Hi! Speakajesh Englorussian?: Gender and Aspect Choice in Borrowings from English

Julia Mikhailova, The Ohio State University

The significance of English has become so great in Russian that many recent formations in Russian are made from English roots and Russian affixes, which I refer to as hybrids in this work. My paper raises questions about what takes place in a contact situation; it involves a study of English-Russian hybrids in modern Russian collected through observations and analysis of the speech of Russians currently residing in Russia and in the USA. I also examine hybrids found in modern Russian etymological dictionaries and the mass media.

The main purpose of the project is to reveal the principles and strategies used by Russian native speakers in forming these hybrids and to define what, if any, rules guide Russian speakers' choice of a particular gender and aspect assigned to English nouns and verbs.

First, I will preface my analysis with a review of research on gender assignment to declinable and indeclinable native and foreign nouns (Comrie, Levin, Murphy) and nominal adjectives (Levin, Patton). Second, I will analyze the forms in which English-Russian noun, adjectival and verbal hybrids exist in modern Russian. The main categories I found are phrases with case assignment (mnogo fana, po xajveju, na stritu, net hepinesa, net nikakoj prajvasi, svoj opinion); nouns formed by means of derivational morphology (autsajderstvo, bajkerstvo, lobbirovanie, skanirovanie); and Russian plurals made of English plurals (baksy, piply, shuzy). Third, looking at aspect assignment to verb hybrids, my project examines how English-Russian verbal hybrids distinguish aspectual pairs (such as lajkovat'-lajknut', mikshevat'sja-smikshevat'sja, najtovat'-perenajtovat'; askat'-naaskat'), and whether speakers manipulate verbal hybrids and their aspect differently from native words.

Although linguists like to make generalizations, I conclude that in the case of hybrid borrowings sometimes there are simply no generalizations (and predictions) to be made. I will propose several explanations regarding only the criteria for selecting gender of noun hybrids. There is no apparent pattern guiding the aspectual choice of English-Russian verbs. The decision speakers make may be based on the phonological shape of the foreign word, by the general concept that the borrowed word represents, and by the association made with the gender/aspect of the given entity in the native language.