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BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access October 18, 2021

English on air: Novel anglicisms in German radio language

  • Sarah Josefine Schaefer EMAIL logo
From the journal Open Linguistics


Traditional research on anglicisms has been undertaken in different media corpora. However, the media, both agents of globalisation and affected by globalising flows, and how they operate within global flows of messages and linguistic resources that characterise our mediatised societies have not been given sufficient attention in these studies. In addition, the German media have been repeatedly criticised for using anglicisms without explaining these, causing comprehension problems. By examining novel anglicisms on German radio from a journalistic perspective, this article shows that acknowledging journalists’ language practices gives a more detailed picture of the specific language used on air. This article includes an analysis of novel anglicisms in a self-compiled radio corpus and an examination of interview statements made by radio journalists on their use of novel anglicisms in radio content. The findings show that the claim made by previous research is rather oversimplified. Instead, a complex web of normative forces that shape how novel anglicisms are made comprehensible on radio is revealed, which includes the constraints of the medium, stylistic and journalistic genre conventions, the target audience, and the language perceptions of journalists.

1 Introduction

In our interconnected and mediatised world, deterritorialised cultural and linguistic resources that form global cultural flows have become ubiquitous (Appadurai 1996, Blommaert 2010). In particular, English linguistic resources are increasingly mobile and enlarge people’s linguistic repertoires across the globe (Pennycook 2007). Research on anglicism usage in Germany has shown that an increase of English borrowings has been taking place from the post-war years until today (Busse and Carstensen 1993–1996, Onysko 2007, Pulcini et al. 2012). Similar to the use of English linguistic resources in Germany, other European countries that have shown such developments include the Netherlands, Spain, France, and Norway (Andersen 2015, Gerritsen et al. 2007, Zenner et al. 2012).

What comprises the concept of anglicism from a linguistic perspective is not simply definable and has therefore given rise to different opinions on the definition of such lexical items (Glahn 2002, Oeldorf 1990, Onysko 2007). According to Onysko’s definition, the generic term anglicism stands for English lexical items that are transferred from their source language (SL) to a receptor language (RL) (borrowings), for codeswitching into English, and for the productive usage of English lexical material within the RL (pseudo-anglicisms and hybrids). Most anglicisms are marked in the RL due to their either phonological and/or graphemic features. Other cases are unmarked in the RL and qualify as anglicisms if these show clear etymological evidence of having an English origin (interferences, unobtrusive borrowings) (see Onysko 2007).

A substantial amount of research has been undertaken on anglicisms in German. The usage of anglicisms has been investigated based on various media corpora, including print and television (Adler 2004, Fink 1997, Fink et al. 1997, Glahn 2002, Onysko 2007). These corpora serve as a basis for analysing different types of anglicisms including borrowings, hybrids, and pseudo-anglicisms (amongst others Glahn 2002, Knospe 2015b, Onysko 2007). In addition, pragmatic dimensions of anglicisms (Onysko and Winter-Froemel 2011) and their stylistic functions were examined based on different media corpora (Galinsky 1963, Pfitzner 1978, Schaefer 2019). Furthermore, the creative use of anglicisms such as in word-coining, wordplay, and punning in mostly written language of the press was investigated by, amongst others, Galinsky (1963), Pfitzner (1978), Stefanowitsch (2002), Görlach (2003), and Knospe (2015a, 2016).

Despite this amount of research on the usage of English linguistic resources in German media corpora, little attention in these studies has been given to the media in Germany – which are both affected by and an agent of globalising processes – and to how journalists operate within global flows of messages and linguistic resources that characterise our mediatised societies (see Appadurai 1996). German professional journalists working for traditional media function as evaluative voices on cultural and linguistic developments within the public sphere and have often been criticised for their use of anglicisms without further explaining these, causing comprehension problems (cf. Baum 2016, Glahn 2002, Kovtun 2000, Pfitzner 1978). By investigating the use of novel anglicisms on German radio, a case in point where comprehensibility can become an issue, the present article looks beyond the descriptive linguistic level and adopts a broader perspective that includes how radio journalists perceive, take up, and use linguistic resources that newly appear in the locality of Germany. Radio is solely auditive and unlike other media such as print and television, there are no visuals that aid the understanding of the listener. To attain deeper insights into the usage of novel anglicisms on radio, this article considers how the language used through a medium is shaped by the communication channel’s constraints and possibilities, and that journalists’ voices find expression in various journalistic genres that follow different stylistic conventions.

The article first sets out to identify novel anglicisms – which equally have not been given sufficient attention in previous anglicism research – in a self-compiled radio morning show corpus and provides a diachronic analysis of the usage status of these novel anglicisms in the RL. The radio corpus is drawn from a larger research project on anglicism usage on German adult contemporary radio. Furthermore, the article incorporates an examination of novel anglicisms in different genres of the radio corpus and an analysis of 19 semi-structured interviews, conducted as part of the larger project, with the adult contemporary radio journalists who used these novel words on radio or were involved in the production process of the radio content analysed.

Section 2 gives a brief overview of radio language, the adult contemporary radio format, and the different genres of the morning show. In Section 3, the methodology and methods used in this study are explained. The results of this article presented in Section 4 outline the language choices radio journalists make, their language perceptions in relation to novel anglicisms, how the medium radio and its various genres shape the usage of novel anglicisms, and how these novel items are used in on-air language.

2 Radio language, format, and genre

Language used on radio is shaped by the medium through which communication takes place (Hjarvard 2004) and is characterised through a mix of formal and informal codes. The blind medium, as radio is also called (Crisell 1986), functions as a daily companion of the listener, who turns on the radio whilst doing other things. Therefore, radio needs to be attention grabbing, and the language used on radio is highly connotative. Furthermore, language on radio needs to be easy to follow and clearly structured to reach the targeted listenership. Although radio aims at reaching a large audience, journalists try to create a sense of intimacy between the individual listener and themselves (Fitzgerald 2006). In this way, radio is unique in its function and purpose and therefore also in its language usage.

The most popular radio format in Germany is adult contemporary, which plays mainstream pop music from the eighties to present. All adult contemporary stations target a similar, broad listenership in terms of music taste and age (between 25 and 49 years of age) (Lüthje 2012). Characteristic for this radio format is its focus on a mix of information and entertainment. These communicative aims of informing and entertaining the listener are met in different genres of adult contemporary radio programmes. As Bhatia states, “genre essentially refers to language use in a conventionalized communicative setting in order to give expression to a specific set of communicative goals of a disciplinary or social institution, which give rise to stable structural forms by imposing constraints on the use of lexico-grammatical as well as discoursal resources” (2014, 27). Genres are different text types that have their own characteristic composition and structure (see Stöckl 2016). Therefore, genres provide a fairly stable contextual environment that is quickly recognisable. The audience is able to make use of pre-known interpretation patterns that are based on the familiar stylistic and linguistic conventions of each genre (Bateman 2008). This means that the genre a media message belongs to functions as a contextual clue that is highly important for how a recipient interprets meaning (Forceville 2014). To provide these important clues and to satisfy the expectations of the audience towards a radio text belonging to a certain genre as well as to reach the communicative aims of a genre, the language used on radio has to be adapted accordingly. A thorough analysis of the usage of novel anglicisms on radio therefore requires an identification of the communicative purpose of the different programme parts and of the resulting use of language in each genre.

Adult contemporary radio morning shows consist of several genres, which are news, comedy, station imaging, service pieces, and host talk (G. Moderation). News functions to inform the target audience about the latest happenings that may affect them. According to Fleming, “traditionally read on the hour or half hour, the news punctuates programming connecting listeners with the world outside their immediate environment” (2002, 96). The genre comedy is the main entertainment component of the morning show, which together with host talk contributes to the image a station wishes to present to its target audience. Host talk includes interviews conducted by hosts, introductions, and closing remarks to interviews and music titles as well as general fillers between different programme parts. Therefore, host talk can be considered as a genre colony grouping together sub-genres that all share the communicative goal of providing infotainment (see Bhatia 2014). Service pieces provide solutions and information to consumer-related problems or, as Eide and Knight state, the task of service journalism is “responding to and offering commentary and advice on the everyday concerns of [the] audience” (1999, 526). The genre station imaging, the self-advertisement of radio stations, usually functions to announce the next programme parts and to promote the hosts, other programme parts or events organised by the stations. The discussion of the characteristics of the different genres and their communicative aims are further elaborated in Section 4.2 in relation to novel anglicism usage.

