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WHO ARE WE WITHOUT OUR WORDS?

Nevena Popovi, 2011/0824

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. Abstract........................................................................................................3
2. Introduction..................................................................................................4
3. Methodology.................................................................................................5
4. Research findings and interpretation of the data..........................................6
5. Conclusion....................................................................................................9
6. Appendix......................................................................................................11

ABSTRACT

That our culture and language have been evolving under the influence of foreign cultures,
with the impact of the Anglo-culture being the most noticeable one, nobody could dispute. These
changes have highly altered the Serbian language in all its aspects. This research was conducted
in order to investigate how often do native speakers of the aforementioned language opt for an
anglicism, when a Serbian word bearing the same meaning exists. The choice of alphabet when
writing in their mother tongue and their opinions on the subject were also investigated.
A questionnaire was distributed to 74 respondents of various ages. The results show
irefutable evidence that a large number of people whose native language is Serbian tend to
unnecessarily use English loan words. However, the majority of them expressed their concernes
when it comes to the possibility of the extensive use of anglicisms being detrimental to their
native culture. Taking into account the topic of this research paper, it may appeal to people
interested in investigating the consequences of globilazation and current trends in the field of
linguistics.
Key words: the Serbian language, anglicism, globalization, culture, the English language

INTRODUCTION

''If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language,
that goes to his heart.
-Nelson Mandela
Our generation is witnessing globalization processes which are largely affecting and altering
our lifestyles, and maybe most of all our language. Through the media we are constantly
bombarded with different aspects of foreign cultures and the influence of the English culture and
language is by far the most noticeable one. Anglicisms have found their way into many
languages, as well as Serbian. That our mother tongue has changed by the effect of the Angloculture is undeniable and noticeable, but what we should ask ourselves is whether that change
should be regarded as a natural process of the evolution of a language, or as an overture to a
complete loss of our national identity and the collapse of the pillar of our culture - our language.
Primarily, the aim of this research was to try to determine how far we have gone. It is
noticeable that anglicisms are often used in cases in which a legitimate Serbian word for the
same term exists. While using a foreign word for a recently introduced term seems logical and
natural, replacing a word from the mother tongue with a foreign expression can often be
considered as unnecessary and provoked by current trends. A questionnaire was distributed to
people of different ages, so as to determine whether the younger generations are more
susceptible to using anglicisms instead of existing Serbian words, or whether even the eldest of
us havent been able to escape the globalization wave.
What has inspired me to conduct this research was the amount of loan words, especially
anglicisms, I noticed we use on a daily basis. It can even be argued that we are beginning to form
a separate language that could be called Angloserbian (Vasi, Pri, Nejgebauer, 2001, p. 7)
Since I am studying at the Faculty of Philology, at the department of English language, literature
and culture, I am acquainted with the English language and its vocabulary. Nevertheless, I
believe that a language of a nation can be suffocated by using too much foreign words and not
using adequate domestic words for the same items, and ,therefore, try my best to fully use the
potential of my mother tongue. All of this has triggered a series of questions in my mind: Are we
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killing our language? Are we slipping away under the constant drifts of foreign influence? Who
are we without our words?

