the word  „darseen for cinnamon which is
borrowed from Persian, whereas a few know the native equivalent  „qarfeh‟. Though,
recently some people have started to use the latter to refer to inner bark of cinnamon tree and
the former denotes cinnamon powder.
Rarely, people borrow a part of the loan-form to refer to something; therefore, it can
be regarded as a case of „synecdoche‟, which is generally defined as a figure of speech where
addressers use the name of the part to denote the name of the whole or vice versa (i.e. they
use the name of the whole to refer to the name of the part). An eminent example of ignorance
is the use of the Persian word  „zerdeh‟ meaning yellow to refer to a kind of a yellow
sweet. The state inactive institutions and media are held accountable for not promoting the
native equivalents among their population who become unable to use, retrieve or coin their
own words to refer to concepts or objects, that are either totally new or have existed before in
a different form or under different name, such as  „Dettol‟ for any antiseptic and any
disinfectant to prevent infection in wounds or to clean floor from bacteria. The Arabic
equivalents  „muagim‟ or  „mutahr‟ are almost used simultaneously. Other similar
brand is  „brasitol for Paracetamol meaning any pain reliever and it sounds that the
Arabic equivalent  „musekin‟ is less widely used. Another common example is the
famous brand name  „Tide‟ meaning detergent whereas the Arabic equivalent 
„munadef is infrequently used. Institutions are sometimes so slow in promoting the Arabic
version of a foreign brand name such as „Nestlé‟  „nestla‟ that is used to denote
anychocolate bar.
In this regard, place names are also used in Baghdadi Arabic to refer to products
which were originally imported from them, such as:  „Motta‟ referring to ice-cream and
 „bharat‟ referring to spices. The former is a city famous for companies producing ice-
cream and it is located in Venice, Italy and the latter is the old name of India which is known
for producing and exporting spices to Iraq. They are both used in favor of other Arabic terms
-  „muthljat‟ and  „mutaibat‟ respectively - which are used formally. However,
many loans have been being borrowed into Arabic due to ignorance of users who usually
need to continually communicate with one another. It represents their failure to properly look
for, retrieve or use the native equivalents. Moreover, the use of loan words - by the less
educated or low income people in general - sounds funny before the educated people in many
situations as the former are unable to pronounce the loan forms properly.
3.1.4 Euphemism
In this subsection, the number is highly decreased since euphemism is the least active
reason for borrowing loan brand names from other languages in comparison to the
abovementioned motives, especially necessity. This is mostly because words that fall within
this type are mostly social-related words that are used as one way to speak courteously and/or
to avoid the sense of embarrassment. Thus, many Latin, Greek and French forms, for
instance, were adopted into English as euphemisms. That is because English equivalents had
acquired taboo or negative connotations in the course of time, as in the use of the post
mortem for „death, expectorate for „spit‟, Durex for „condom‟, etc. Farb indicates that:
After the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, community
began to make a distinction between a genteel and an obscene
vocabulary, between the Latin words of the upper class and the
lusty Anglo-Saxon of the lower class. That is why duchess
perspired and expectorated and menstruated-while a kitchen
maid sweated and spat and bled.
(1975: 80)
The same phenomenon can be found in the Arab World, where people copy foreign forms
from other languages, especially from those with which Arabs have direct contact - like
English, French and to a less extent Turkish - so as to avoid the taboo connotations of their
Arabic equivalents. Thus, they borrowed  „condom from English and  toilet‟ from
French, whereas the Arabic equivalents are correspondingly  „waqi thakari and
 „marfiq‟. Allan and Burridge state Using words borrowed from other languages to
function as euphemisms is characteristic of many languages” (1991: 20). Some words like
'Santé/Santy  are unclear as they may either stand for a brand name of a product
previously imported to Iraq for women period pads, or a French noun meaning health that
was probably borrowed as a euphemism to replace the Arabic equivalent  „futta‟ that had
acquired taboo connotations. Likewise, Iraqis say „soutien in favor of  „hamalt
alsadr‟ to mean bra and the only difference is that „soutien‟ is not brand name.