3 Methodology

For a definition of which English-language resources qualify as novel anglicisms in German, this article draws from contact linguistic theory. In terms of classification of anglicisms, Onysko’s (2007) typology was chosen in this study since he gives priority to synchronic criteria (i.e. word form) and does not include conceptual transmissions. According to Onysko, conceptual transmissions without SL-form occur “when a conceptual stimulus from an SL motivates a language-inherent creation in the RL” (2007, 31). An example of such a case is German Luftkissenboot “hovercraft.” Giving priority to synchronic criteria is particularly important for this study since words that have English marking, which means English graphemic features and/or phonological features, are most likely perceived as anglicisms by radio journalists.

While Onysko’s (2007) typology allows for a basic classification of the different types of anglicisms, Onysko does not specifically address how to identify anglicisms as novel. The larger debate surrounding neologisms in German, of which anglicisms are part, is quite controversial in terms of defining when a word can be regarded as new (amongst others Busse 1996, Elsen 2011, Heller et al. 1988, Klosa-Kückelhaus and Wolfer 2020). While some scholars define neologisms as “lexical units or meanings which emerge in a communication community in a specific period of time of language development, which diffuse, are generally accepted as language norm, and which the majority of speakers perceive as new for some time” (Klosa-Kückelhaus and Wolfer 2020, 151), others additionally include words that are one-off creations and nonce formations (amongst others Elsen 2011), therefore, words that are used spontaneously for a particular occasion. According to the definition above, a neologism is a novel lexical item that is commonly accepted as such in German (e.g. nice, Powerbank, and Lockdown). This study on novel anglicisms in radio language investigates those anglicisms that are not yet commonly accepted as neologisms by speakers of German. An anglicism is regarded as novel and therefore not yet commonly accepted in German in the present study on radio language if it (a) is a distinctive combination of word form and meaning not detectable in a common dictionary or even in its more current online version and (b) can only scarcely be found in regularly updated online corpora. Novel anglicisms are therefore not yet part of general language usage by the broader population and include one-offs and ad-hoc formations.

3.1 Types of novel anglicisms

New vocabulary based on English lexical items can be found everywhere around the world. Part of these processes of language development is lexical creation within the RL. In previous research, the term creation has referred to different phenomena of word formation (Betz 1959, Galinsky 1963, Onysko 2007). These are conceptual transmissions, which, as mentioned above, are not regarded as anglicisms in this study; pseudo-anglicisms, also known as false anglicisms; and hybrid anglicisms. Various definitions (amongst others Duckworth 1977, Furiassi 2010, Galinsky 1963, Onysko 2007) and classifications (amongst others Carstensen 1980, Glahn 2002, Görlach 2003) of pseudo-anglicisms have been put forward. According to Furiassi, a pseudo-anglicism is “a word or idiom that is recognizably English in its form (spelling, pronunciation, morphology, or at least one of the three), but is accepted as an item in the vocabulary of the RL even though it does not exist or is used with a conspicuously different meaning in English” (2010, 34). This definition by Furiassi excludes anglicisms that are not yet established, such as nonce words and one-off creations. In contrast to Furiassi, Onysko (2007) defines pseudo-anglicisms as any product of language-inherent creation using English lexical material to create a new sign within the RL that is unknown in English. Examples of pseudo-anglicisms are German Handy “mobile phone” and German Beamer “digital projector.”

Hybrid anglicisms have also given rise to various classifications (amongst others Allenbacher 1999, Carstensen 1965, Haugen 1950, Onysko 2007). What is mainly discussed here is whether hybrids can be classified as loanwords or language-inherent creations. According to Onysko (2007), the category of hybrid anglicisms is based on a purely formal/structural criterion, namely that the lexical unit consists of both SL and RL material. It is important here to note that the term hybrid should only be applied to processes of word formation (i.e. compounding and affixation) and not to the mere inflectional integration of a borrowing. Hybrids can be of various kinds; they can be productively created by combining an English borrowing with RL terms or morphemes, or they can be the result of a partial translation of an SL compound. The latter process is not as creative as the former since it involves a conceptual role model and lexical transfer. Hybrids can appear in all German word classes. Examples of hybrid compounds include Babypause “baby break,” Teilzeitjob “part-time job,” and Konzert-Tickets “concert tickets.” Since speakers of German are highly productive in terms of compounding (Onysko 2007), novel anglicisms created based on an established anglicism combined with a German element are not exceptional. While the researcher acknowledges that such hybrid anglicisms are novel if these are not listed in common dictionaries and do not appear frequently in large corpora, only those hybrid anglicisms are considered as novel anglicisms in this study on radio language in which the English element either is not an established borrowing in German, or if this is the case, the English element does not bear its established semantic meaning. Examples of hybrid compounds that are not listed as novel anglicisms in the radio corpus are Bikerparadies “bikers’ paradise” and Polizei-Email “police email,” in which the semantic meanings of the anglicism elements Biker and Email do not deviate from their established meaning in the RL.

According to Onysko’s (2007, 89–91) typology of anglicisms, a further phenomenon of language contact is borrowing. Borrowings are English lexical items of which word form and meaning are transferred as units from English and integrated into the German lexicon. Examples of borrowings include Job, Show, and Team. Codeswitching is closely related to the process of lexical borrowing and basically describes a language contact phenomenon where a bi-/multilingual speaker switches between two or more languages in a stretch of discourse. Hence, to examine the journalists’ use of novel anglicisms not yet commonly accepted in German, it is important to filter out English lexical items where speakers switch deliberately into English.

Previous research has shown that distinguishing between single-word codeswitching and borrowing is a rather difficult task (Haspelmath 2009, Onysko 2007). A repeatedly held position amongst researchers in contact linguistics is that there exists a continuum between single-word codeswitching and borrowing (Clyne 2003, Myers-Scotton 1993). According to Matras, “such a continuum would […] be dynamic rather than strictly linear: It represents not just the length of time during which a lexical item has been in use, but various constraints and preferences conditioning its employment in a variety of interaction contexts and settings” (2009, 110–1). In his prototype approach Matras lists seven dimensions of this continuum for the distinction between borrowing and single-word codeswitching. These are bilinguality (bilingual vs monolingual speaker), composition (elaborate utterance/phrase vs single lexical item), functionality (special conversational effect, stylistic choice vs default expression), unique referent/specificity (lexical vs para-lexical), operationality (core vocabulary vs grammatical operations), regularity (single vs regular occurrence), and structural integration (not integrated vs integrated) (Matras 2009, 111). According to Matras, items from another language that match all criteria at either end of the multi-dimensional continuum can be classified as prototypical instances of either codeswitching or borrowing, while “in-between the two we encounter fuzzy ground” (2009, 114). Haspelmath (2009, 41), who disagrees with the assumption of an existing continuum, however, calls for the need of a new term for instances of borrowings that enter the RL as a new lexical item. He therefore proposes to refer to such cases of novel borrowings as “incipient loanwords,” “regular switches,” or similar. This research on anglicisms in radio language goes in line with the theory that there exists a continuum between single-word codeswitching and borrowing. Nevertheless, the term incipient borrowing, as proposed by Haspelmath (2009), is applied in this study since it allows for labelling an intermediate stage between single-word codeswitching and borrowing.

Haspelmath, however, neither provides his reader with a detailed definition of his proposed terms, nor describes how to distinguish incipient loanwords from codeswitches. In order to identify possible incipient borrowings in German, the prototype approach by Matras (2009) can be of help. The basic characteristics of incipient borrowings on two levels of the continuum are predetermined since the object of study are single lexical items (composition) of low frequency (regularity). Three further levels of distinction are not applicable to the case of English linguistic resources on German radio. The dimension of structural integration (cf. Poplack 1993) cannot make a valuable contribution to the identification of incipient borrowings since “today, the majority of English borrowings have retained their original orthography and are pronounced in close imitation of their English models” (Onysko 2007, 62). In addition, single-word codeswitches may adopt inflectional affixes in the RL (Myers-Scotton 1993). Furthermore, the degree of bilingualism of a speaker is not an insightful criterion since already the slightest degree of bilingualism enables the individual to codeswitch, as pointed out by Matras (2009, 111) himself. Due to their constant contact with English language resources and Anglo-American culture at their workplace, through mostly pop music and interviews with celebrity guests, German adult contemporary radio journalists can be considered to be able to perform codeswitching at least on the level of single lexical items. For a distinction between single-word codeswitching and incipient borrowing in the case of this study, the dimension of operationality does not provide insightful criteria either. Matras’s line of argumentation on this level is that occasionally bilinguals non-consciously use grammatical elements of their “pragmatically dominant” or default language while speaking in another language due to selection errors, which he regards as closer to the borrowing end of the continuum than the conscious selection of core vocabulary. However, the default language for automated routine speech production of journalists on German radio is German. Therefore, using English grammatical operators as well as core vocabulary which cannot be regarded as established anglicisms would have to both be considered an act of conscious codeswitching.

