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Lexical borrowing

The influence of loanwords on the semantics of Kihehe




loanwords, cultural borrowing, additive borrowing, semantic change


This paper investigates the influence of loanwords on the semantics of Kihehe as spoken in Iringa in the southern highlands of Tanzania. It provides evidence from 1,152 loanwords collected through spoken texts and focus group discussion in two villages of Nzihi and Ifunda wards, namely Mibikimitali and Kalenga in Iringa District where the central dialect of Kihehe is mainly spoken. The collection and analysis of the data were guided by the Cognitive Lexical Semantic Theory.The findings revealed that, in Kihehe, loanwords have origin in 11 languages which are Kibena, Kikinga, Kikimbu, Cigogo, Kiswahili, English; Arabic, Latin, French, Hindi, and Portuguese. These loanwords fall into five categories. The category which is borrowed most is nouns, while the category which is borrowed least is conjunctions. Nevertheless, the semantics of Kihehe is shown to have been affected whereby the influence is due to importation of loanwords.The influence of borrowing is manifested clearly on semantic broadening, narrowing, shifting, additive borrowing, and innovation. It is, therefore, clear that while the importation of loanwords enriches the language by filling the lexical gap caused by cultural and technological differences between Kihehe and the source languages, it also affects the semantics.

Author Biographies

Fahamu Kasavaga, University of Dodoma

Fahamu Kasavaga, PhD is a Lecturer at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, National Institute of Transport, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. His research areas cover Phonology, Morphology, Semantics and Language Contact.

Chrispina Alphonce, University of Dodoma

Chrispina Alphonce obtained her PhD from The University of Dodoma in 2016. Her research areas cover sociolinguistics, General linguistics, Southern Cushitic linguistics, Documentation and Description of Endangered Languages, Anthropological Linguistics, Pragmatics, Ethno-Bio Linguistics, Linguistic landscape, and Language Contact.


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How to Cite

Kasavaga, F., & Alphonce, C. (2024). Lexical borrowing: The influence of loanwords on the semantics of Kihehe. Ghana Journal of Linguistics, 12(3).