English Borrowings In Spanish ICT Terminology: Language Conflicts And Contacts


The article analyzes the process of borrowing and adapting English loan words in the Spanish information and communication technologies terminology. The Royal Spanish Academy takes a proactive position on the formation of linguistic policy to adapt borrowings. The English-origin terms recorded in the Dictionary of the Spanish Language, the features of their functioning according to the National Corpus (CORPES XXI) of the Spanish language are considered. According to the Dictionary of the Spanish Language, English borrowings make up a smaller part of the terms marked as Inform ‘Informatics’ or Telec ‘Telecommunications’ (35 terms), which is 27.9% of the total. The English borrowings recorded by the Spanish Dictionary in the latest edition are divided into adapted (28 units) and non-adapted (12 units). The Royal Spanish Academy recommends the spelling and grammatical adaptation of most English borrowings and suggests Spanish counterparts to certain English-origin terms. It is shown that the English borrowings, adapted and not adapted, interact with Spanish lexemes, obeying the syntagmatic structures of the recipient language, and form stable collocations, which confirms their high degree of assimilation. The analysis of the Corpus (CORPES XXI) reveals the instability in how users choose the grammatical category of borrowed words and their spelling, which indicates a dynamic factor in the development of the ICT term system, as well as the naturally ongoing process of the assimilation of English borrowings, which takes place independently of the regulatory actions of the Royal Spanish Academy.

Keywords: Globalizationlocalizationborrowingsterminological collocationadaptation


The issues of describing terminology serving new areas of scientific knowledge are always relevant and in demand. Modern Spanish studies find the formation of terminology in the field of information and communication technologies (ICT) as especially significant. In this area, English has long been a lingua franca; however, the wide spread of the Internet and ICT around the world has led to the formation of terminology and structuring of the ICT term system in other languages. The main challenge in the formation of modern ICT terminology was the widespread use of English borrowings in the speech of both specialists and ordinary Internet users. Borrowing is a continuous process that has been going on for many centuries, linguistic contacts in different historical periods enriched the vocabulary of the nations in contact, influenced the structural characteristics of languages. A feature of the modern borrowing process is the speed of borrowing from English into the field of ICT terminology, the widespread use of borrowings and the relatively slow regulatory process on the part of language institutions. A Spanish terminology researcher Lirian Astrid Ciro (2014) notes that linguists are faced with the task of finding the best Spanish equivalents for English computer science terms. And to do this in such a way that English as a lingua franca would not prevent the Spanish language from being a conductor of not only Spanish culture, but also being the language of Spanish science.

Problem Statement

The emergence of a new global information space, the close interaction of representatives of different cultures and scientific communities lead to an active expansion of the vocabulary, the rate of new terminology entering the specific usus and general use is increasing, the models for the formation of new terminologies are changing. Borrowing from the language of the "source" of technology is becoming an increasingly common way of word formation. Technologies, products, new concepts spread all over the world, and their lexical form seeks unification.

Such processes in the modern society are closely related to two opposing trends: globalization and localization. Globalization, as the involvement of all humankind in the same development processes, and the spread of technology around the world, lead to a change in the identity of every people entering intercultural communication. International organizations (economic, scientific, social), interacting with specific countries, exert their influence on local institutions and their functioning systems. Localization arises as a protective mechanism in the desire of countries to maintain local identity. On the one hand, scholars note the consequences of globalization, such as blurring political and ideological boundaries, unification and standardization of economic processes, and on the other hand, there are risks of destroying the cultural identity and traditional values of local cultures (Chiang & Zhou, 2019; Gutiérrez-Artacho & Olvera-Lobo, 2018; Tomyuk et al., 2019). The key features of the modern world are the interaction of the global and the local, the influence of unification and standardization on local cultures and the simultaneous influence of local cultures on the global sociocultural and linguistic situation. Robertson (1992) notes two areas of globalization: 1. Institutionality - bringing systems to a unified and standardized form at the level of blu-chip international companies and contacts; 2. Localization of globalization - adaptation of various influences to local traditions and cultures. Institutionality leads to standardization, unification and internationalization at all levels of international communication, including the linguistic one. There appear international terms as well as the standardization of terminology in many areas is growing widespread. Localization is an opposing movement striving to adapt global influences to local culture and the simultaneous influence of local cultures on global processes. It is noted that when local national organizations enter the arena of international communication, national languages experience a tremendous impact mainly from the English language. National linguistic institutions try to resist this impact, trying to protect local languages from excessive external influence. More or less strict regulation of borrowing processes in national languages is becoming a global trend in the process of globalization (Trovesi, 2018). Intercultural linguistic contacts in the context of globalization are becoming increasingly close, and the conflicts that arise at the intersection of the global and the local opposing each other, need to be described and understood.

