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  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: September 2012

4 - More on structure: lexis and phonology


In this chapter we continue to provide an overview of characteristics of New Englishes, chiefly in the realm of lexis and phonetics and phonology.


This section provides a brief overview of the characteristic lexis of New Englishes, chiefly in Africa and Asia. In a sense there is little difference between vocabulary generation in individual New Englishes and metropolitan Englishes: the same processes that create new lexical items in the latter are reported in New Englishes. The interest lies more in the details. Metropolitan Englishes have long been receptive to new lexis based on the colonial experiences of the English abroad. Terms like the following now pass as international English, rather than that of a specific colonial variety:

bandanna ‘large coloured handkerchief or neckerchief’ (from Hindi)

amok ‘rushing in a frenzy’ (from Malay)

tsetse ‘bloodsucking fly which transmits sleeping sickness’ (from Tswana)

zombie ‘corpse revived by witchcraft’ (from Kimbunda)

safari ‘expedition to hunt or observe animals’ (from Arabic via Swahili)

serendipity ‘lucky and happy outcome’ (based on the Persian fairytale of the Three Princes of Serendip, an old Middle Eastern name for Sri Lanka)

The above examples count as borrowings and reflect a process of acquiring new knowledge or artefacts from other cultures. By contrast, the words to be characterised in this section are not as widely known.

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