0

Is there a linguistics term for when an acronym is the same in more than one language?

For example, "RIP" (Requiescat in pace.) in Latin is the same acronym as "RIP" ("Rest in peace.") in English.

  • 2
    Why would there be? Can you think of anything about this that a linguist would be likely to study? – Colin Fine Aug 17 '18 at 21:06
  • @ColinFine Do linguists not study homophones, homonyms, palindromes, anagrams, or paragrams? – Geremia Aug 17 '18 at 21:21
  • 2
    @Geremia Perhaps surprisingly, not really. Linguists study the science of language as a whole, and those effects are more like interesting novelties within an individual language. – Draconis Aug 17 '18 at 21:32
  • @Draconis Yes, I was wondering if this would be more appropriate for English StackExchange. Who studies homophones, homonyms, palindromes, anagrams, or paragrams, then? – Geremia Aug 17 '18 at 21:46
  • 3
    @Draconis: more than that, they are not really a property of a language at all, but of a writing system, which is like an extra module bolted on the outside of a language. The study of writing systems is interesting, but does not actually have very much overlap with linguistics. – Colin Fine Aug 17 '18 at 23:21
4

As far as I know, there's no standard term for this. But depending how they came about, these matches might be cases of:

  • Cognate acronyms (acronyms in related languages being the same or similar because the words in those languages are the same or similar)
  • False cognate acronyms (acronyms that look the same by pure coincidence, and are actually unrelated)
  • Expressive loans (an acronym is borrowed from one language and words in the new language are chosen to match it: RIP falls into this category)

Expressive loans (aka phono-semantic matching) are particularly fun, and many examples can be found online. My favorite is the English "club" loaned into Japanese as 倶楽部 kurabu: the individual characters mean "together", "fun", and "place".

I'd say RIP counts as an example of this, since it originated with the Latin requiescat in pace. While "in" and "peace" are cognates of the respective Latin words, "rest" is not: it coincidentally started with the same letter, and was chosen in the English version to keep the acronym the same (instead of, say, "sleep", which is an equally valid translation of the Latin).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.