Research Questions

The scholars who research into these processes from the linguistic point of view always touch upon the process of translation and adaptation of new words in the context of globalization. Translation becomes the central component of localization, as a new approach to the translation of new words. Localization is understood as a complex form of adaptation of all semantic and pragmatic meanings of a word (Pym et al., 2006; Efremova & Lashkova, 2017; Moreno-Fernández & Moreno Sandoval, 2018). Due to the fact that at present the latest developments in the field of ICT are carried out by multinational companies, and the language of science and communication for the announcement of new ICT products is English, it becomes obvious that these new concepts enter other languages almost simultaneously through the English language. Localization — the emergence, adaptation, and assimilation of new terms and terminological phrases in recipient languages — is a complex process that takes place through borrowing and through the internal resources of the language.

Researchers studying the impact of globalization on the formation of national terminologies note the major trends. Rodríguez (2019) explores the correlation of global and local in advertising discourse, studying translation strategies that seek to preserve both global and international concepts in translation on the one hand, and on the other hand, to localize new concepts and find native words for an adequate translation. Varcasia et al. (2009), using the example of ICT terminology, emphasizes the undoubted influence of national language institutions on the choice of translation strategies both in the translation of specialized terms and in the widespread use. The latest terminologies and languages for special purposes are formed under the dominant influence of the English language; English borrowings and internationalisms make up a significant part of the total number of terms in the latest national terminological systems, thereby enriching them. The formation of international terminologies based on the English language and their "localization" on the basis of national languages in different countries are being realized. Some tension is noted in the ratio of the local and the global while adapting and assimilating the latest terms. National language institutes urge to regulate and control borrowing processes to preserve national identity and unity. Veliyeva (2015) emphasizes the impact of globalization on the formation of national identity and the need for language and cultural policies.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this article is to describe the features of adapting English borrowings in the terminology system of ICT from the point of view of regulatory institutions (the Royal Spanish Academy) on the one hand, and from the point of view of their functioning in specialists’ and ordinary users’ speech on the other hand. To achieve this goal, we reviewed the current recommendations of the Royal Spanish Academy on the use and adaptation of ICT Anglicisms and identified the features of including English borrowings into the Academic Dictionary of Spanish (Diccionario de la lengua Española [DLE], 2014), as well as reviewed and analyzed the features of how English-origin terms function in Internet users’ texts.

The material of the study is the terms labeled Inform 'Informatics' or Telec 'telecommunications' from the 23rd edition of the Spanish Language Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy (DLE, 2014), from which a group marked Del ingl stands for 'borrowing from English '. Examples of of these terms and their variants functioning are studied and analyzed according to the corpus of the 21st century Spanish language Corpus del Español del Siglo XXI (CORPES).

Research Methods

Basic research methods are the following: 1) continuous sampling method; 2) comparative analysis of English borrowings in the field of codification and in the field of functioning, and 3) descriptive method for considering the processes of adapting English borrowings in the texts of Internet users.


The formation of terminology in any language is an extremely complex phenomenon, balancing between the spontaneity of the usus and orderliness, the highest manifestation of which is lexicographic codification. The formation of terminology develops, as a rule, in several ways: by using the internal means of the language, as well as through borrowing from various languages. In the current situation, the terminology of ICT from the point of view of origin can be divided into the following subgroups:

1. internationalisms - terms that have received such a status due to their spread in many languages, as well as the similarity of the phonetic and graphic structure and general semantics. As a rule, such international units are inherent in scientific and technical discourse, and their distribution is a consequence of the use of common Greek-Latin roots, and in new terminologies – English ones.

2. English borrowings (Anglicisms) - a wide layer of terms in the field of ICT in Spanish. This is the part of the terms that are of English origin, but have not received the status of internationalisms, since they have no global use.

3. borrowings from other languages ​​- a small group of terms borrowed from other languages (often of common origin) that have not received international status.

4. native words, i.e. native vocabulary units that have acquired the meaning of a term in a particular field.

A continuous sample of the 23rd edition of the Spanish Language Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy (DLE, 2014) revealed 206 terms labeled Inform ‘Informatics’ or Telec ‘Telecommunications’. Contrary to popular belief that English dominates the terminology of computer science and telecommunications, we found only 35 out of 206 terms marked Del ingl , which means “a borrowing from English”. Moreover, the vast majority of terms are of Roman origin: Latin - 48 units, French - 13 units, Spanish 27 - units.

