Anglicisation (or Anglicization in American English) is a process of making something English. People may be anglicised: An immigrant to England may be said to become anglicised as he or she acclimates to the culture. However, anglicisation is most commonly discussed in the more abstract context of language: Language is said to become anglicised as it becomes more like the English language.


Anglicisation in Language

There are two primary types of anglicisation in language: Anglicising non-English words for use in the English language, and anglicising non-English languages through the introduction of English words.

Anglicisation in English


Non-English words may be anglicised for use in English by changing their form and pronunciation to something more familiar to English speakers. For example, the Greek word aeroplano has been imported into (American) English in the modified form airplane. Changing endings in this manner is especially common, and is frequently seen when foreign words are imported into any language. Likewise, the English word damsel is an anglicisation of the French demoiselle, meaning "little lady". Another common type of anglicisation is the inclusion of a foreign article as part of a noun (eg. algebra, lavolta).

Proper names

Place names are commonly anglicised, as in the Italian city of Napoli, known in English as Naples; the German city of München (Munich). Such anglicisation of place names was once universal: nearly all cities and people discussed in English writing up through the mid-20th century were called by anglicised names. Towards the end of the 20th century, more direct use of non-English names in English began to become more common. With languages that use the same Latin alphabet as English, names are usually simply written in English exactly as they would be in the original language, often even with diacritical marks that don't normally exist in English. With languages that use non-Latin alphabets, such as the Arabic, Cyrillic, and Greek alphabets, a direct transliteration is typically used, with the goal being faithfulness to the original pronunciation rather than conformance to the norms of English.

In some cases this shift away from anglicisation has become a matter of national pride—especially in regions that were once under colonial rule, where vestiges of European cultural domination are a sensitive subject—and the old names have been officially discouraged: China's Peking is now Beijing, and India's Bombay is now Mumbai. In other cases, firmly entrenched anglicised names have remained in common use, especially where there is no polarizing national pride at stake: This is the case with Munich, Naples, Rome, Athens, and a host of other western-European cities whose names have been familiar in their anglicised forms for centuries. Personal names are not standardised: they are often anglicised or not according to the preferences of the person whose name it is.

Personal names were also heavily anglicised, such as the German Johann (John), Russian Piotr (Peter), Greek Giorgos (George), and Hebrew Yeshua (Joshua). During the influx of large numbers of immigrants from Europe to the United States and Great Britain during the 19th and 20th centuries, the names of immigrants were changed. This was either by officials entering their names into immigration records or by the immigrants themselves to make their names more accessible to their new American or British neighbours.

One such example of an anglicised name is the case of an 18th-century Luxembourger named Jochaim Grün, whose family name is the German word for Green. When his descendants moved to the United States in the mid 19th century, the family name was anglicised to Green.

An example of changing one's given name from fiction occurs in the 1987 movie The Untouchables, where one of the characters anglicised his name from Giuseppe to George in order to assimilate into American society. Given name changes are less common today for Europeans coming to the United States than they are for people originating in Asian countries. For instance, Xiangyun might be anglicised to Sean.

Anglicisation of other languages

A more recent phenomenon is anglicisation of other languages, in which words are borrowed from English, thereby making the other languages as a whole more like English. With the global rise in anglophone media and rapid spread of American culture in the 20th and 21st centuries, many English terms have entered popular use in other tongues. Technology-related English words like internet and computer are particularly common across the globe, as there were no pre-existing words in other languages for them. English words are sometimes imported verbatim, and sometimes adapted to the importing language in a process similar to the anglicisation discussed in the previous section. In languages with non-Latin alphabets, these borrowed words are sometimes written in the Latin alphabet anyway, resulting in a text made up of a mixture of scripts; other times they are transliterated.

In some countries such anglicisation is seen as relatively benign, and the use of English words may even take on a chic aspect, seen as modern and advanced. This is especially true in Japan, where many local Japanese companies have even taken to marketing products for the domestic market using English or pseudo-English brand names and slogans, although other European languages such as French are also used occasionally. In other countries, anglicisation is seen much more negatively—often as evidence of American cultural domination—and there are efforts by public-interest groups and governments to reverse the trend. A particularly notable example is France, where the Académie française creates neologisms - novel French words - to describe technological inventions and encourages the use of those words in place of imported English terms.

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