This leaves the levels of functionality and unique referent as providing the crucial factors for distinguishing between incipient borrowing and single-word codeswitching in the radio corpus. According to Matras (2009), prototypical codeswitches are conscious, discourse-strategic choices made to achieve special conversational effects, while prototypical borrowings are used to refer to their associated concepts. In terms of specificity, English lexical items that show a high degree of specificity are more closely located to the borrowing end of the continuum. According to Backus, “highly specific means both that the word has a highly specific referential meaning, and that its matrix language equivalent, if there is one, conjures up quite different connotations” (2001, 132). A prototypical codeswitch, however, would be the substitution of a core lexical element in German by using a quasi-synonymous expression of low specificity from English that is merely used for special conversational effects. Single-word codeswitching is used in the radio corpus either as a discourse marker, to highlight the cultural authenticity of a certain situation, to mark an emotional state of the speaker, or to give an event an additional original and authentic undertone (see Onysko 2007, 285), as shown in the following examples.

(1) Host A: In London, Herr X, werde ich an den Feierlichkeiten zum
Geburtstag von Prinzessin Charlotte teilnehmen.
“In London, Mister X, I will participate at the celebrations for Princess
Charlotte’s birthday.”
Host B: Die Tochter von Kate und William, die heute ein Jahr alt wird?
“The daughter of Kate and William, who turns one today?”
Host A: Exactly. Nun stellte sich mir die Frage, was schenke ich einem
einjährigen Kind.
“Exactly. Now the question is, what do I give as a gift to a one-year-old
(2) Oh, wie schön wäre es, wie splendid, eine Villa zu haben in Großbritannien.
“Oh, how beautiful it would be, how splendid, to have a mansion in Great Britain.”

Both single-word codeswitches are used for emblematic purposes to mainly highlight the cultural authenticity of the scene and stand out since they are additionally pronounced in imitation of a posh English accent by the journalists to create a typical English atmosphere (or local colour, according to Galinsky [1963]).

What remains to be noted is that novel anglicisms cannot be categorised as either the result of lexical transfer processes or of lexical productivity in the RL in the sense of two discrete entities since often both processes are involved in lexical innovation to varying degrees. Novel hybrid anglicisms, as previously outlined, may be the result of a lexical creation within the RL or of a borrowing process including partial translation. This includes the fact that incipient borrowings, like established borrowings, can serve as the basis for productive processes within the RL, which means that they can be part of hybrid compounds in German.

3.2 Methods and corpus selection

Novel anglicisms analysed in this article were detected in a self-compiled radio corpus. This corpus, which is taken from a large, ongoing research project on anglicisms in German radio media that started in 2016, consists of 60 h of recorded radio morning shows of the three largest adult contemporary radio stations in Germany and their strongest competitors in each of the three individual broadcasting areas. This means that the corpus recorded in 2016 consists of radio content from one public service and one private station out of three different broadcasting areas. The morning shows were chosen since these are the flagship programmes of the stations and therefore have the largest proportion of spoken content of all segments of the radio stations’ programmes. The German radio morning show corpus contains a total of approximately 202,000 tokens, which were analysed for anglicism occurrences aided by the corpus linguistic software Wordsmith Tools 7 and Microsoft Excel.

After identifying anglicisms according to synchronic criteria in the radio corpus (see Onysko 2007), these items were examined for whether they are established in the RL. First, anglicisms were checked for their appearance in common dictionaries, which are the Duden online, the Duden – Die deutsche Rechtschreibung (2013), the Anglizismen-Wörterbuch (1993–1996), the IDS Neologismenwörterbuch (2006ff), the Kluge (2011), the Duden Fremdwörterbuch (2015), and the Duden Herkunftswörterbuch (2014). Second, the ZDL-Regionalkorpus (approximately 6.1 billion tokens from 1993 to 2019) of the DWDS (Digitales Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache) was used for a diachronic analysis in July 2020 to check for occurrences and frequency of all anglicisms that were not listed in common dictionaries, taking into account the meaning of each anglicism as used in the radio corpus. The ZDL-Regionalkorpus was chosen because it is a continuous corpus that covers a relatively long period of time (cf. Gottlieb 2015, Klosa-Kückelhaus and Wolfer 2020) and has a representative size. Like most large corpora, the ZDL-Regionalkorpus is based on media texts, in this case regional German newspapers. It is important to note that media corpora represent the medium’s use of language, therefore, its medialect (Hjarvard 2004). However, such large corpora that allow a diachronic analysis can be used as an indicator of whether an anglicism is established in general language usage if the medium additionally aims to reach a broad audience. Newspapers usually target a large portion of the population and therefore their selection of topics and the language they use is fitted to the taste of this broad audience.

Based on a study by Gottlieb (2015), a frequency of 0.008 ppm (parts per million) was taken as the threshold below which anglicisms were considered as not established. In his study on established pseudo-anglicisms in Danish, Gottlieb (2015) determined this threshold value based on the fact that some rare Danish pseudo-anglicisms which are known to most adult Danish speakers appear as seldom as once in 125 million tokens. For the ZDL-Regionalkorpus, containing approximately 5 billion tokens (in July 2020) for the relevant period from 1993 to 2016, this equals a maximum of 40 occurrences for anglicisms to be included as novel in this study. In addition, the ZDL-Regionalkorpus was used to examine the development of these novel anglicisms in the years following 2016. Anglicisms that were identified as not yet established were examined for transfer and language-inherent processes involved in their word formation. Therefore, all novel items were checked in the OED online, the COCA (Corpus of Contemporary American English) (Davies 2008), and in the largest contemporary English corpus (Timestamped JSI web corpus 2014–2020) on Sketch Engine to look for possible usages of these items or possible role models in English.

For further investigation, all novel anglicisms were put into different semantic fields, such as Technology, Consumer Goods, Sport, and Politics (see Schaefer 2019). Since some creations found in the radio corpus showed features that made them assignable to several semantic fields, novel anglicisms were categorised according to the semantic field most relevant to their meaning in the context of the radio corpus. In addition, novel anglicisms were categorised by their occurrence in different genres of the radio morning show (see Crisell 1986, Haas et al. 1991), and the frequency of novel anglicism types in each genre was determined. An analysis of genres based solely on a quantitative corpus normally requires a larger corpus than the one which was used for the present study. The combination of an analysis of novel anglicisms used in different genres with semi-structured interviews with the actual language producers, however, provides valuable results including first-hand knowledge of the functions of these lexical items on air, which a quantitative corpus analysis alone would not reveal.

The qualitative interviews were conducted as part of the ongoing project in 2017 with 19 journalists working for the German radio stations. The interviews were conducted in German by the researcher and later translated into English. These semi-structured interviews were informed by the corpus analysis and were undertaken to investigate the choices that radio journalists make when using anglicisms on air. Emphasis was put on selecting journalists in various professional roles in order to get different journalistic perspectives on language usage on radio. Participants include news, traffic, and weather presenters; hosts; and producers and editors. No distinctions were made based on the participants’ gender, age, or other personal characteristics. In contrast to structured interviews, where the sequence of questions is predetermined, semi-structured interviews are more flexible and turn into conversations. Follow-up questions on the usage of anglicisms additionally allowed the researcher to get an understanding of each journalist’s individual experience in using anglicisms. Even though the subjectivity of personal opinions may be a disadvantage depending on the aim of the research, for this study the viewpoints of journalists on anglicisms were valuable for breaking new ground in the field of anglicism research, where exactly these viewpoints on anglicisms give insights into language choice by the actual language producers and therefore reveal how journalists perceive, take up, and use novel anglicisms as part of radio content. In the light of the usage of novel anglicisms on radio, questions asked in the interviews for the present study concerned the journalists’ daily working routines when producing pieces for radio, the role of the journalist and the target audience, the importance of providing information versus entertainment, and the role of the image a station wishes to present to its target listener. Each participant was informed at the beginning of each interview that the researcher is undertaking a larger research project that examines why and how anglicisms are used in German radio media. The researcher received informed consent from all participants in this research as well as approval to conduct interviews by the Research Ethics Committee of NUI Galway. For anonymisation purposes, all interviewees’ and stations’ names are not disclosed in this article.

