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Xenonym (“foreign name”, from the Greek xenos “foreign” and onoma “name”) is a technical term used in linguistics to denote names or, in a wider sense, other words that are “foreign” in relation to a given context . The nature of this context and the criterion according to which the foreignness is determined depends on the technical context of use.


In name research ( onomastics ), especially in research on personal names, a xenonym is a name that was borrowed from a foreign language (encoder language, source language) into a native language (recipient language, target language). The context in relation to which foreignness is determined is thus the language and name system of the target language.

The criteria for assessing the foreignness are primarily the etymological origin and, secondly, the phonematic and graphematic properties of the name. On the one hand, such properties can be used to measure the degree of linguistic integration into the target language, but on the other hand they can also be used to identify loan-backs if a native name was first borrowed from a foreign language and later borrowed back with its phonematic / graphematic character .


In ethnolinguistics and ethnonomics , the term xenonym is mostly used with a different understanding, which is particularly well established in English-language research, namely for the name of an ethnic group ( ethnonym ) or its language ( glossonym ), which is given to it in a foreign ethnic group and language. The opposite term to this is autonym and consequently denotes a name with which an ethnic group or language community describes itself or its language ( autoglossonym ) in this language. German-language equivalents are " external designation " and " self-designation " or " self-designation ", which are also established in research on social minorities and minority languages.

Unlike in other onomastics, xenonyms do not by definition belong to the class of borrowings; it is therefore not a necessary condition for the existence of a xenonym that it has been borrowed into one's own language. If it is borrowed, it depends on the methodological and terminological location of the investigation whether the name is still evaluated as a xenonym according to the criterion of its external origin or as an autonym according to the criterion of its internal use.

The terms exonym and endonym are used in ethnolinguistics specifically to distinguish local names, for example for places, languages, persons and groups of persons from names that are used for them in other languages .


In semantics , the term xenonym has sometimes been used since Alan Cruse (1986) for a word or a lexical expression that, within a given (or specially formed for the purpose of investigation) combination of words ( syntagm ) in a relationship of semantic repulsion to its linguistic expression Surrounding area. The syntagmatic context is the decisive context for the determination of foreignness, and the criteria for measuring foreignness are purely semantic.

Features and subspecies of such semantically defined xenonymy are inappropriateness (e.g. "the ornamental plant gives up the spoon" instead of "dies"), inconsistency ("male aunt") and incompatibility ("dripping theory"). Opposite terms are philonymy (normal, harmonious relationship) and tautonymy ( pleonastic relationship).


In phonology , the term xenonym was introduced by James W. Harris in 1999 to denote a class of words, consisting mainly of loanwords and onomatopoeia, which are characterized by strong variance from speaker to speaker, lack of or incomplete integration into the morphophonological system and short-lived ones from TV and popular culture are characterized by conjunctions of use. The main context for determining foreignness is the morphophonological system of the (target) language.

See also

Individual evidence

  1. Viktoria Eschbach-Szabo : Persons and names in Japanese. Changes in modernization and globalization (= Bunka Wenhua. Tübingen East Asian research. Vol. 12). LIT-Verlag, Berlin et al. 2009, ISBN 978-3-8258-8758-2 , p. 299.
  2. ^ David A. Cruse: Lexical Semantics. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge et al. 1986, ISBN 0-521-25678-X , pp. 106 f.
  3. James W. Harris: Nasal depalatalization no , morphological wellformedness: The Structure of Spanish word classes. In: MIT Working Papers in Linguistics. H. 33, 1999, ISSN  1049-1058 , pp. 47-82, here p. 57.