Measuring and comparing the use and success of loanwords in Portugal and Brazil: a corpus-based and concept-based sociolectometrical approach

Augusto Soares da Silva*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents a quantitative study on differences in the use of loanwords in European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese, with specific attention to their impact on the general linguistic/lexical distance between the two national varieties. Specifically, loanwords in the field of football and clothing terminology are studied by means of a concept-based method of onomasiological variation. This variation is not due to a different conceptual classification of the same entity, but rather to the use of different synonymous terms for referring to the same concept, i.e. denotational synonyms, which may be associated with different regions, different social groups or even different registers. The study uses advanced corpus-based and sociolectometrical methods tomeasure the use and success of loanwords, as well as their impact on convergence and divergence between the two varieties, specifically featuralmeasures (calculating the proportion of terms possessing a special feature) and uniformitymeasures (calculating onomasiological homogeneity and convergence/divergence between language varieties). These measures are based on onomasiological profiles, i.e. sets of alternative synonymous terms, together with their frequencies. The use of the onomasiological profile-based method allows for a controlmechanism to avoid thematic bias in the corpus. The study combines different types of empirical data, both corpus-based and survey-based. The data include thousands of observations of the usage of alternative terms to refer to 43 nominal concepts from football and clothing terminologies, and several dozen elicitations of attitudinal intentions with regard to 15 clothing concepts by means of a survey. Corpus material was extracted from sports newspapers and fashion magazines from the 1950s, 1970s and 1990s/2000s, Internet chats related to football, and labels and price tags pictured fromclothes shop windows. Football and clothing terms confirm the hypothesis that the influence of English, French and other foreign languages is stronger in the Brazilian variety than in the European variety. The use of loanwords has contributed towards onomasiological heterogeneity within and across the two national varieties in the last 60 years. Specifically, loanwords and their adaptations contributed to divergence between the two varieties in the lexical domain of clothing and for slight convergence in football vocabulary. The attitudinal intentions of both the Brazilian and the Portuguese respondents are very favorable to the use of loanwords.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNew Perspectives on Lexical Borrowing
Subtitle of host publicationOnomasiological, Methodological and Phraseological Innovations
Editors Eline Zenner, Gitte Kristiansen
PublisherDe Gruyter
Number of pages41
ISBN (Electronic)9781614514305
ISBN (Print)9781614515913
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2013

Publication series

NameLanguage Contact and Bilingualism


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