Phonologically unmotivated changes in language contact: Spanish borrowings in basque

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The adaptation of loanwords to conform with the phonology of the borrowing language is a well-known phenomenon. On the other hand, in situations of language contact, adaptations that appear to lack any phonological justification can also be found. These cases have not received much attention. In this paper, I will focus on productive processes involved in the adaptation of Spanish borrowings in Basque. I will show that together with processes that are clearly justified, there are also synchronically unjustified adaptations. It will be argued that the motivation for such seemingly anomalous adaptations can be found in earlier stages of the languages in contact. In particular, Spanish words ending in -on replace this ending by -oi in Basque (e.g. melón → meloi ‘melon’). This change, which is completely productive, appears as unmotivated, since Basque words ending in -on are common (cf. gizon ‘man’). I will show that the adaptation was motivated at some historical point. Later changes in both the source language and the borrowing language have completely obscured the motivation, but there is now a correspondence rule which remains active and whose only function is the adaptation of borrowings. It is thus concluded that, in prolonged situations of language contact, bilingual grammars may contain correspondence rules whose exclusive function is to adapt borrowings from one language to the other.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournalFolia Linguistica
StatePublished - Jan 1 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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