The Royal Academy of Spanish, together with the Foundation of Emerging Spanish ​​(Fundación de Español Urgente), speaks out against excessive borrowing, suggests translations or equivalents for words coming from other languages: clutch - bolso de mano, bolso de fiesta, cartera; coolhunter - cazatendencias o buscatendencias; think tank - laboratorio de ideas

The Foundation of Emerging Spanish (Fundación de Español Urgente) has published a glossary recommending the replacement of English with Spanish counterparts. The Foundation calls not to use many of the widely used English borrowings, and suggesting Spanish equivalents: roaming - itinerancia, phishing - suplantador, software - soporte lógico ... The question arises: is such a replacement always justified, will the proposed original word always be unambiguously interpreted? Will users follow recommendations?

The Royal Spanish Academy admits that the enrichment of the lexical composition is due to the development of internal lexical and semantic resources, as well as the interaction of languages, i.e. borrowing. Borrowing per se is not completely rejected. It is important that the introduction of new foreign words meets the urgent need to reflect new realia and undergo a uniform process of “accommodation” to the graphic and morphological norm of the Spanish language.

According to the Orthography of the Spanish language (Royal Spanish Academy, 2010), some borrowings retain the form and pronunciation of the original language, especially if these borrowings have terminological meaning and are used on an international scale. Such units must appear in printed text in italics or in quotation marks when written by hand so that it is clear that the word is foreign and may disobey the rules of spelling and pronunciation of the Spanish language.

Among English borrowings in the field of computer science and telecommunications, the Dictionary notes only 12 units that require emphasis in italics.

These are data units: byte ‘bytes’, gigabyte ‘gigabytes’, kilobyte ‘kilobytes’, megabyte ‘megabytes’, terabyte ‘terabytes’.

There are internationalisms such as cracker ‘cracker’ , hardware ‘hardware’ , hacker ‘cracker’, hacker 'specialist in the field of information systems security', input ‘input’ , output ‘output’ , software ‘software’, spam ‘spam’; From the perspective of the Royal Spanish Academy, they have not yet gone through the adaptation process, so they need to be highlighted in italics in the text.

The Academy focuses on adapting such international borrowings at the spelling level while maintaining the pronunciation close to the one in the original language: ingl. meeting> esp. mitin; ingl. groggy> esp. grogui; ingl. scooter> esp. escúter .... If there is a spelling feature in a borrowed foreign word that is not typical of the Spanish language, they propose changes in the spelling: the letter combination ck turns into c: crack> crac, click> clic; replacing h with j while maintaining the pronunciation /j/,: hit jit, hockey> joquey ; replacing y with i : ferry> ferri ; adding e in the initial position before s + consonant: spray> espray ... The letters k and w are included in the Spanish alphabet, so the relatively recent borrowing of words with these letters does not require a mandatory change in spelling. These are the basic rules for adapting foreign words, according to the Academy of the Spanish Language.

The terms in our corpus were recorded in the Dictionary (DLE, 2014) without such changes and, as a result, require being italicized in the text. It should also be noted that the units byte, hardware, input, output, software were first recorded by the Dictionary in 2005 and were transferred to the new edition also in italics. Despite their wide distribution and use not only by subject-matter experts, the authors of the Dictionary retain the status of non-adapted English borrowings for them.

The second group of English borrowings in our corpus does not require italics according to the latest edition of the Dictionary. It contains terms included in the Dictionary (DLE 2014) in earlier editions. The 1992 edition had already recorded the terms algol ‘algol’ , bit ‘bit’ , disquete ‘diskette’. In 2001, the dictionary was enriched with the following English borrowings: emoticono / emoticón 'emoticon’ (in two adapted spellings), inicializar 'initialize, run the program', módem 'modem', multiplete 'multiplet', píxel 'pixel', robot 'robot program', telemático , ca 'telematic', web 'computer network'.

The latest edition of the 2014 Dictionary (DLE 2014), sees the new terms added to the existing list: caché 'cache', chat 'chat', multiplexor 'signal compression device, multiplexer', hackear 'perform hacker attack', intranet 'intranet', wifi ' Wifi '.

The lexemes intranet, chat and wifi are noteworthy. As a designation of the corresponding realia, they appeared in the early 2000s, but they entered the Dictionary (DLE 2014) only in 2014, immediately without italic highlighting as adapted forms. Moreover, recommendations regarding the gender of the nouns are ambiguous: intranet is feminine, Internet is masculine or feminine.