4 Results and discussion

This section first presents the results for the detection and diachronic analysis of novel anglicisms in the adult contemporary radio corpus. Section 4.1 investigates journalists’ language perceptions and their language choice in relation to novel anglicisms. The findings regarding the use of novel anglicisms in the different genres of the radio morning show are discussed in Section 4.2.

The radio corpus contained an overall number of 874 anglicism types (lexemes), which were checked for their appearance in German print dictionaries and their online versions. After excluding single-word codeswitches and hybrid compounds containing an established anglicism in its established meaning, 97 anglicism types were identified that do not have entries in common dictionaries and their online versions. Following the diachronic frequency analysis of these anglicism types in the ZDL-Regionalkorpus from 1993 to 2016, a total of 26 anglicism types were identified as novel and therefore occurring either below the threshold value of 40 occurrences or not at all (Table 1). Hence, 3% of all anglicism types detected in the radio corpus are novel anglicisms. A comprehensive overview of novel anglicism types which includes word class, word formation, type of anglicism, and the token frequency for each item in the radio corpus is provided in Tables A1 and A2.

Table 1

Novel anglicism types identified in the radio corpus and their number of tokens in the ZDL-Regionalkorpus per year (1993–2019)

Anglicism (threshold 1993–2016 = 40) 1993– 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
American Icecream 6 2 2 3 1 1
app-solut 1 2 1
Brainjogging 3 1 5 1
Cornrows 1 1 2 4 1
Free WLAN 1 3 2 1 1
Friendzone 1 1
Homegrown Rechtsterrorismus
Kaffee Zero
Manga-Convention 1 1 5 6 2 3 1 1 5 7
Organic Cotton 1 3 1 2 2
Private Viewing 1 3 3 5 1 4 2 1
Push-up-Nachricht 1 1
Shetland Sheepdog 3 2 2 1 2 1 1 3 3 1 1
Smartphone-Application 1
Try and Error 4 1 1 2 5 2 1 2
Ultra Surround
WAGs 4 6
Wives and Girlfriends 2 3

Table 1 shows the number of novel anglicism tokens found in the ZDL-Regionalkorpus for each year starting in 1993, which is taken as indicative for the usage status of these novel anglicisms in the speech community. The period from 1993 to 2005 is combined in one column due to the low number of occurrences. While some novel anglicisms occur closer to the threshold, others, as stated above, could not be found in the ZDL-Regionalkorpus, which in the case of hybrid and pseudo-anglicisms that occurred only once in the radio corpus points to possible ad-hoc formations. For the years succeeding 2016 the data did not yet show a clear tendency of how the novel anglicisms found in the radio corpus develop, which still indicates their status as novel.

4.1 Language perceptions and language choice on radio

The increased usage of English lexical items in German due to intensified globalisation remains a debated subject in Germany. Many German people, as can be seen by the example of the puristic society Verein Deutsche Sprache (German Language Association), still regard the usage of English in German as an unpleasant effect of global changes threatening the German language. Against this background of language change, journalists, according to the interviewees, do not see themselves as language role models or as the preservers of the German language, but instead aim at being comprehensible for their target listener. Many journalists stated that it is important to speak on air like the target listener speaks. According to a host:

Ich glaube heute ist der Anspruch klar, wir wollen so sein wie unsere Hörer, so sprechen wie unsere Hörer, nicht besser, nicht schlechter. Und wenn alle so reden, dann reden wir halt auch so, weil wir Nähe wollen, und Nähe bedeutet Quote letztlich.

[I think that today the aspirations are clear, we want to be like our listener, we want to talk like our listener, not better, not worse. And if everyone talks like that then we talk like that too, because we want to have proximity, and proximity in the end means audience ratings.]

What nevertheless shapes these aspirations is that journalists are aware that the language used on radio is restricted by the special communicative situation of the medium (see Section 2). Communication on radio is additionally limited due to the one-way communication channel, where the recipient cannot actively respond in the communication process and signal comprehension problems verbally or by other means. According to a journalist:

Die größte Gefahr beim Radio ist für uns tatsächlich, dass die Leute uns nicht verstehen und dann hast du sie verloren. Und deshalb wollen wir es ihnen so leicht wie möglich machen.

[The greatest danger for us in the radio business is indeed that people don’t understand us, and then you have lost them. And that’s why we want to make it as easy as possible for them.]

In addition to the medium’s technical constraints (Crisell 1986), radio is a mass medium, and the format of adult contemporary targets a broad audience with diverse language capabilities and backgrounds. According to the interviewees, this means that, despite the presence of English in many domains of German life including in professional and educational contexts, journalists do not expect every listener amongst their target audience to have a high language proficiency in English. Therefore, before using anglicisms on air, including novel anglicisms, journalists think of their average target listener, who varies slightly from station to station (Schaefer 2019), and how he or she uses language or what topics he or she is interested in. This also means that the focus is placed on gender, age, education, and other demographic characteristics. Anglicisms that journalists deem possibly difficult to understand for their listeners are checked with colleagues for comprehension problems before going on air.

Das ist auch so, dass wir uns morgens im Studio ganz oft darüber unterhalten haben. „Du weißt, was das ist, ne? Gut, okay, alles klar.“ Oder [ich frage meinen Co-Moderator], „hast du das schon mal gehört?“ Also da spricht man schon drüber. Oder es wird einfach offen in den Raum die Frage gestellt, „Surfbrett ist klar, ne.“

[The way we do it here is that we often spoke about this in the morning in studio. “You know what that means, right? Great, okay, all clear.” Or [I asked my co-host], “have you heard of this before?” So, one definitely talks about that. Or one simply asks everybody around “Surfbrett is clear, right?”]

As the interviews have further revealed, many journalists orient towards “High German,” the conventionalised superregional form of colloquial German (“Alltagssprache”), which they regard as generally intelligible for their listeners.

Wir schließen ja keinen aus, wenn wir Hochdeutsch sprechen, aber wir schließen aus, wenn wir Englisch sprechen.

[We don’t exclude anybody if we talk in High German, but we do exclude people if we talk in English.]

According to the interview results, for most journalists “High German” includes established anglicisms, which is an example of how mobile linguistic resources can become sedimented as part of local language practices (Canagarajah 2013). Regarding the frequent usage of established anglicisms such as Service, Party, Trend, and Gag in the radio corpus, a journalist explained:

Für mich sind das alles keine englischen Begriffe. Also das sind alles Begriffe, die im deutschen Duden stehen. Deutsche Wörter, die natürlich einen englischen Ursprung haben. […] Sind aber alles überhaupt keine Anglizismen für mich.

[To me these are not English terms. These are all terms that are in the German Duden. German words that of course have an English origin. […] All these are not at all anglicisms to me.]

In addition, a host stated about her on-air usage of the established anglicism Date “romantic meeting” instead of the German word Treffen:

Date finde ich absolut eingedeutscht.

[Date I find absolutely established in German.]

Another journalist confirmed these statements made by his colleagues and additionally explained that once an anglicism has become established in German, for example when listed in a general standard German dictionary, it is mostly regarded as understandable for their target listener and usually requires no further explanation or translation on radio. This shows that journalists additionally perceive descriptive reference works, such as the German Duden dictionaries, as a reflection of the linguistic resources available to their audience. Such reference works therefore can be used as an additional tool to judge comprehensibility of an individual word.

