Who decides what english words will be in other languages?

megan   Tuesday, May 04, 2004, 00:14 GMT
Hey. I'm an American high school student learning Spanish, and I have a question I was wondering for a long while... Who decides what English words will be in other languages?

example1: computers were invented in America, so who decided they would be called computadoras in spanish??

example 2: I learned that what the Chinese people call their country translates to "Middle Kingdom" so who decided on China?? or what about Germany/ Deutchland?? Why cant we just call it Deutchland if that's what they call themselves??

I hope somebody has the answer to this, because i will always wonder
Dulcinea del Toboso   Tuesday, May 04, 2004, 02:00 GMT
Good questions.

The "decision" of how borrowed words appear in a language is performed by the most democratic method possible: by the people themselves through their own acquired knowledge of how their language "works". For example, in the case you cited, "computador", Spanish speaking people instinctively know that the -ador suffix signifies someone or something that performs an act. They adapt this suffix to the new word because it "feels right" in their own language. Sometimes, however, languages borrow foreign words intact (I think "email" is one example).

As for names of countries, often an ancient name used among trading nations during the middle ages is what gets used today. "Deutschland" as the name of a country probably didn't exist more than 150 years ago (that is, the unified nation of Germany/Deutschland didn't exist that long ago). So many of the names countries call themselves today are relatively new.
megan   Friday, May 07, 2004, 01:07 GMT
Thanks! I apreciate it!
Josh   Saturday, May 08, 2004, 00:57 GMT
Computers en Francais est l'ordinateurs. Which is a lot more confusing than computadoras.
Josh   Saturday, May 08, 2004, 01:00 GMT
A lot of words are also brought over. I was in French class year and realized that people in France call skateboarding....skateboarding(with a French accent of course.), and they also use the American term weekend. There's TONS more on boths sides of the barrier.
Julian   Saturday, May 08, 2004, 03:56 GMT
"and they also use the American term weekend"

I think you mean the ENGLISH term, since the word is used on both sides of the Atlantic (as well as Australia, New Zealand, et al).

The French probably regard "le weekend" as a lot less cumbersome than "la fin de semaine."

I was listening to "No Limites" by Alliance Ethnik the other day, which is a song sung in French with a refrain in Spanish. They use the term "jet-ski" a couple of times. I started to wonder what the official Académie Française version of "jet-ski" would be.
Lavoisel   Saturday, May 08, 2004, 08:30 GMT
Julian, l'Académie Française will not give you an accurate view of how French is really spoken. It is particularly true in the field of the Internet. Let me give you an exemple.


« I launched the BROWSER, but it will not boot. I think it's infected by a VIRUS. I saw nothing in the DEBUGGER. Plus, you cannot know whether a programme is PATCHED or not because of the ENCAPSULATION of axmth. I tried to send an EMAIL to the support group, but there is a FIREWALL problem. The WWW is inaccessible. I'm fed up with these FREEWARES, they are not even MULTI-THREAD! I will ask one of my HACKERS to find a better SHAREWARE... »


« J'ai lancé le BROWSER, mais il a refusé de démarrer. Je pense qu'il est infecté par un VIRUS. Au DEBUGGEUR, je n'ai rien vu. En plus avec l'ENCAPSULATION de axmth, on ne peut pas savoir si le programme a été PATCHÉ ou non . J'ai essayé d'envoyer un EMAIL au support, mais il y a un problème de FIREWALL. Le WWW est inaccessible. J'en ai marre de ces FREEWARE, ils ne sont même pas MULTI-THREAD! Je vais demander à un de mes HACKERS de me trouver un meilleur SHAREWARE... »


« J'ai lancé le BROUTEUR, mais il a refusé de démarrer. Je pense qu'il est infecté par un FRAGMENT INFECTIEUX DE CODE NÉCESSITANT UN PROGRAMME HÔTE. Avec l'ÉPÉPINEUR je n'ai rien vu. Il faut dire qu'avec l'EMMAILLOTAGE de axmth on ne peut pas savoir si le programme a été RUSTINÉ ou non. J'ai essayé d'envoyer un MEL au support mais il y a un problème d'ÉCLUSE. L'HYPERTOILE est inaccessible. J'en ai marre de ces GRATICIELS, ils ne sont même pas MULTI-ENFILADE ! Je vais demander à un de mes FINAUDS de me trouver un meilleur PARTAGICIEL ... »

My favourite one is "virus" that becomes "fragment infectieux de code nécessitant un programme hôte" ("infectious code fragment requiring a host programme").
LU-DI-CROUS, we never use those silly words!
Tex   Saturday, May 08, 2004, 17:06 GMT
Megan's good question has given me a lot to think about.

The English word "German" may derive from the Irish Celtic "gair", or neighbor. Non-English-speaking Europeans use a word that derives from the Alemanni, which was a Germanic tribe living around Alsace in the 4th c. This is actually a Germanic word which means "all men".

Deutch/Dutch comes from "Teuta-" which is a germanic word for tribe. Why do we call the Deutsch Germans, the Nederlandse Dutch, and their country Holland? Maybe we're just confused.

The European word China/Chine dates to the 16th century and comes from the name Ch'in or Qin, which was the first dynasty that ruled over a more or less unified China. Maybe European historians of the day didn't yet know about Xia or Shang. But that still begs the question why we didn't invent some western variation of "Zhong Guo", since that's what they called themselves from earliest times.

But even in the native names, notice the pattern here: a sort of ego-centrism born of ignorance. China is no more the middle of the world than any other point on the sphere. The Teutons aren't the only tribe in the world. And the Alemanni certainly couldn't speak for "all men".

Before I get flamed, let me explain I only mean "ignorance" in the sense of not yet knowing all the facts. I certainly don't mean to imply that the Chinese or Germans are in any way lacking in intelligence.

Slightly off-topic:
A Latin American friend of mine once wondered why my country calls itself "The United States of America", when after all there are other United States in the Americas - the United States of Mexico, and the United States of Brazil. He asked, didn't it seem presumptuous to me? I could only speculate that at the time our founders came up with the name, the USA was the *only* United States - Mexico and Brazil didn't yet exist. First come first served. So we get to call ourselves "Americans" and people from northern Canada and the southern tip of Argentina don't.
Miquel   Saturday, May 08, 2004, 23:22 GMT

In spanish of Spain, computers are "ordenadores", not "computadoras". In catalan, "ordinadors". In french, "ordinateurs".
Miquel   Saturday, May 08, 2004, 23:24 GMT

In spanish, "software" and "hardware" are... "software" and "hardware". In catalan, "programari " and "maquinari".
Tex   Sunday, May 09, 2004, 21:59 GMT
In Cantonese, "computer" is "din lo", which means "electric brain". I've always liked that word.

But you have to be careful: if you say "din lo" using different tones, it means "lunatic".