This paper contributes to the ongoing Cognitive Linguistic turn in research on lexical borrowing: rather than searching for objective and universal linguistic criteria to demarcate different contact phenomena, we prioritize language users’ subjective perception of contact-induced change. In particular, combining insights from folk linguistics and social role theory, this paper presents the results from a survey targeting 177 Belgian Dutch respondents’ expectations on the use of English loanwords. The survey uncovers variation in these expectations, depending on the age of the projected speaker (RQ1), on the social role of the projected speaker (RQ2), and whether (unexpected) use of English by projected social role actors leads to negative evaluations (RQ3). Results reveal shared expectations regarding the use of English loans by age, with a perceived peak in late adolescence. Regarding the use of English by social role actors, we find high anticipated use of English loans for modern roles (e.g. rapper, gamer), whilst the expectation on English use for public (e.g. primary school teacher) and traditional roles (e.g. farmer) is significantly lower. Finally, our results indicate that role violation only seems to trigger negative evaluations when the role actor is a public figure with social responsibility. The discussion reflects on the implications of the results, contrasting the top-down or bottom-up emergence of shared beliefs on speaker groups and contact-induced variation.
Research funding: This work was supported by KU Leuven (C1420043).
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