Words that can cause comprehension problems if not translated or explained, according to the interviewees, are specific terminology or unestablished borrowings. The question that arises from the journalists’ statements on their language use is why novel anglicisms are nevertheless used on adult contemporary radio even though they have a potential to cause comprehension problems and therefore require additional communicative effort by the journalist to make these comprehensible. According to the interviewees, the adult contemporary listenership is largely interested in pop music culture and all programme elements on radio including music, sounds, and language usage are aligned to produce an enjoyable listening experience and to make all parts of the programme relevant for their audiences. This means that the specific music mix a station plays is crucial for the station’s identity. The music played on German adult contemporary radio is predominantly English language pop music originating from the US and UK markets (Schaefer 2021), which impacts the language and therefore the overall usage of anglicisms on air. Furthermore, due to asymmetrical globalising currents, many trends related to consumer culture originate in the US or the UK, and many journalists perceive the German society as westward oriented, which also shapes their linguistic repertoire (Schaefer 2021). According to the corpus results, most novel anglicisms found on adult contemporary radio are nouns related to popular culture (Figure 1 and Table A3), especially those found in the semantic fields of Technology, Lifestyle/Fashion/Leisure, Sport, Food, and Consumer Goods. Examples include the novel anglicisms American Icecream, Cornrows, Curved-TV, and Organic Cotton.

Figure 1 
                  Semantic fields of novel anglicisms found in the radio corpus.
Figure 1

Semantic fields of novel anglicisms found in the radio corpus.

Unlike other foreign language material, anglicisms carry a particular cultural reference to consumer culture. As Piller (2001, 2003) found out in her work on multilingual advertising, the usage of foreign languages other than English evokes ethno-cultural stereotypes and relates to nationalistic identities, whereas English is associated with global consumer identity. By introducing novel anglicisms to the listener, adult contemporary stations additionally strengthen their image of keeping abreast of the latest trends related to popular culture, including pop music, that are of interest to their targeted audiences. Novel anglicisms therefore function as effective communicative devices on adult contemporary radio that contribute to achieving the communicative aims of the station. According to the interviewees, these are to entertain and inform their target audience, where each station puts more weight on either of these two aims depending on the overall strategy of the station. As a result, journalists have to carefully consider aspects of comprehensibility, currency of their programme, and target audience interests and language use when choosing their on-air language to create an appealing programme for their listenership. This clearly shows the complexity of normative forces that impact the use of novel anglicisms on radio. To further illustrate this complexity, the following section will discuss the findings on how novel anglicisms are used and made comprehensible in radio content in line with the communicative aims and stylistic conventions of the respective genres of the morning show.

4.2 The usage of novel anglicisms in different radio genres

As was previously outlined in Section 2, adult contemporary radio morning shows consist of various programme parts or genres. These are news, station imaging, host talk, comedy, and service. The language used in each genre fulfils a specific communicative purpose as part of the overall message of the radio programme.

As the results in Figure 2 show, the usage of novel anglicism types varies greatly in the different radio genres of the adult contemporary morning show. The lowest frequency of novel anglicism types was found in the genre of news, while the highest frequencies of novel anglicism types were found in the genres of service and comedy. As the results in Figure 3 indicate, in each genre novel anglicisms were handled differently. Journalists translated or explained novel anglicisms or made them comprehensible to the target audience by means of indirectly explaining them through their usage in context (cases of accidental creations excluded). The results have furthermore shown that the manner in which novel anglicisms are introduced to the target audience is dependent on the communicative aims of each genre (see Sections 4.2.3 and 4.2.4 for examples and Table A1 for a comprehensive overview). This indicates that the usage of novel anglicisms in the adult contemporary radio content, as part of the medialect of radio, is shaped by the linguistic conventions of the genre in which these are used. The use of novel anglicisms by radio journalists in line with the specific aims of each genre of the morning show is further elaborated on in the following discussion by means of giving examples from Table A1 combined with further statements from the qualitative interviews.

Figure 2 
                  Average frequency of novel anglicism types in different radio genres.
Figure 2

Average frequency of novel anglicism types in different radio genres.

Figure 3 
                  Communicative effort invested by journalists for the comprehensibility of novel anglicisms on radio (cases of accidental creations excluded).
Figure 3

Communicative effort invested by journalists for the comprehensibility of novel anglicisms on radio (cases of accidental creations excluded).

4.2.1 News

The overall communicative aim of this genre is to inform the target listener about current events. News is therefore an essential part of the morning show, with stations wishing to be known to their listenership as reliable and reputable information providers. News reports need to contain short and precise language that is particularly easy to understand. In addition, the language used in news reports is characterised by its formal style and is subject to strict rules. A news report about soft news, usually human interest and lifestyle stories, or about hard news, such as politics and the economy, generally consists of the most important facts about a story or event and is structured accordingly (Ohler 2017). Therefore, this genre does not allow for additional talk or flowery language, which makes news differ significantly from other genres, such as host talk or comedy in the morning show. These differences in language usage also function as a means for the target audience to recognise the genre and to satisfy their expectations towards this part of the morning show.

As taken from the qualitative interviews, novel anglicisms are often deemed unsuitable for use in a news broadcast. This is supported by the rate of occurrence of novel anglicisms in news in the radio corpus, which is as low as one novel anglicism every 106 minutes. The anglicism Dooring is not part of the list of novel anglicisms found in the radio corpus but was mentioned by a journalist as an example of how journalists often handle novel anglicisms in the context of news. According to this journalist in 2017, when the anglicism was not yet established:

Mein Lieblingsbeispiel in letzter Zeit war dieses Dooring und das ist irgendwie ein neues Phänomen, das sich irgendwelche Spacken ausgedacht haben. Das ist der Effekt, wenn Fahrradfahrer Unfälle haben, weil Leute, die ihr Auto am Straßenrad geparkt haben, die Tür aufmachen. Man kann das einfach so sagen, man kann einfach sagen Unfälle mit Autotüren. Man kann aber auch sagen Dooring. Da denkt der Hörer erstmal, „boah, neue Trendsportart, Dooring?“ Nein, das ist eine Unfallursache. Das finde ich bescheuert.

[My favourite example lately was this dooring, and that somehow is a new phenomenon that some idiots came up with. It means the effect when cyclists have accidents because people who have parked their cars along the roadside open the door. One can say it just like that, one can just say accidents with car doors. However, one can also say Dooring. Then, the listener first of all thinks, “wow, new trend sport, dooring?” No, that’s a cause of accidents. That I find stupid.]

As becomes evident from this statement, when a journalist finds it counter-productive to use a novel anglicism as part of a news report since it may be difficult for the target listener to infer the intended meaning of such a term – as in the example of Dooring, where the term is initially misleading even if explained through the context of usage – a paraphrase is used for a new concept instead. Furthermore, due to the time constraints of a news report, naming a novel anglicism and additionally directly explaining, translating, or defining the term is usually not possible. An example from the radio corpus that supports this journalist’s statement is a series of reports on the issue of a special 5 Euro coin that contains a blue polymer ring. While the hosts of one station used and explained the novel anglicism Tri-Material-Coin when describing the structure of the new coin as part of the genre of host talk, the novel anglicism was not used by two other stations which also briefly described the composition of the coin but covered the topic in their station’s hourly news.

The fact that the use of novel anglicisms is often deemed counter-productive in news content becomes furthermore evident when we consider that one of the three novel anglicisms found in the news corpus was formed accidentally.

(3) Mit dem Sirenenprobealarm heute um 11 Uhr testet die Stadt noch ein weiteres Warnsystem, und zwar die Katastrophen-App der Stadt. Damit können sich die Bürger zum Beispiel bei Hochwasser per Push-up-Nachricht oder per Mail warnen lassen.
“Together with the siren practice alarm today at 11am the city tests a further alarm system, namely the city’s catastrophe app. With it, citizens can, for example in the case of flood, receive warnings via *push-up-notification or via email.”

The hybrid construction Push-up-Nachricht was used by a journalist as part of a hard news piece about a smartphone application released by authorities to warn citizens about imminent danger via push notifications. The novel coinage Push-up-Nachricht appears as the result of a selection error involving the established anglicism Push-up “push-up bra.” Through the context of usage, it becomes evident that the journalist wanted to refer to the concept of Push-Nachricht, an established anglicism based on partial loan translation of the English role model term “push notification.”

