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In linguistics, a calque // or loan translation is a word or phrase borrowed from another language by literal, word-for-word or root-for-root translation. Used as a verb, "to calque" means to borrow a word or phrase from another language while translating its components so as to create a new lexeme in the target language.
"Calque" itself is a loanword from the French noun calque ("tracing; imitation; close copy"); the verb calquer means "to trace; to copy, to imitate closely"; papier calque is "tracing paper". The word "loanword" is itself a calque of the German word Lehnwort, just as "loan translation" is a calque of Lehnübersetzung.
Proving that a word is a calque sometimes requires more documentation than does an untranslated loanword because, in some cases, a similar phrase might have arisen in both languages independently. This is less likely to be the case when the grammar of the proposed calque is quite different from that of the borrowing language or when the calque contains less obvious imagery.
Calquing is distinct from phono-semantic matching. While calquing includes semantic translation, it does not consist of phonetic matching (i.e. retaining the approximate sound of the borrowed word through matching it with a similar-sounding pre-existing word or morpheme in the target language).
One system classifies calques into five groups:
- the phraseological calque, with idiomatic phrases being translated word-for-word.
- the syntactic calque, with syntactic functions or constructions of the source language being imitated in the target language.
- the loan-translation, with words being translated morpheme-by-morpheme or component-by-component into another language.
- the semantic calque, with additional meanings of the source word being transferred to the word with the same primary meaning in the target language. That is also called a "semantic loan".
- the morphological calque, with the inflection of a word being transferred.
That terminology is not universal. Some authors call a morphological calque a "morpheme-by-morpheme translation".
Phraseological calque: "flea market"
Loan translation: "skyscraper"
An example of a common morpheme-by-morpheme loan-translation in a multitude of languages is that of the English word skyscraper:
- Albanian: qiellgërvishtës ("sky-scraper")
- Afrikaans: wolkekrabber ("clouds-scraper")
- Arabic: ناطحة سحاب (nāṭiḥat saḥāb, "cloud-bunter")
- Armenian: երկնաքեր (yerk-n-a-ker, "sky-scratcher")
- Azerbaijani: göydələn ("sky-piercer")
- Belarusian: хмарачос (khmaračos, "cloud-scraper")
- Bengali: akash-jharu (আকাশঝাড়ু, "sky-sweeper") or gagan-chumbi গগনচুম্বী ("sky-kisser")
- Bulgarian: небостъргач (nebostargach, "sky-scraper")
- Catalan: gratacel ("scrapes-sky")
- Chinese: 摩天楼; 摩天樓; mótiānlóu ("touch-the-sky building")
- Croatian: neboder ("sky-ripper")
- Czech and Slovak: mrakodrap ("cloud-scraper")
- Danish: skyskraber ("cloud-scraper")
- Dutch: wolkenkrabber ("clouds-scratcher")
- Estonian: pilvelõhkuja ("cloud-breaker")
- Finnish: pilvenpiirtäjä ("cloud-sketcher")
- French: gratte-ciel ("scrapes-sky")
- German: Wolkenkratzer ("cloud-scraper")
- Greek: ουρανοξύστης (uranoxístis, "sky-scraper")
- Hebrew: גורד שחקים (goréd šħaqím, "scraper of skies")
- Hindi: गगनचुंबी' (gagan-chumbi, "sky-kisser")
- Hungarian: felhőkarcoló ("cloud-scraper")
- Icelandic: skýjakljúfur ("cloud-splitter")
- Indonesian and Malay: pencakar langit ("sky-scraper")
- Irish: scríobaire spéire ("sky-scraper") or ilstórach (spéire) ("multistorey")
- Italian: grattacielo ("scrapes-sky")
- Japanese: 摩天楼 (matenrou, "sky-scraping tower")
- Latvian: debesskrāpis ("sky-scraper")
- Lithuanian: dangoraižis ("sky-scraper")
- Macedonian: облакодер (oblakoder, "cloud-scraper")
- Malayalam: അംബരചുംബി (ambaracumbi, "sky-kisser")
- Mongolian: тэнгэр баганадсан барилга (tenger baganadsan barilga, "sky-pillaring building")
- Norwegian: skyskraper ("cloud-scraper")
- Persian: آسمانخراش (âsmânkhrâsh, "sky-scraper")
- Polish: drapacz chmur ("cloud-scraper")
- Portuguese: arranha-céus ("scrapes-skies")
- Romanian: zgârie-nori ("scrapes-clouds")
- Russian: небоскрёб (neboskryob, "sky-scraper")
- Serbian: oblakoder ("cloud-ripper")
- Slovene: nebotičnik ("sky-rubber, -toucher")
- Spanish: rascacielos ("scrapes-skies")
- Swedish: skyskrapa ("sky-scraper")
- Tagalog: gusaling tukudlangit ("building poking the sky")
- Tamil: வானளாவி (vāṉaḷāvi, "sky-reacher")
- Thai: ตึกระฟ้า (tụkraf̂ā, "sky-scraping building")
- Turkish: gökdelen ("sky-piercer")
- Ukrainian: хмарочос (hmaročos, "cloud-scratcher")
- Vietnamese: nhà chọc trời ("sky-poking building")
- Welsh: cwmwlgrafwr ("cloud scraper") or nendwr ("sky tower")
Loan translation: translatio and traductio
The Latin word translatio ("a transferring") derives from trans, "across" + latus, "borne". (Latus is the past participle of ferre, "to carry".)
