Peanut butter, compositionality and semantic transparency in loan translations | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
Volume 69, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 0039-8691
  • E-ISSN: 2215-1214



This article presents an in-depth study of the Frisian loan from Dutch . This word can be literally glossed as ‘peanut cheese’, but it translates into English as ‘peanut butter’. The translation illustrates that the compound is not compositional in Dutch and Frisian, that is, is not a kind of (‘cheese’). Because of its non-compositional nature, Dutch , we argue, has not been borrowed into Frisian as , even though Dutch in Frisian is . In contrast, compositional compounds featuring Dutch surface in Frisian with –, such as Dutch , Frisian . The non-compositional nature of is shown to have a historical explanation. Independent evidence is cited from psycholinguistics supporting the claim that compositional compounds behave in a way that differs from non-compositional ones. Thus evidence is provided that borrowing is sensitive to compositionality in that elements of compounds are more easily left untranslated when their meaning is not predictable by compositionality from their usage elsewhere in the language.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): borrowing; compositionality; loan blends; semantic transparency
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