Calque

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. When 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. For instance, the English word "skyscraper" led to calques in dozens of other languages.[1] Another notable example is the Latin weekday names, which came to be associated by ancient Germanic speakers with their own gods following a practice known as interpretatio germanica: the Latin "Day of Mercury", Mercurii dies, was borrowed into Late Proto-Germanic as the "Day of Wōđanaz" (*Wodanesdag), which became Wōdnesdæg in Old English, then "Wednesday" in Modern English.[2]

The term calque itself is a loanword from the French noun calque ("tracing, imitation, close copy"), while the word loanword is a calque of the German noun Lehnwort.[3] Calquing is distinct from phono-semantic matching: while calquing includes semantic translation, it does not consist of phonetic matching—i.e., of retaining the approximate sound of the borrowed word by matching it with a similar-sounding pre-existing word or morpheme in the target language.[4]

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.

One system classifies calques into five groups. However, this terminology is not universal:[5]

Also, some linguists refer to a phonological calque, in which the pronunciation of a word is imitated in the other language.[8] For example, the English word "radar" becomes the similar-sounding Chinese word 雷达 (pinyin: léidá).[8], which literally means "to arrive (as fast) as thunder".

Partial calques, or loan blends, translate some parts of a compound but not others.[9] For example, the name of the Irish digital television service "Saorview" is a partial calque of that of the UK service "Freeview", translating the first half of the word from English to Irish but leaving the second half unchanged. Other examples include "liverwurst" (< German Leberwurst) and "apple strudel" (< German Apfelstrudel).[citation needed]

The common English phrase "flea market" is a loan translation of the French marché aux puces ("market with fleas").[10] At least 22 other languages also calque the French expression (directly, or indirectly through some other language).[11]

Another example of a common morpheme-by-morpheme loan-translation, is of the English word "skyscraper", which may be calqued using the word for "sky" or "cloud" and the word, variously, for "scraping", "scratching", "piercing", "sweeping", "kissing", etc. At least 54 languages have their own versions of the English word.[12]

The Latin word translātiō ("a transferring") derives from transferō ("to transfer"), from trans ("across") + ferō (the verb "bear").[13]

All Germanic languages (except for English, Icelandic, and Dutch), and some Slavic languages, calqued their words for "translation" from the Latin translātiō, 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, trāductiō, itself derived from trādūcō ("to lead across" or "to bring across")—from trans ("across") + dūcō, ("to lead" or "to bring").[13]

The West and East Slavic languages (except for Russian) adopted the translātiō pattern, whereas Russian and the South Slavic languages adopted the trāductiō pattern. 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 two alternative Latin words, trāductiō.[13]

The English verb "to translate" was borrowed from the Latin translātiō, rather than being calqued.[13] The Icelandic word þýða ("translate"; cognate with the German deuten, "to interpret") was not calqued from Latin, nor was it borrowed.[14]

The "computer mouse" was named in English for its resemblance to the animal. Many other languages use their word for "mouse" for the "computer mouse", sometimes using a diminutive or, in Chinese, adding the word "cursor" (thus "鼠标", "mouse cursor").[citation needed]. At least 35 languages have their own versions of the English term.[15]