4.2.2 Station imaging

Through the genre of station imaging stations promote their product, which includes their music and hosts. Hence, station imaging is a form of self-advertisement that is key to how a station’s programme is perceived by the listenership. When constructing the station image, journalists carefully select their wording and especially consider the connotations that the words used to describe the station and its programme entail. Due to the stations’ pop music focus, for most journalists anglicisms are an important element in station imaging (Schaefer 2019). This becomes evident from the high overall number of anglicisms found in station imaging of adult contemporary radio stations. While station imaging only makes up 12.2% (approx. 2 h 31 min) of the morning show content analysed, this genre contains 25.4% (805 tokens) of all anglicisms found in the radio corpus. Most adult contemporary journalists make use of semantic and pragmatic meanings and connotations of established anglicisms to promote their station since the radio station’s audience is familiar with these anglicisms and their meanings. However, as all journalists agreed, if an anglicism is not deemed comprehensible for the target audience or cannot easily be made comprehensible it is not used (Schaefer 2019). Similar to the genre of news, the format of station imaging does not allow for clarification by means of inserting additional explanations or translations of terms that might cause comprehension problems since this would violate the short and catchy commercial-like style of station imaging messages. Additionally, in contrast to print or audio-visual advertisements, radio station imaging does not offer the recipient visual clues that can help to infer the denotative and connotative meaning of unknown terms. All these factors result in a relatively low frequency of novel anglicisms in the station imaging parts of the corpus, with only one novel anglicism occurring approximately every 76 min. The constraints of the genre therefore limit the usage of novel anglicisms in station imaging to those cases that journalists deem not overly complex and therefore comprehensible from the limited context provided in station imaging elements. The two novel anglicisms used in the station imaging part of the corpus are examples of such cases. Both are based on wordplay, which results in novel, salient expressions that, however, are easily made comprehensible due to their morphological structures and the contextual clues provided for the listener. With the novel anglicism app-solut a station promoted its official smartphone application.

(4) Das ist app-solut genial, auch für die Pfingstferien, die Radio-X-App für Smartphone und Tablet.
“This is *app-solutely brilliant, also for the Whitsun holidays, the Radio X app for smartphone and tablet.”

App-solut is a near-homophonous wordplay based on the phonetic similarity between the established borrowing App [εp] and the first syllable ab [ap] of the German adverb absolut “absolutely.” This kind of pun is based on embedding an existing lexical item “into a context which creates an element of surprise” (Braun 2018, 180). The journalist’s intention to create a play on words becomes obvious through the context (die Radio-X-App für Smartphone und Tablet) as well as through the function of the creation app-solut as a degree adverb that is used like the near-homophonous German degree adverb absolut.

The creatively formed anglicism Private Viewing was used to promote a prize game organised by a radio station in the following way:

(5) Ihr Private Viewing zum nächsten EM-Spiel der deutschen Nationalmannschaft. Sie laden bis zu 20 Fußballfreunde ein und wir kümmern uns um den Rest. Catering mit dem Grillbike und Getränke vom Fass. Jetzt bewerben.
“Your Private Viewing for the upcoming European championships match of the German national team. You invite up to 20 football friends and we take care of the rest. Catering by grill bike and drinks on tap. Apply now.”

Private Viewing is used in analogy to the by now well-established pseudo-anglicism Public Viewing, which stands for an activity where large groups of people meet to watch mainly football and other sport events on a large screen in public. In this example, the first part of the original pseudo-anglicism Public is substituted by its antonym Private, which creates salience by referencing the rather uncommon reverse concept of the popular Public Viewing activity. Comprehension of this novel anglicism by the audience is aided by the close relationship of the two modifiers and by its usage in the context of a sporting event. Furthermore, Private Viewing is a creation that, although rare in usage, is not completely unknown in German, as can be seen by its recurring appearance in the years of the soccer world cups and European championships (see the years of 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2018 in Table 1). This is why journalists possibly also considered the term as unproblematic to use as part of station imaging.

4.2.3 Host talk

Adult contemporary morning shows are personality-driven programmes in which the hosts’ talk functions as the basic framework that connects all programme parts such as news, comedy, and music to form the overall message of the programme. Novel anglicisms and especially novel creations that grab the listeners’ attention are occasionally used by some hosts to add to the uniqueness of their on-air character. Due to the morning show’s focus on the hosts’ personalities, host talk is also more colloquial than the language used in other genres to generate a sense of closeness to the listener and to create a friendly atmosphere (Tolson 2006, Fitzgerald 2006). This is in line with what one journalist described as mood management, which means to wake people in the morning with the intention to give them a good start in the day and not to overwhelm them with too much information. Therefore, the aim of host talk is to provide mostly infotainment, which was explained by a journalist as follows:

Man kann ja auch Sachen gut verpacken und trotzdem so hinten rum Sachen aufklären, wo Menschen gar nicht merken, „ich werde gerade informiert.“ Die fühlen sich nur unterhalten. Wenn sie dann noch was mitnehmen, ja umso besser.

[One can of course wrap things nicely and still get to the bottom of things unobtrusively, where people do not notice at all, “I am being informed.” They just feel entertained. If they then additionally have learned something, well even better.]

In line with this statement, another host explained that entertainment as part of host talk on radio is based on the idea that “Unterhaltung ist das, worüber sich die Menschen unterhalten” [entertainment includes those topics that people talk about]. This means that the host talk contains a varied mix of topics on soft and hard news, on gossip, and on current trends, which due to the stations’ focus on Anglo-American popular culture often includes new concepts accompanied by linguistic resources in the form of novel anglicisms. Examples from the radio corpus include the incipient borrowings WAGs, Friendzone, Shetland Sheepdog, and Pitch-Access.

As a result of its thematic and functional diversity, host talk, as previously outlined in Section 2, is characterised by a mix of different elements, such as conversations between hosts and/or their sidekicks, short interviews with listeners and radio guests, as well as fillers and transitions in between music and other genres. This mix of elements is also reflected in the way novel anglicisms were handled to achieve comprehensibility. In this genre, hosts either made the meaning of novel terms comprehensible via the context in which these items were used (see example 7) or explained novel anglicisms directly. The acronym WAGs, for example, was explained, spelled out, and broken down in its actual constituents.

(6) Die Hühnerstange ist quasi die VIP-Tribüne, auf der die Spielerfrauen sitzen, und die werden gerne auch mal WAGs abgekürzt, also W A G S, steht für Wives and Girlfriends.
“The hen roost is so to speak the VIP-stand on which the player wives sit, and they are from time to time abbreviated WAGs, W A G S, which stands for wives and girlfriends.”

In addition, the dual communicative aim of this specific genre also becomes evident from the way in which novel anglicisms are introduced to the listener. Depending on the context and often on the preceding programme elements, hosts either introduce anglicisms in a parodical or factual manner in this genre in the radio corpus (see Table A1). Novel anglicisms such as WAGs and Friendzone “friend zone” are two examples of incipient borrowings introduced in a parodical manner used for infotainment purposes. An example for a novel anglicism introduced in a factual manner, which highlights the informational elements of the host talk, is the lexical unit Homegrown-Terror-Rechts “homegrown right-wing terrorism.” The novel hybrid compound was used and contextually explained by a journalist as part of a current affairs report and subsequently paraphrased as Homegrown Rechtsterrorismus “homegrown right-wing terrorism” in the host’s concluding remarks.

(7) Journalist: Nun sind insgesamt acht Terrorverdächtige festgenommen worden.
Sieben Männer und eine Frau. Fast alle sind in Freital geboren worden
oder haben dort gelebt. Homegrown-Terror-Rechts muss man das wohl
nennen, das ist ein sächsisches Problem. Es liegt an Personen, die sich
dort offenkundig mit Gleichgesinnten zu Terrorzellen zusammenfinden.
“Now, a total of eight terror suspects have been arrested. Seven men and
one woman. Nearly all of them were born in Freital or have lived there.
Homegrown right-wing terrorism is what one should call it, that is a
Saxon problem. It is about people who meet there overtly with other
like-minded people to form terror cells.”
Host: Homegrown Rechtsterrorismus, eine Wortschöpfung von unserem
“Homegrown right-wing terrorism, a word coinage by our terrorism

Overall, the mix of topics, programme elements, and communicative intentions that characterises host talk is also reflected in the frequency of novel anglicisms found per hour, where host talk takes an intermediate position with one novel anglicism every 54.3 min.