In a few cases, loan-forms are used to conceal the truth about a certain issue, such as
the use of the word „cancer‟ in an Arabic conversation instead of  „seretan‟. Hudson
gives an interpretation of why people use foreignisms:
In fact, probably the original intent of the first „borrower‟ of a
word of another language is to use it just for the occasion, when
speaking with persons who, like the speaker, know the source
language. But when a word is so borrowed, and when others
hear the borrowing and find it useful, they repeat it, and with
repetition the foreign word becomes familiar in the borrowing
(2000: 246)
People sometimes borrow foreign words and expressions to use them only in certain
occasions, say, to hide something from others who may get scared, worried, embarrassed,
excited, etc. from knowing the truth. This issue is related to the phenomenon of taboo, where
people prefer to use euphemisms, whether foreign or native forms, to conceal the truth behind
the taboo connotations of the previous forms. Some of such loans have passed into the daily
use, like  „sak‟ which was probably adopted from the English verb „suck‟ and it is used
by Iraqis to mean sexy, attractive. In the contradictory, the word „cancer‟ is still confined to
very special occasions and has not yet passed into the daily Baghdadi vernacular.
3.2 Types of Loan-forms
In the view of the aforementioned motives of adoption, this section sheds a light on
the nature of words in general and brand names in particular when they are adopted into
Baghdadi Arabic. It also gives a reasonable interpretation of why adaptation takes place in
terms of orthography, phonology, semantics, etc. when words are adopted. Many examples
are illustrated, translated, and transliterated to give a better understanding how such
adaptation occurs.
When speakers of a certain language adopt a word from another language, they may
or may not pronounce/use it in the same way as the native speakers of that language do. This
may be due to the diversity in linguistic rules between the lending-language and the
borrowing-language. Loan-forms are also adopted from various languages which accordingly
have different linguistic structures. Therefore, the first classification - which is employed in
this study - is based on the linguistic structure of loan forms. Another classification rests on
whether loans are intellectual or concrete: intellectual forms refer to ideas, feelings, etc.
whereas concrete forms refer to tangible matters, such as physical objects, products, etc.
3.2.1 Intact Loans
Loan-forms are sometimes borrowed into Arabic without any change in their
linguistic structure. That is, borrowers keep the new loans intact; they pronounce loans as if
they were native speakers of the recipient language. A few loans of this type appear in
Baghdadi Arabic - though recently increasing - such as hall, wire, camera, visa, etc. and
some brands include IPhone, Vista, Huawei, Tide, Nivea, Dettol, IPod, etc. which are all
known as „basic loans‟. Moreover, Sinha uses the expression „pure loanwords‟ to refer to this
type, (2005: 173). In Arabic, they are referred to as  kalimat dakheela‟. Brand
names are only modified semantically by using them as generics - rather than only brands as
in their original source - to refer to any object of the same type, i.e., one brand name is
overgeneralized by Iraqis to represent all other similar brands of the same type. In this case it
also indicates a sort of broadening where the meaning of a word becomes broader, that word
means everything it used to mean, and more” (Fromkin, 2003: 515). Therefore, due to the
fact that Arabic has its own orthographic system, the intact loan in this study refers to the
adoption of meaning as well as phonemes into Arabic from other languages that use different
writing systems (mainly Latin). This type is referred to as
3.2.2 Modified Loan
When loan-forms are borrowed into a language, they are usually modified and
changed in order to fit the linguistic structure of the borrowing-language. Many loan-forms
used in Arabic are linguistically modified by a type of affixation or with a substantial change.