The verb hackear ‘to get access to a computer, system or data’ does not require italics, despite the fact that its cognate hacker ‘hacker’ is marked by the dictionary as a non-adapted English borrowing fixed in the Dictionary without spelling changes in 2014. Verbal English borrowings are usually fixed in the 1st conjugation using the “-ar” or “-ear” formants ( googlear ‘google’, chatear ‘chat’) and at the same time assume the status of adapted borrowings.

In addition, two abbreviations appeared in the dictionary related to the field of computer science, borrowed from English without any changes, but not requiring italics in the text, apparently due to the widest use: ADSL - sigla de asymmetric digital subscriber line - 'asymmetric digital subscriber line’ which is masculine, USB - sigla de universal serial bus ‘universal serial bus' without specifying the gender.

The process of adapting lexical units, on the one hand, proceeds from the regulatory position of the Academy, and on the other hand, its suggestions are not always accepted by native speakers of the Spanish language. The usus witnesses various trends in the use of English borrowings and their adaptive options.

English ICT terminology in the 21st Century Spanish Corpus (Corpus del Español del Siglo XXI)

Let us consider some English terms fixed by the Dictionary (DLE, 2014) in their use according to the 21st Century Spanish Language Corpus (CORPES XXI). In the texts, borrowings inevitably interact with Spanish lexemes, being subordinate to Spanish syntactic and syntagmatic structures and forming more or less stable collocations in the process of borrowing development and adaptation. Certain stability, repeatability and reproducibility of such collocations allows us to more fully assess the degree of assimilation of an English borrowing.

One of the central concepts in the modern field of ICT is the term web ‘network, Internet’, for which the Spanish counterpart la red ‘network’ exists in the Dictionary.

The Corpus features the following combinations: página web ‘web page’, sitio web ‘web site’, servicio web ‘internet service’, web pirata ‘web page of pirated origin’, servidor web ‘server’, web correo ‘email’. At the same time, the Spanish analogue of La red ‘network’ is used only to denote the Internet itself and forms the only frequency combination of red social ‘social network’.

In addition, after analyzing the Corpus (CORPES XXI), a synonymous series is identified with the meaning 'a site, web page (less often), portal, search engine (less frequent, a browser)' represented by lexemes sitio web = sitio = sitio digital = sitio de Internet = website = sitio on -line = sitio online = página web = página de Internet = página online = web = página = web page = página electrónica = portal = portal de internet = portada . Academic Dictionary (DLE, 2014) notes the difference in meanings:

Sitio web m. Inform. Conjunto de páginas web agrupadas bajo un mismo dominio de internet . (A group of web pages under one domain).

Página web f. Inform. Conjunto de informaciones de un sitio web que se muestran en una pantalla y que puede incluir textos, contenidos audiovisuales y enlaces con otras páginas . (A set of data (text, audiovisual, links) on a site that is placed on the screen).

Portal 7. m. Inform. Espacio de una red informática que ofrece, de forma sencilla e integrada, acceso a recursos y servicios . (The space in the network, which in a simple but structured form gives access to resources and services).

The academic dictionary (DLE 2014) does not record the meaning marked with computer science for the lexeme portada (‘gate’). The meanings provided are the following: ‘first page of the newspaper’ and ‘first page of the site’.

Thus, we note that the lexemes sitio web, página web (such collocations are most common) are used by users with the same semantic potential, despite the fact that the academic dictionary (DLE 2014) provides a different meaning. Such examples indicate a strong entry of the English borrowing into terminological combinations. In addition, the semantic content of these collocations is currently unstable in the minds of users and differs from the meaning recommended by the Academy.

The terms software 'software' and hardware 'computer hardware, hardware' are no less productive in forming combinations: software libre 'free software', software cliente-servidor 'client-oriented software', softwares educativos 'educational software', software online 'online software', software de procesamiento 'data processing software', crear software 'create software', modificar software 'modify software', desarollar software 'develop software', hardware compatible 'compatible hardware'. The modern spelling of the words software and hardware marks their anomalous and foreign character in relation to Spanish. The Spanish Academy offers alternative forms such as programa or soporte lógico and soporte físico ; in the second case, there appears a Galicism or tracing of the French term logiciel , but they turn out to be less productive in creating frequency phrases. The number of occurrences of the unit software Coprus CORPES XXI is 8841, while the combination soporte lógico occurs 3 times.

We can also name other collocations or terminological combinations that firmly include English borrowings: interfaz amigable - a friendly interface; diseñar la interfaz - create an interface; personalizar la intefaz - personalize, customize the interface; memoria USB - USB memory; conexión USB - USB connection; acceso wifi - WiFi access; la red wifi - WiFi network ...