METHODOLOGY

The research was conducted by distributing a short questionnaire. The main focus was to
gather answers from a wide range of age groups, the youngest being high school pupils. If the
questionnaire had been filled out by children or teenagers under the age of 15, there would have
been a risk of them not being able to understand certain items or their answers not being
presentable, since their vocabulary is still being developed. The main reason for distributing the
questionnaire to such a vast number of ages was to compare to what extent are loan words being
used by younger people, who are most likely to be influenced by current trends and the mass
media, middle-aged people and the elderly. Their level of education and current status were also
taken into consideration while analyzing their answers.
The questionnaire was anonymous; the only personal information the respondents had to
provide was their year of birth, level of education and current status, since those are the facts
necessary for the data to be processed. Since this research focuses on the usage of anglicisms in
the Serbian language, the questionnaire was composed in Serbian. It included a group of multiple
choice gap-filling questions, where a sentence missing a word or a short phrase was given and,
under it, an anglicism and its Serbian equivalent were offered to fill the gap, as well as the
opportunity for the respondent to write a third option in case neither of the first two appealed to
him/her. The person answering the questions was asked to choose the option which corresponded
with his personal preference and to pick the word or a short phrase which sounded the most
natural to him.
The words offered as possible answers were carefully chosen by observing the native
speakers and noticing which anglicisms were often used as a substitute for a native expression.
Many issues were taken into consideration, such as the possibility of the respondent not being
familiar with certain expressions (e.g. an elder person might not have been familiar with the
word e-mail). Since it has been proven that the English language has influenced the orthography,
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pronunciation, grammar and pragmatics of our language (Pri, 2005), the words and
expressions were taken from various registers and belonged to different parts of speech in order
to get as presentable results as possible without the risk of the respondent losing focus or feeling
intimidated by the length of the questionnaire.
The choice of alphabet when writing in the native language was also investigated. It is clear
that, since the technological advancements that have marked our age, the Cyrillic alphabet is
more frequently substituted with the Latin alphabet.
At the end of the questionnaire a few open-ended questions were placed. Their purpose was
to examine the respondents opinions and attitudes toward using loan words, specifically those
borrowed from the English language, when referring to an object for which a legitimate
expression in Serbian exists, and toward the thesis that our mother tongue is the cornerstone of
our culture and our national identity and that, therefore, we should cherish it and prevent its
disappearance.

RESEARCH FINDINGS AND INTERPRETATION OF THE DATA

The questionnaire was distributed to 74 respondents, the majority of whom were students
aged 20-24 (41%). The remaining subjects were separated into other three groups: high school
students aged 15-19 (16%), middle-aged people (35-50) (36%) and, finally, the elderly aged 6580 (7%).
When it comes to the multiple choice questions, the results didnt come as a surprise. In all
the questions the majority of the respondents chose the anglicism as opposed to its Serbian
equivalent. Although as far as some questions go the percentage of the people who chose the
loan word wasnt alarmingly high (e.g. PR menader (53%) as opposed to menader za odnose
sa javnou (47%)), the results show that the percentage of the respondents choosing the foreign
option instead of the native one in certain questions went up to a bewildering 80% (e.g.
generalizovati instead of uoptavati).

Students and high school pupils, as expected, showed a higher tendency towards using
anglicisms. They predictably leaned towards using loan words more than the middle-aged group
and the elderly. This can be attributed to their constant exposure to foreign influence through the
media. Tvrtko Pri explains how certain phenomena, such as McDonalds, Coca-Cola,
Halloween, popular music, fashion trends, and other features of the Anglo-culture which have
found their way into ours have contributed to people adopting foreign expressions (2006, p. 1).
When choosing the word stejd as opposed to the Serbian word bina, both high-school and
university students chose the former rather than the latter, precisely 83% and 67% respectively.
Students showed the highest tendency towards using loan words of all the groups. Out of 30
students who filled out the questionnaire, 28 (93%) of them would rather say kompjuter than
raunar, and 29 (97%) prefer the terms definitivno and generalizovati, as opposed to zasigurno
and uoptavati. Those were the words high school pupils also opted for in large numbers,
accuretly 83% of them went for the words kompjuter and definitivno, while 92% of them
specified the verb generalizovati as their choice.
When asked for their opinions, the majority of both aforementioned groups stated that,
although they do try to use expressions in their mother tongue, they often unconsciously opt for
the foreign equivalent. Only a small number of both high school and university students
mentioned how they are extremely against using loan words. More than 80% of the two younger
groups specified that they do agree that substituting expressions from our native language with
anglicisms could be detrimental to our mother tongue, and later on our culture.
The respondents whose ages varied from 35 to 50 more strongly disagreed with the usage of
loan words. Around 70% of them stated that they would always choose the word or expression in
their native language and that they are extremely bothered by the excessive use of anglicisms. A
staggering 93% completely agreed that foreign words are harming our national identity and
could prove to be lethal to our native culture. Nevertheless, their answers to multiple choice
questions werent as convincing. Although predictably the percentage of middle-aged people
choosing the anglicism wasnt as high as the one of the two younger groups, it still wasnt in
accordance with their mentioned beliefs. The percentage of subjects from this age group who
decided that using the loan word is their initial choice didnt go above 35%, and, in the majority