Thus, the pronunciation, shape, or meaning of the loan is accommodated to suit the Arabic
linguistic system. They are referred to as  kalimat muaraba‟ meaning arabicized
words. The modified loans are classified below into subtypes as per their structures: Phonological Structure
Any language has its own phonological structure, i.e., a number of phonemes (and
allophones) that are put together to produce words in a systematic manner so as to construct
the communication between individuals or groups. Trask (1996: 24) states that Every
language has its own phonological system: its own collection of available speech sounds and
its own rules for combining these sounds into pronounceable words.” Therefore, a word
pronounced by its native speakers may not remain intact when it is copied by speakers of
another language. The English word „top‟ meaning excellent, „spring‟ as a twisted piece of
movable metal, „laptop‟ and „lamp‟ are pronounced differently when they are borrowed into
the Arabic of Baghdad Province. So, Baghdadis always say „tob‟, „sibring‟, „labtob‟, and
„lamb‟ because the phoneme /p/ is not available in Standard Arabic and in most Arabic
dialects. At the same time, the English consonant cluster of the word „spring‟ is divided into
two syllables by inserting stress in between the consonants.
An important remark about the phonological structure of the English loan words used
in the Arabic of Baghdad Province is that most of them, whether intact loans or modified, are
pronounced relatively closer to British English rather than General American English. The
word „capsule‟, for example, is pronounced as /kæbsu:la/ rather than /kæbsela/ where the
latter form refers to drug addicts. In the next section „Hybrid Loans‟, one can see how and
why the phonological structure of the loans changes. Some sounds are available in one
language but missing in another: there is no human language with all sounds. Moreover, there
is no phonetic correlation between English as an Indo-European language and Arabic as a
Semitic language.
However, an interesting observation about Iraqis is that they are able to pronounce
sounds that are not available in Standard Arabic but colloquially used in their local dialect,
such as /g/ in „gigabyte and „goal‟, /ʒ/ in „pleasure‟ (French), /v/ in „oven and „Ivan (Slavic),
/tʃ/ in  - „chehra‟ (Persian noun meaning face). Many even pronounce /p/ which is not
available in the standard language and some can even make a distinction between /p/ and /b/. Morphological Structure
The morphological structure of the loan-forms usually changes due to the linguistic
structure of the borrowing-language, as in the next section „Hybrid Loans‟ where the
morphological structure of the loans changes due to the addition of affixation(s). However, it
is rare to find a morphologically modified loan without affixation. For example, people
changed the morphological structure of the word hello when it was adopted into Arabic as a
first phone response, by deleting its first letter (sound) and hence it has become  „ello‟, or
saying  „hop‟ meaning stop. Syntactic Structure
Borrowers sometimes change the syntactic structure of the loan-forms by modifying
their parts of speech, say, from verb to noun, from adjective to verb, etc. The English verb
„lock‟ is used as an adjective in the Baghdadi colloquial Arabic and it roughly remains
intact in terms of other linguistic features. The loan  „mechanes‟ (literally meaning with
chance) is modified as an adjective to mean lucky. The same thing happens to the
abovementioned word „boss that is modified to an adjective  mboez with a
disapproving meaning of boss-looking or contemptible. Although the study is specifically
concerned with brand names, it is worth mentioning that most loanwords adopted into Arabic
are nouns, which signify new invented objects, software applications, products, cities,
companies etc. which are normally referred to by nouns rather than other parts of speech and
it would be effortless to adopt them in their original syntactic form. That is why a few loans
are syntactically modified to meet the borrower‟s required linguistic need. Semantic Structure
All brand names, along with a few other loans that are adopted into Arabic, are
semantically modified, such as  Tide‟ (referring to any detergent),  „Dettol‟ (referring
to any antiseptic substance),  Valium‟ (for any sleeping tablet),  „cowboy (for any
jeans),  globe‟ (any light bulb), etc. Most of these loans are brand names which are used
in place of native generic names. An interesting example in this concern is the semantic
change of the aforementioned word  „suck‟ to mean attractive or excellent, whereas its
original English meaning is bad or disapproving.