4.2.4 Comedy

The programme elements belonging to the genre of comedy contained one novel anglicism approximately every 9.5 min, which is the second highest frequency of novel anglicisms in the radio corpus. Due to its function as a background medium, radio needs to grab the listeners’ attention. Novel anglicisms, and especially new creations, often sound witty and thereby catch the listeners’ attention, which makes them particularly suitable to use as part of comedy pieces on radio. One radio journalist who produces comedy pieces confirmed that novel anglicisms can be used and introduced in a parodical manner for infotainment and entertainment purposes (see also Section 4.2.3 and Table A1); however, when such a term becomes conventionalised amongst the target audience, the anglicism is used as a regular German term. The by now well-established verb chillen “to chill,” according to this journalist, is an example of a borrowing which at the time when it still was a rather novel lexical item – according to the DWDS with a first appearance in this context in the 1990s – and therefore new to many members of the target audience was introduced in a parodical manner on radio.

Ja, also am Anfang merkt man auch, dass man das mit einer gewissen Ironie sagt. […] Dass man so einen Begriff praktisch wie in Anführungsstrichen benutzt. „Haben sie auch gestern ‘gechillt’,“ oder so. Dann hört man schon irgendwie an der Stimme, dass das irgendwie ein bisschen nicht ernst gemeint ist. Aber irgendwann geht es in den normalen Sprachgebrauch über.

[Well, at the beginning one notices that one says this with a certain irony. […] That one uses such a term like set in quotation marks. “Have you also ‘chilled’ last night?,” or so. Then one kind of hears by the voice that this somehow is not to be taken seriously. But then eventually it becomes normal language usage.]

This contrasts with findings by Galinsky, who states that one general stylistic function of anglicisms is to convey “tone, its gamut ranging from humorous playfulness to sneering parody on America and ‘Americanized’ Germany” (1963, 134). It also shows that such pragmatic effects of anglicisms wear off in the process of continuous language change.

Since adult contemporary radio stations have a strong focus on entertainment, the genre of comedy is a fundamental part of the radio morning show. In contrast to other radio genres, the audience expects that a higher cognitive effort may be necessary to infer the humorous meaning of a message as part of comedy for the benefit of being amused, which shifts the effort-effect balance in such a way that more complex and ambiguous linguistic forms such as word coinages, wordplays, or metaphors can be used by journalists without the message losing relevance for the audience (see Grundy 2020). The novel pseudo-anglicism Sunblogger was used in the following way in this genre.

(8) Wie nennt man Fachautoren zum Thema Sonnenbrand? Sunblogger.
“What do you call specialist authors on sunburns? Sunblogger.”

This example is incorporated in a series of short jokes concerning sunburns, where Sunblogger functions as the payoff of the joke. This payoff is made in the form of a pun based on English lexical items, where Sunblogger is created by analogy to the anglicism Sunblocker “sunblock.” As the phonological assimilation of Blogger in German shows, the wordplay between Blogger [ˈblɔgər] and Blocker [ˈblɔkər] is based on the phonetic similarity between the two terms. In the case of Sunblogger, the actual context in which the novel anglicism was used including little hints the journalist left in his comedy piece, such as the reference to Fachautoren zum Thema Sonnenbrand “specialist authors on sunburns” in the preceding question, aided the listener to infer the humorous meaning of the message. In addition, the particular format of such joke questions (What do you call […]?) encourages the listener to actively think for herself or himself what the possible answer to the question might be. The journalist’s intonation and a preceding break put additional emphasis on the newly created anglicism Sunblogger. The analogy of Sunblogger to the established anglicism Sunblocker additionally aided the comprehension of the novel anglicism.

The novel hybrid compound creation Hand-Entertainment was used by a journalist in the same comedy piece. In this example, the borrowing Entertainment was not used in its established meaning according to the Duden online, “berufsmäßig gebotene, leichte Unterhaltung” [professionally offered light entertainment] but in the sense of an act of keeping one’s hands busy, which created the humorous effect. The meaning of the message again can be inferred by the audience from the contextual usage of the novel word:

(9) Und wenn man sich im Achselbereich die Haut verbrennt, dann hoch die Hand, Sonnenbrand. Muss eingeschmiert werden, das ist dann Hand-Entertainment.
“And when one burns one’s skin in the armpit area, then lift your hand, sunburn. [The skin] has to be rubbed in [with lotion], that is Hand-Entertainment.

All novel anglicisms found in this genre were made comprehensible via the context in which these were used. This is in line with the stylistic conventions of the genre of comedy, which is based on humorous language and jokes. As Grundy states, humour can be defined as “the occurrence of an unusually enhanced positive cognitive effect resulting from an unusually greater processing effort” (2020, 109). Therefore, a direct explanation of novel words would impair the humorous effects intended.

4.2.5 Service

The genre service contained the highest number of novel anglicisms with an average of one novel anglicism every 4.9 min. Service, as explained in Section 2, is a journalistic genre which aims at giving advice on the latest consumer-related topics to the targeted listenership. As Eide and Knight (1999) state, service journalism either presents the audience with a possible risk or a grievance and then offers advice for the recipient on how to avoid or resolve the apparent problem. This advice is often given in the form of detailed information on new products, trends, and concepts. The highest occurrence rate of novel anglicisms in this genre is therefore not surprising when we consider the purpose of this genre in combination with the adult contemporary target audience’s interest in popular culture.

As can be taken from Figure 3 and in line with the communicative aim of this genre, all novel anglicisms found in service pieces were elaborated upon in greater detail by means of translating or explaining these to the listenership. For example, as part of a service piece that pointed to the risks associated with bee death, a station used the term Organic Cotton, which was translated by the respective journalist.

(10) Erstens natürlich Bio einkaufen und das Bio bezieht sich nicht nur auf Lebensmittel, auch auf Baumwolle. Denn gerade beim Baumwollanbau wird oft ohne Rücksicht auf Verluste gespritzt. Schon deshalb macht es Sinn Klamotten zu kaufen auf denen Organic Cotton, Bio-Baumwolle steht.
“First of all, buy organic, and that does not only relate to groceries but also to cotton. In particular when cotton is grown, pesticides are often applied regardless of the consequences. Hence it makes sense to buy clothes labelled as Organic Cotton, organic cotton.”

In this example, the journalists call on their listeners to change their consumer behaviour and thereby to help mitigate the risk of bee death. The concept of clothes, and therefore consumer products, labelled Organic Cotton is presented and explained as an opportunity for the individual to take part in the solution of the problem.

Another example of a novel anglicism used in this genre is the English lexical item Cornrows. The listeners were informed by the journalists about the risks they take when riding a bicycle without wearing a helmet due to vanity regarding their hairstyle. The novel anglicism Cornrows was presented as a possible solution that the journalists deemed to be unknown to their listeners.

(11) Tipp 3. Wenn wehende Haare stören, diese zu einem tiefliegenden Zopf zusammenbinden. Auch ein Dutt kann helfen. Bei Frauen sind locker geflochtene Cornrows wieder in, also kleine, an den Kopf angeflochtene Zöpfe.
“Tip 3. If waving hair is a bother, simply tie it to a low hanging plait. Additionally, a bun can help. For women, loosely braided cornrows are back in fashion, which means small braids plaited close to the head.”

As can be taken from this example, the English lexical item Cornrows was explained as part of the service piece and functioned as an innovative suggestion for a hairstyle that is not ruined by wearing a bicycle helmet and therefore solves the apparent problem. Additionally, by describing the hairstyle as in “in fashion,” the concept is linked to current fashion and popular culture, which signals that the possible gains of the service piece’s advice go beyond personal safety.

5 Conclusion

By the example of the use of novel anglicisms on German adult contemporary radio, this article has set out to broaden our understanding of how journalists operate within global flows of messages and mobile linguistic resources that characterise our mediatised societies. This study has shown that the criticism voiced in previous research on the journalists’ use of anglicisms without making these comprehensible for their target audience is an oversimplified claim. By placing the journalists and their language practices at the centre of the analysis, the article has instead revealed a complex picture of how novel anglicisms are used and made comprehensible on radio and thereby has provided new insights into German radio journalists’ language perceptions and language choices.