The Germanic languages and some Slavic languages calqued their words for "translation" from the above Latin word, translatio, substituting their respective Germanic or Slavic root words for the Latin roots.
The remaining Slavic languages instead calqued their words for "translation" from an alternative Latin word, traductio, itself derived from traducere ("to lead across" or "to bring across", from trans, "across" + ducere, "to lead" or "to bring").
The Romance languages, deriving directly from Latin, did not need to calque their equivalent words for "translation". Instead, they simply adapted the second of the above two alternative Latin words, traductio, literally meaning "leading across" or "putting across". Thus, Aragonese: traducción; Catalan: traducció; French: traduction; Italian: traduzione; Portuguese: tradução; Romanian: traducere; and Spanish: traducción.
The English verb "to translate" similarly derives from the Latin translatio, itself derived from transferre, "to transfer": in this case, "transferred" (translatus) from one language to another. Were the English verb "translate" calqued, it would be "overset", akin to the calques in other Germanic languages.
Following are the Germanic- and Slavic-language calques for "translation", as discussed above:
Semantic calque: mouse
The computer mouse was named in English for its resemblance to the animal. Many other languages have extended their own native word for "mouse" to include the computer mouse.
- Arabic: فأرة (faʾra)
- Armenian: մկնիկ (mknik, diminutive of մուկ "mouse")
- Bulgarian: мишка (mishka)
- Burmese: ကြွက် (krwak)
- Czech: myš
- Dutch: muis
- Estonian: hiir
- European Portuguese: rato
- Finnish: hiiri
- French: souris
- German: Maus
- Greek: ποντίκι (pontíki)
- Hebrew: עכבר (akhbár)
- Hungarian: egér
- Icelandic: mús
- Latvian: pele
- Lingala: mpóko
- Lithuanian: pelė
- Malay: tetikus
- Mongolian: хулгана (hulgana)
- Polish: mysz
- Russian: мышь (mysh')
- Spanish: ratón
- Swahili: kipanya
- Swedish: mus
- Turkish: fare
- Vietnamese: chuột
- The New Cassell's French Dictionary: French-English, English-French, New York, Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1962, p. 122.
- Robb: German English Words germanenglishwords.com
- Zuckermann, Ghil'ad (2003). Language Contact and Lexical Enrichment in Israeli Hebrew. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 1-4039-1723-X.
- May Smith, The Influence of French on Eighteenth-century Literary Russian, p. 29-30.
- Claude Gilliot, "The Authorship of the Qur'ān" in Gabriel Said Reynolds, The Qur'an in its Historical Context, p. 97
- "flea market", The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, fourth edition, 2000
- Christopher Kasparek, "The Translator's Endless Toil", The Polish Review, vol. XXVIII, no. 2, 1983, p. 83.
- "overzetting" in Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal, IvdNT
- Christopher Kasparek, "The Translator's Endless Toil", The Polish Review, vol. XXVIII, no. 2, 1983, pp. 83–87.
- Robb: German English Words germanenglishwords.com
- Ghil'ad Zuckermann, "Hybridity versus Revivability: Multiple Causation, Forms and Patterns", Journal of Language Contact, Varia 2, 2009, pp. 40–67.
- Ghil'ad Zuckermann, Language Contact and Lexical Enrichment in Israeli Hebrew, Palgrave Macmillan, 2003, ISBN 1-4039-1723-X.