of questions, was higher than 50%. When asked to chose between generalizovati and uoptavati,
as many as 19 (70%) out of 27 of them opted for the former.
The oldest age group was, as expected, least prone to choosing anglicisms. When given the
choice between stejd and bina, fanovima and oboavaocima, PR menader and menader za
odnose sa javnou and kopija and primerak, only 20% of them preferred the former in all cases.
The only two questions in which more than 50% of them opted for the loan word were the ones
where kompjuter and generalizovati were offered as anglicisms.
When asked for their opinions on the usage of words and expressions whose origin is the
English language, the majority of them answered that they noticed that the vocabulary of the
Serbian language is evolving, but they havent found their personal word register affected by
those changes. They didnt oppose to using anglicisms as strongly as the group of the middleaged people, but they mentioned that the excessive use of loan words does sound inadequate to
them. However, 100% of them agreed that we are doing harm to our national heritage by
adopting aspects of foreign culture too easily.
As far as the choice of alphabet goes, a huge majority of all the respondents prefer the Latin
alphabet, precisely 39 (53%) of them. The Cyrillic writing system is used by 34% (25) of the
subjects, whereas there is only 13% (10) of those who use both alphabets equally. When asked
for the reason behind their choice of script, the majority of the respondents said that they opt for
the Latin alphabet because of the frequent use of keyboard, studying a foreign language, or
because their handwriting looks better when writing Latin letters. It comes as no surprise that 10
(13%) subjects mentioned they have forgotten the way certain Cyrillic letters are written. High
school students are the ones who most often lean towards using the Latin alphabet (75%), while
the oldest group of respondents claim Cyrillic is their initial choice.

CONCLUSION

What makes us that susceptible to using loan


words is the process of globalization we are
undergoing. The Anglo-culture has clearly
infiltrated many aspects of our everyday lives, and apparently even our word registers, as this
research proves. One of the subjects even explained our exorbitant use of anglicisms by saying
that we ,,live in a global village, and are therefore condemned to using global expressions[my
translation].
Many resort to the use of foreign words and phrases due to the popular belief that such
expressions would help you make an impression of an eloquent and gallant individual. If any of
us would dare try to escape the trend and use Serbian words which have been repressed by its
foreign equivalents, we would risk being cold quaint and archaic. Any effort to try and salvage
what is left of our butchered vocabulary has the potential of being completely futile. One of the
respondents even mentioned how she believes that certain interlocutors wouldnt understand her
if she used Serbian words for which expressions borrowed from the English language are well
established in our daily lives.
The fact that it appears that the majority of our compatriots understand the damage that
could be done to our culture by impairing our mother tongue could be considered comforting.
Could we be strong enough to defy the globalization wave, and prevent our language from
becoming extinct? At risk of wearing down frequently cited words of Mahatma Gandhi, I dare
to say that we really should be the change we wish to see in the world. It remains to be seen
whether we still can preserve our national identity, or if we have gone too far.

REFERENCES

1. Pri, T. (2005). Engleski u srpskom, Novi Sad, Zmaj.


2. Pri, T. (2006). Globalna anglocooltura i njen uticaj na sinonimiju srpskog jezika, In:
Susret kultura. Zbornik radova. Filozofski fakultet, Novi Sad: 529-535.
3. Vasi, V., Pri, T., Nejgebauer, G. (2001). Du yu speak anglosrpski? Renik novijih
anglicizama, Novi Sad, Zmaj.
4. https://www.goodreads.com/

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APPENDIX
Since the questionnaire had to be distributed strictly in Serbian, both its Serbian and
English versions will be given below.

