Non-nativeness in communication

Centre for Language Studies | Faculty of Arts | Radboud University Nijmegen

English loanwords and their counterparts in Dutch job advertisements

New perspectives on lexical borrowing

A question which has not yet been addressed in loanword studies is to what extent people perceive loanwords as having different meanings than their native-language equivalents, and on what factors this may depend.

According to the Conceptual Feature Model (De Groot, 1992b), translation-equivalent words in a first and second language are linked to both the same and different conceptual features, which can be elicited by asking speakers to write down their associations with these words. Two factors determining association overlap between equivalent L1 and L2 words are their concreteness and cognateness.

The aim of the current study was to determine experimentally to what extent English loanwords from Dutch job ads evoke the same associations as their Dutch equivalents, and to what extent this association overlap is predicted by the degree of concreteness and cognateness of these words.

In an experiment, 60 Dutch participants wrote down associations with 30 English loanwords selected from corpora of Dutch job ads and with their Dutch counterparts, in two sessions separated by a six-week interval. As a baseline, they also wrote down three associations with English/Dutch word pairs which Van Hell and De Groot (1998) had found evoked a relatively small and a relatively large proportion of overlapping associations, respectively. The degree of concreteness and cognateness of these words was determined in separate norming studies involving 129 Dutch participants.

The results showed that the mean overlap in associations between the English loanwords from Dutch job ads and their Dutch equivalents was 21.6%. This was significantly less than the percentage for the word pairs for which large overlap had been expected (30.6%), and similar to the percentage for the word pairs for which little overlap had been expected (21.4%). Regression analyses revealed that the degree of association overlap was significantly predicted by cognateness but not by concreteness.

It can be concluded that – in line with the Conceptual Feature Model – Dutch people have different associations with English loanwords from Dutch job ads than with their Dutch equivalents, and therefore link them to different conceptual features.

Abstract from publication:

  • Meurs, F. van, Hornikx, J., & Bossenbroek. G. (2013). English loanwords and their counterparts in Dutch job advertisements: An experimental study in association overlap. In Zenner, E. & Kristiansen, G. (Red.), New perspectives on lexical borrowing: Onomasiological, methodological and phraseological innovations (pp. 171-190). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter

For access to the full text, see

This blog article originally appeared on Jos Hornikx’ personal website →

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