3.2.3 Hybrid Loans
In English, there are two types of morphemes: free and bound. A free morpheme can
be used exclusively with full meaning, whereas the bound morphemes should always be
attached to the free morpheme to slightly change the form of the loan word to fit the new
conventional rules of the recipient language. Hybrid loans are those forms which have a
foreign root (which is a free morpheme) and an Arabic affix (prefix, infix or suffix) and vice
versa. The affix is added to loanwords to suit the linguistic structure of Arabic. The
morphological ways by which hybrid forms can be constructed in Arabic are discussed below
with examples illustrating the similarity with their English counterparts. Crystal (2006: 225)
writesThere are also many hybrid forms where a foreign root is given an English affix, as in
Afrikanerdom, and Afrikanerism, or where two languages are involved in a blend, as in
Anglikaans.” „Loan blends is another name for this type of loans suggested by some linguists
such as Richards & Schmidt (2002) and Crystal (2003 & 1996). However, there are cases
where Baghdadis use their native roots attached with foreign affixes, as in  „akhlaqsiz
and  „tarbatsiz‟ for unethical and immoral - where the suffixsiz was borrowed from
Turkish to mean without. Moreover, all aforementioned loans - whether intact or modified -
can be hybrids when they are attached to the bound morphemes that mark Arabic nouns:
number, gender, case, diminutive and definiteness, where the latter is not discussed here due
to the limitations of the study. Number
The word „e-mail‟ is borrowed into Arabic as a singular form without any change in
its linguistic structure , but when people use it in a plural form (emails) they usually add
the native suffix  (-at) to the word and becomes  emailat‟. This has certainly some
exceptions since plural forms in Arabic take different forms. Many loans are modified in this
way as in the table below:
Intact Loans
 / Nestla
 / Tremez
Table No. 1 Gender
Arabic is similar to Russian and Spanish in terms of gender, where most words are
either feminine or masculine. So, when words are borrowed from other languages, they are
immediately adapted either to a feminine form or a masculine one. The linguistic structure of
some loans, becoming feminine in Arabic, are changed by adding to them the suffix  or 
(roughly similar to h and t respectively in English) that denote femininity. The English words
„list‟ and „bush‟, for example, are adapted to feminine in Arabic and thus they become 
„listeh‟ and  „busheh‟ by adding the suffix  to them. If they appear without this suffix,
borrowers could be accused of code-switching by speaking English rather than Arabic. So,
the word  „list‟ appears only in the English context, and  „bush‟ could refer to US
President George Bush. Loan brand names such as „Motta‟ and Braun also become
feminine in Arabic but they remain intact as if they were in the original form, whereas intact
loan brands such as „Kleenex‟ and „cream‟ are treated as masculine. Case
The genitive case of the Arabic pronouns has inflectional endings that mark
possession. All basic loan-forms, such as those mentioned above, are in the common case:
„filter‟, „hall‟, „wire‟,etc. where the inflectional endings are not used as if they were in
subjective or objective cases. Thus, they are modified in this subsection to demonstrate the
genitive case by adding inflectional endings to them. So, people say  „filterhum‟ (their
filter),  „hallna‟ (our hall),  ti-shirtha‟ (her t-shirt), etc. Arabs usually combine the
enclitic possessive pronouns with nouns (whether native and foreign). Such pronouns are
somehow similar to English attributive possessive pronouns as in „My house is nice‟ since
they are used together with nouns. In the genitive case, the borrowed noun  „glass‟, for
example, is directly combined with an enclitic possessive pronoun:
 / hum (their)  „glasshum‟ (their glass),
 / na (us)  „glassna‟ (our glass),
 / ha (her)  „glassha‟ (her glass), or
/ i (my)  „glassi‟ (my glass).
Thus, these inflectional endings in form of suffixes are actually combined possessive
pronouns and their use depends on the addressers requirement, intention and the context in
which they use the language. However, the main function of this detailed explanation is to
demonstrate that adding these inflectional endings/suffixes to the loan nouns in Arabic
constitute not only the genitive case but also constitute the hybrid loans. Diminutives
Diminutive is a formation of a word that refers to the smallness of noun, whether it
shows intimacy, warmth, endearment, affection, or contempt. Trask defines „diminutive‟ as
a derivational affix which may be added to a word to express a notion of small size, often
additionally . . . a notion of warmth or affection” (1993: 82). Many words in Arabic have
diminutive forms which are constructed differently. A few loan-forms borrowed into Arabic
are put up in diminutive forms, which are usually used in a funny way or in the rural areas,
such as  „tyre‟ and  „filter which become  „twaier‟ and  „fleter‟ in the diminutive
forms. In this regard, Crystal maintains that „diminutive‟ is a term used in morphology to
refer to an affix with the general meaning of „little‟, (1997: 116). Hybrid loans of this type are
not common in the Arabic of Baghdad Province.