The German adult contemporary radio corpus contained 874 anglicism types of which 26 were categorised as novel anglicisms since these were not detectable in common dictionaries and their online versions and showed minimal usage in the ZDL-Regionalkorpus from 1993 to 2016. Due to the characteristics of the medium of radio and its communication constraints, German adult contemporary radio journalists are attentive to their word choice on air. Since comprehension is of primary importance to German adult contemporary radio journalists, they carefully consider whether it is necessary to explain or translate a novel anglicism, to embed such a word in contextual information that allows the listener to infer the intended meaning, or to entirely omit a novel anglicism. This excludes the odd cases where novel anglicisms are formed accidentally. The way novel anglicisms are used on radio is shaped by a complex web of normative forces including the journalists’ language perceptions, the target audience’s interests and language use, and the different stylistic conventions of the radio genres. When it comes to deciding whether an anglicism is comprehensible for the target audience, German adult contemporary radio journalists mostly rely on the conventionalised superregional form of colloquial German (“Alltagssprache”), which includes established anglicisms. Most interviewees regard this standard variety as understandable to all their listeners and therefore pay particular attention to words that exceed this shared repertoire and potentially cause comprehension problems, which includes novel anglicisms. In addition, some journalists consult their colleagues or refer to the descriptive reference work Duden to judge whether an anglicism is understandable for their targeted listener.

The results for the frequency count of novel anglicisms used per hour in each of the differing genres of the morning show combined with the interview results have shown that while novel anglicisms appear as beneficial to use in service, comedy, or host talk, they are less used in news and station imaging. This result shows that the stylistic conventions of different genres and their communicative aims strongly affect when a novel anglicism is used, how novel anglicisms are made comprehensible to the listener, and in which manner novel anglicisms are introduced on radio.

Even though the use of novel anglicisms on radio requires additional effort by the journalists to make these understandable, novel anglicisms are nevertheless used on air. Unlike other novel words, novel anglicisms have a special communicative function when used as part of radio content since they mostly reference new concepts and trends from Anglo-American popular culture, which forms the basis of the adult contemporary radio format. This was additionally confirmed by the categorisation of novel anglicisms into different semantic fields. Novel anglicisms when used on radio therefore also contribute to achieving the stations’ general aim of being perceived by their specific audience as an information and entertainment provider that is always interested in what is new and what the listener is interested in.

As can be taken from the findings of this study on German radio language, the production of media texts is a complex process that calls for being acknowledged in linguistic analyses of language phenomena in media corpora. In particular, the journalists’ ambivalent role as professional language users in the public eye who try to adapt to their target audiences’ language use and who at the same time act as disseminators of lexical innovations demands further attention by future research.



hypothetical form




receptor language


source language

  1. Funding information: Authors state no funding involved.

  2. Conflict of interest: Authors state no conflict of interest.


Table A1

Usage of novel anglicisms in the adult contemporary radio corpus

Anglicism Tokens Genre Communicative aim of genre Manner of usage Communicative effort
American Icecream 1 News Information f Contextually explained
app-solut 1 Station imaging Promotion p Contextually explained
Brainjogging 1 Host talk Infotainment p Contextually explained
Cornrows 1 Service Information/advice f Explained
Curved-TV 2 Service Information/advice f Explained
Free WLAN 1 Comedy Entertainment p Contextually explained
Friendzone 1 Host talk Infotainment p Contextually explained
Hand-Entertainment 1 Comedy Entertainment p Contextually explained
Head-down-Gesellschaft 1 Host talk Infotainment p Contextually explained
Homegrown Rechtsterrorismus 1 Host talk Infotainment f Contextually explained
Homegrown-Terror-Rechts 1 Host talk Infotainment f Contextually explained
Jodel-Cam 2 Host talk Infotainment f Contextually explained
Kaffee Zero 1 Host talk Infotainment p Contextually explained
Manga-Convention 2 News Information f Contextually explained
Organic Cotton 1 Service Information/advice f Translated
Pitch-Access 1 Host talk Infotainment f Explained
Private Viewing 1 Station imaging Promotion f Contextually explained
Push-up-Nachricht 1 News Information f
Shetland Sheepdog 1 Host talk Infotainment f Explained
Smartphone-Application 1 Comedy Entertainment p Contextually explained
Sunblogger 1 Comedy Entertainment p Contextually explained
Tri-Material-Coin 1 Host talk Infotainment f Explained
Try and Error 1 Host talk Infotainment p
Ultra Surround 1 Comedy Entertainment p Contextually explained
WAGs 3 Host talk Infotainment p Explained
Wives and Girlfriends 1 Host talk Infotainment p Explained

Note: This table shows all novel anglicisms found in the adult contemporary radio corpus including their number of tokens, the genre in which they occurred, and the communicative effort invested by journalists to ensure comprehensibility (except for cases where the novel anglicism was formed accidentally). The manner of usage is marked as parodical (p) or factual (f).

Table A2

Novel anglicisms in the radio corpus according to type, word formation, and word class

Anglicism Type of anglicism Word formation Word class Meaning in context
American Icecream Pseudo-anglicism Creation Noun American-style ice cream
app-solut* Hybrid Creation Adverbial Absolutely
Brainjogging Pseudo-anglicism Creation Noun Brain training
Cornrows Borrowing Lexical transfer Noun
Curved-TV Borrowing Lexical transfer Noun
Free WLAN Pseudo-anglicism Creation Noun Free Wi-Fi
Friendzone Borrowing Lexical transfer Noun
Hand-Entertainment*a Hybrid Creation Noun Act of keeping one’s hands busy
Head-down-Gesellschafta Hybrid Creation Noun Society distracted by mobile devices
Homegrown Rechtsterrorismusa Hybrid Partial loan translation + German component Noun Homegrown right-wing terrorism
Homegrown-Terror-Rechtsa Hybrid Partial loan translation + German component Noun Homegrown right-wing terrorism
Jodel-Cam Hybrid Creation Noun Webcam transmitting a yodelling event
Kaffee Zero a Hybrid Creation Noun Decaffeinated coffee
Manga-Convention Borrowing Lexical transfer Noun
Organic Cotton Borrowing Lexical transfer Noun
Pitch-Access Borrowing Lexical transfer Noun
Private Viewing Pseudo-anglicism Creation Noun Private gathering to watch sports events on TV
Push-up-Nachricht Hybrid Partial loan translation + lexical selection error Noun Push notification
Shetland Sheepdog Borrowing Lexical transfer Noun
Smartphone-Application Borrowing Lexical transfer Noun
Sunbloggera Pseudo-anglicism Creation Noun Blogger writing about sunburns
Tri-Material-Coin Pseudo-anglicism Creation Noun Coin made of three different materials
Try and Error Borrowing Lexical transfer + formal change of the English original Noun (Trial and error)
Ultra Surround Borrowing Lexical transfer Noun
WAGs Borrowing Lexical transfer Noun
Wives and Girlfriends Borrowing Lexical transfer Noun

Note: Since borrowings are based on a transfer of units of form and meaning from English, individual meanings of incipient borrowings were not included in the table. An asterisk (*) indicates a semantic change of an established borrowing. All ad-hoc formations found in the corpus are marked with a superscript (a), and for hybrid anglicisms that contain an element that qualifies as an incipient borrowing the incipient element is set in bold.

Table A3

Semantic fields of novel anglicisms in the adult contemporary radio corpus

Anglicism Semantic field
American Icecream Food
app-solut Technology
Brainjogging Lifestyle/fashion/leisure
Cornrows Lifestyle/fashion/leisure
Curved-TV Technology
Free WLAN Technology
Friendzone Lifestyle/fashion/leisure
Hand-Entertainment Lifestyle/fashion/leisure
Head-down-Gesellschaft Lifestyle/fashion/leisure
Homegrown Rechtsterrorismus Politics
Homegrown-Terror-Rechts Politics
Jodel-Cam Technology
Kaffee Zero Food
Manga-Convention Lifestyle/fashion/leisure
Organic Cotton Consumer goods
Pitch-Access Sport
Private Viewing Lifestyle/fashion/leisure
Push-up-Nachricht Technology
Shetland Sheepdog Biology
Smartphone-Application Technology
Sunblogger Media/communication/entertainment
Tri-Material-Coin Technology
Try and Error Science
Ultra Surround Technology
WAGs Sport
Wives and Girlfriends Sport


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Received: 2021-05-24
Revised: 2021-08-16
Accepted: 2021-09-06
Published Online: 2021-10-18

© 2021 Sarah Josefine Schaefer, published by De Gruyter

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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