In such terminological phrases and collocations, the element that “attracts” others and has morphosyntactic and / or semantic power is an English borrowing. The English-origin component firmly enters this frame, forms other similar syntagmatic structures and is their integral part; this shows a high level of adaptation and cohesion of English borrowings and lexemes from another language in the formation of terminological combinations and collocations in the field of ICT.

The process of the adaptation of English borrowings in Spanish witnesses another problem - the one of acquiring the grammatical gender by nouns. In English, nouns do not possess this category, which means that when borrowing, there is a problem arising that is of choosing the gender of the noun. This issue was studied on the basis of materials from different languages ​​in the works of Corbett (2012), Morin (2010), Muñoz-Basols and Salazar (2019), Vanhove (2019). As noted earlier, the Spanish Academy in the process of codification of an English borrowing gives recommendations for distinguishing the gender, but they are not always unambiguous and understandable to ordinary users. So, intranet is marked as a feminine noun, and the Internet , according to the Dictionary, can be both feminine and masculine. The fluctuation of the gender in the Academy's recommendations regarding the example internet have been explained and have the following reasons. Assignment of the masculine gender to the noun internet can occur by analogy with other Spanish words similar in the phonological aspect, el chalet (masculine). The feminine gender is based on the semantic meaning of the lexical unit La internet - la red (network). The analysis of the Corpus (CORPES XXI) shows that the unit intranet is really used primarily with the feminine article. Spanish users would prefer to be guided by the semantic meaning and adapt English borrowings according to the gender of the native Spanish equivalent of the concept la red . When choosing the gender of the unit el / la internet , different usage is observed. This phenomenon of the “transitional gender” is noted in other examples of the use of English borrowings in the texts of the Corpus (CORPES XXI): el wifi (17 entries) - la wifi (13 entries); el interfaz (20 entries) - la interfaz (296 entries). However, the Dictionary (DLE 2014) in both cases gives a clear recommendation concerning the gender: interfaz is fixed with a note female, and wifi is masculine (DLE, 2014). The semantic analogy mechanism works in both cases. In the example interfaz , users are guided by the fact that Spanish words with the -faz morpheme can be either masculine ( el antifaz ) or feminine ( la faz, la sobrefaz ). In the case of the example wifi , it is difficult to find a justification of a morphological or phonological nature to justify the choice of the gender category, because there are no original words ending with -fi, so user fluctuations are explicable. The Academy recommends using the masculine gender, guided by the semantic analogy of wifi - el sistema de conexión (connection system).

It is necessary to note that the Corpus (CORPES XXI) sees the terms interfaz, wifi, spam and hacker recorded in the dictionary in several spellings: interfaz, interface, interfase, interficie, Wi-Fi, wi-fi, jaquer, jacker, espam . Since modern Internet communication finds interaction taking place in writing, the first stage of borrowing adaptation is the written or graphic-spelling stage. The observed instability at the level of morphology and spelling shows a different degree of adaptation of an English borrowing, which coexists in the speech of professionals and common users.


1. According to the recommendations of the Royal Spanish Academy, non-adapted borrowings are italicized in writing. Such units, regardless of the period of their appearance in the usus and fixation in the Dictionary (DLE, 2014), have a spelling that does not correspond to the Spanish norm. These terms are used internationally, so the Spanish Academy does not offer an adaptation of their spelling.

2. The ICT Anglicisms fixed in the Spanish Dictionary in the latest edition can be divided into adapted borrowings (28 units) and non-adapted ones (12 units). The Spanish Academy recommends the spelling and grammatical adaptation of most Anglicisms and offers Spanish equivalents to English-origin terms.

3. Directive input of the term and regulation of its semantic, grammatical and spelling features meets some resistance from ordinary users. There is a spelling and grammatical variation of borrowed terms in the field of their functioning. Analyzing the Corpus (CORPES XXI) of the Spanish language for the functioning of English borrowings in the texts, the author revealed that some English borrowings interact with the lexemes of the Spanish language, obeying the Spanish syntagmatic structures, and form stable collocations , which confirms the high degree of assimilation of such borrowings and their cognitive interpretation by users of these technologies. At the same time, the Spanish-origin equivalents of the English borrowings proposed by the Royal Spanish Academy are less frequently used and do not form stable terminological combinations.


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Sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, bilingualism, multilingualism

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Kuzmina, E. V. (2020). English Borrowings In Spanish ICT Terminology: Language Conflicts And Contacts. In Е. Tareva, & T. N. Bokova (Eds.), Dialogue of Cultures - Culture of Dialogue: from Conflicting to Understanding, vol 95. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 454-463). European Publisher. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2020.11.03.49