3.2.4 Reduced Loans
Sometimes borrowed linguistic forms are reduced to have a simple and easy on-going
interaction between participants. An example is the loanword „remote‟ or  „rimon‟
instead of „remote-control‟. This could be an example of ignorance on the part of many
participants. Another example - partly mentioned above - is the phrase  „halwazerda‟
meaning yellow sweet where the first part „halwa‟ is Arabic and the second part is originally
Persian. It must be considered to be a hybrid form in Iran but a loan reduced form in Iraq
(where only „zerda‟ is used).
3.2.5 Calques
A calque is widely known as „loan translation‟ and is a special type of borrowing. It
refers to the direct translation of word or expression, element by element. Blake views
A „calque‟ or „loan translation‟ is a word or phrase using native
morphemes but translating a word or phrase in another
language morpheme for morpheme. For instance, marriage of
convenience is modelled on French marriage de convenance.
(2008: 286)
There are a few foreign calques in Arabic under the scope of study. But a famous example
that is used in all Arabic dialects is  „natihat alsehab‟ for (skyscraper). Other
calques in Arabic are the expressions  „almantaqa alkhedhraa‟ for (the green
zone),  „harab alnejoom for (the star war),  „hadith alnejoom‟ for (star
talk), „sibaqalmot‟ for (the death race), „alhizam alakhdar‟ for (green
belt),  althugab alswad‟ for (black hole), etc. The circulating sentence in the Iraqi
media nowadays is the calque  „alejraat alemniah almushddeh‟ for (the
tight security procedures). Radford et al state that when a new concept is introduced from one
society, speakers of other languages may use their own native linguistic resources to coin a
new word or phrase for that new concept, (1999: 255). That could be why all such loans are
translated word-by-word from English. Unlike other types of loans, calques seem better than
borrowing the direct foreign elements since they provide protection to the native equivalents
and enrich Arabic in terms of new concepts at the same time.
4. Discussion
Nouns are adopted more than other parts of speech into the colloquial Baghdadi
Arabic because new products, technologies, machines, animals, plants, etc. are usually
introduced with original names and they are much easier to coexist with the Arabic linguistic
system. This is very evident in the borrowing of brand names. Thus, Hypothesis No. 1 is
accepted. Most loan-forms are borrowed from English. This proves Hypothesis No. 2 of the
study. Moreover, most loanwords are concrete - referring the contemporary invented
devices, objects and software applications that are introduced as products along with their
original brand names (foreign or native), which can be substituted by other brands or
generics. This consequently confirms Hypothesis No. 3.
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ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
We all use euphemisms every day - `nice' expressions that shield us from the offensive or frightening things they describe. Euphemisms have existed throughout recorded history; they are used even by preliterate peoples and have probably been around since recognizably human languages first developed. The same is true of offensive language, or 'dysphemisms' - words used as weapons against others, or release valves for anger and frustration. In this entertaining study, Keith Allan and Kate Burridge embark on a linguistic and social-psychological exploration of this intriguing universal human practice.
language policy;monolingualism;multilingualism;regional language systems;linguistic demographics
Bibliogr. s. 448-452
Loanwords: Major Periods of Borrowing in the History of English
  • Suzanne Kemmer
Kemmer, Suzanne. "Loanwords: Major Periods of Borrowing in the History of English". Words in English. Rice University, 20 th August 2017. Web Accessed on 15 th December 2017.
Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics
  • Jack C Richards
  • Richard W Schmidt
Richards, Jack C. and Richard W. Schmidt (2002). Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics (3 rd ed.) Harlow: Longman Publishing Group.
An Introduction to Language
  • Victoria Fromkin
  • Robert Rodman
  • Nina Hyams
Fromkin, Victoria, Robert Rodman and Nina Hyams (2003). An Introduction to Language (7 th ed.). Boston: Heinle.