THE QUESTIONNAIRE IN SERBIAN:


Pred Vama je upitnik napravljen u cilju testiranja upotrebe anglicizama u srpskom jeziku. Molim
Vas da na pitanja odgovarate iskreno. Dobijeni rezultati bie iskorieni iskljuivo za pisanje
istraivakog rada. Upitnik je anoniman.
1. Godina roenja:
2. Stepen obrazovanja:
a) osnovna kola
b) srednja kola
c)via kola
d) fakultet
3. Status:
a) uenik/ica
b) student/tkinja
c) zaposlen/na
d) nezaposlen/na
e) penzioner/ka
4. Dopunite reenicu tako to ete zaokruiti jednu od dve ponuene opcije, ili dopiite jednu
sami ako vam nijedna ponuena opcija ne zvui prirodno.
a) Ko je nastupio prole godine na glavnoj/glavnom _______ na Egzitu (muziki festival koji
se odrava svake godine u Novom Sad)?
1) bini 2) stejdu 3) ______________
b) Jue sam odneo/la _______ na popravku.
1) kompjuter 2) raunar 3) ____________
c) On e ____________ napraviti greku.
1) definitivno 2) zasigurno 3) ____________
d) Odneo je _____________ svoje biografije u drugu firmu.
1) kopiju 2) primerak 3) __________
e) Odluila je da e svojim najvernijim _________ pokloniti dve karte za svoj koncert.
1) oboavaocima 2) fanovima 3) __________
f)Iako nemam zavren fakultet, trenutno radim kao ____________ .
1) PR menader 2) menader za odnose sa javnou 3) ____________

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g) esto su mi govorili: ,,Nemoj da ______________.''


1) generalizuje 2) uoptava 3)____________
5. Koje pismo koristite kada piete na maternjem jeziku?
a) uglavnom irilicu
b) uglavnom latinicu
c) podjednako koristim oba pisma
6. Navedite bar jedan razlog tome:

7. Koji je va stav o korienju anglicizama (rei preuzetih iz engleskog jezika) umesto izraza
na maternjem jeziku?

8. Da li mislite da preterano korienje anglicizama umesto izraza na maternjem jeziku moe

koditi naem jeziku i naoj kulturi?

THE QUESTIONNAIRE IN ENGLISH:


Before you is a questionnaire composed in order to investigate the use of anglicisms in the
Serbian language. You are kindly asked to answer the questiones as sincerely as possible. The
results acquired from this questionnaire will be used solely for writing a research paper. The
questionnaire is anonymous.
1. Year of birth:
2. Level of education:
a) elementary school
b) high school
c)graduate studies
d) college
3. Current status:
a) high-school student
b) college student
c) employed
d) unemployed
e) retired
4. Complete the sentence by choosing one of the two offered options, or write an additional
one, if none of the options offered sounds natural.
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a) Who performed last year at the main _______ at Exit (a music festival held annualy in
Novi Sad)?
1) stage (Sebian: stejd) 2) stage (Sebian: bina) 3) ______________
b) Yesterday I took my _______ to the repair shop.
1) computer (Sebian: kompjuter) 2) computer (Sebian: raunar)
3) ____________
c) He will ____________ make a mistake.
1) definitely (Sebian: definitivno) 2) definitely (Sebian: zasigurno)
3)
____________
d) He took a _____________ of his resume to another firm.
1) copy (Sebian: kopija) 2) copy (Sebian: kopija) 3) __________
e) She decided to give concert tickets to two of her most loyal _________.
1) fans (Sebian: oboavaocima) 2) fans (Sebian: fanovima) 3) __________
f)Although I havent finished colege, I currently work as a ____________ .
1) PR manager (Sebian: PR menader)
2) PR menader (Sebian: menader za odnose
sa javnou) 3) ____________
g) They often told me: ,,Do not ______________.''
1) generalize (Sebian: generalizuje) 2) generalize (Sebian: uoptava)
3)____________
5. Which alphabet do you use when writing in your native language?
a) mostly the Latin alphabet
b) mostly the Ciryllic alphabet
c) I use both alphabets equally
6. What is the reason behind it?

7. What is your opinion when it comes to using anglicisms (loan words whose origin is in the
English language) instead of expressions in your native language?

8. Do you think that an extensive use of anglicisms instead of expressions in your native
language could harm your language and your culture?

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