Rephrasing do reborrowings and neologisms help or bedim the communications?
I am making the distinction of instantaneous or contemporary communications(especialy for scientific use and social) and intertemporary communications(especially History). Nonetheless I am interested in both.

For example systemic did not exist as a word in Greek there was no distinction between what was related to a system and what happened as a system. Systematic encompassed both definitions.

The rules of word derivation in the Greek language require nouns ending in -μα to give words from the genitive case συστήματος > συστηματικός, εκτρώματος > εκτρωματικός. A(out of more) special case being διάστημα, which gave διαστημικός, directly from the nominative and not διαστηματικός as one would expect probably for euphony. Chaos giving Chao"t"ic and not Chaoic.

When a language reborrows a word we can't expect the other languages to preserve the rules of the original language σύστημα became system so in English it is perfectly correct to create systemic. We must choose whether to reborrow or not the responsibility is uniquelly ours.

Most dictionaries especially prestigious or older ones do not include the entry in them for neologisms or reborrowings so many people are not familiar with the relatively new word and there is no reference to research or scientific(linguistic) consensus what it means. Even reaching consensus is hard because we have problems in the etymology.

Neologisms and Reborrowings can make a distinction in the multiple definitions of a word so we need less context to decide how the word was used. A potential economy in text length and thence simpler syntax.

Statistically/Probabilistically when does the potential distinction help more than the ensuing confusion harms?

  • 1
    How is this measurable in general? All language change happens because of a perceived need, even if that need is sometimes just to appear cool.
    – Colin Fine
    Apr 6, 2019 at 18:23
  • Confusion may be a linguistic goal, e,g, to avoid existing expectations, or let a term be defined by usage. There's no clear distinction. Yet, many loans are just not very confusing. systemic*/*systematic is not confusing, in my humble opinion, because -matic carries a notion of activity, derived from auto-matic (even if, as I guess, etymologically incorrect). The premises of your question, the Greek derivation rules, suffers the same problem as you are asking about. So the Q is kind of a tautology. Yes, reinterpretation complicates interpretation.
    – vectory
    Apr 6, 2019 at 18:31
  • @vectory the Greek derivation rules are not a premise of my question. My question is not inferred and does not follow the rules in any way. They are not the basis of my question. The basis is communication not grammar. The derivation rules only illustrate the question. They are an example to help people understand. Loans are not at all confusing the problem is counter-loans. The distinction Systemic/Systematic is not confusing because all dictionaries contain both entries(even Oxford and Cambridge). English is a much younger language and changes rapidly ...ctd Apr 6, 2019 at 18:51
  • @vectory A person born and raised today or even 100 years ago would have a very hard time communicating usin Old English. A Modern Greek would have a much easier time with Koine Greek. -matic does not derive from auto-matic and does not carry a notion of activity but rather thought. αὐτός and μέμαα or μέμονα. What do the Greek derivation rules suffer from and how does my question suffer from the same problem? How can the question be a tautology? Apr 6, 2019 at 19:01
  • You are assuming that languages are rigid and become confused only by reinterpreation. This is apparent from your explanation and example using Ancient Greek as a basis, as the gold standard. However, that's eluding the truth. Ancient Greek was prone to folk etymology, too, and to forgetting its roots, to simplify and extend. At that systema*/*histema might be no exception, or the exception that proofs the rule, but that's besides the point. Or exactly on point, if the question whether there are few easy rules that everyone should know, and how much--many more difficult rules--is too much
    – vectory
    Apr 6, 2019 at 22:33

1 Answer 1


Remember that languages are constantly going through an enormous and surprisingly rapid process of natural selection. The whole point of language is to communicate, and if something gets in the way of that, it'll quickly be replaced, worked around, or eliminated.

So if a word is borrowed, or reborrowed, or created, it's because the speakers of the language found it useful. It enhances their communication in some way: or else it'll quickly disappear from the language.

For a concrete example, nothing's stopping me from borrowing Swahili isimu to replace English "linguistics". I could start calling myself a mwanaisimu, search for isimu at the library, petition to rename this StackExchange site. But if I did, I'm quite confident it wouldn't catch on, and it would just confuse everyone I talked to. If I wanted to communicate with English-speakers in a productive way, I'd have to call it "linguistics" instead.

So when a new term does catch on, it's because people have found it helpful. Its existence makes communication easier or clearer in some way. Even though "systemic" and "systematic" both derive in some way from Greek συστήμα(τ) with the suffix -ικός, they've become separate words in English because English-speakers find that distinction helpful. If Greek-speakers also find it useful enough to justify separate words, we're likely to see συστημικός or the like alongside συστηματικός. Only time will tell.

P.S. As Colin Fine mentions in the comments, culture can also be a totally valid reason for a word to be useful: the utility of yeet in English comes from popular/internet/meme culture. But even here, it's enhancing communication in some way: when someone finishes a Tumblr post with "yeet", they're communicating a meaning you couldn't quite get without that word. In a hundred years, "yeet" might still be around, or it might have died out; it all depends if people keep finding it useful or not.

  • Actually the reason of counterloans(my only problem) can very well be trade etc. If the U.S call some banks systemic Greece is self-pressured to call the same type of banks systemic. Economists are not Linguists they have only superficially studied the derivation rules in 7-10 Grade and most good ones study in U.S or U.K most professors in Greek universities have studied in the U.S or U.K. Most people find some words extremely strange. We have no dictionaries. no consensus and problems in etymology. The redeeming quality is potential economy in language. Apr 6, 2019 at 19:14
  • Systemic will not fade away because most Greeks are incommoded. Economists, Engineers, Mathematicians, Physicists, Chemists will still use it. Their pool is constantly refilled. Apr 6, 2019 at 19:19
  • "it's because the speakers of the language found it useful." -- That's drastically oversimplifying the issue. You paint it as an ideal, but utility is an optimum and therefore a matter of many factors that may stand at odds; confounding factors may play a role. Its paradox to call e.g. ignorance--one potential factor of the equation--or misuse generally "useful". I don't think its helpful if a thief calls my wallet suddenly their wallet, or if an unwelcome issue is swept under the rug by use of nebulous euphemism. In short, I'd say you didn't answer the question, but I can't blame you.
    – vectory
    Apr 6, 2019 at 22:49
  • As far as the example is concerned, we can assume that translating systemic to Greek wouldn't have been any easier, without altering the meaning. That's the actual question here, wouldn't it have been easier? And what does it actually mean, anyway (as OP and myself to be honest have problems interpreting it; The dictionary definition surprised me). Following this answer, the detriment of the loan is negligible and its systemic that a linguist would think, you just need to know the words proper derivation, or, if lacking knowledge of Germanic, accept the word as is. Which would be agonizing.
    – vectory
    Apr 7, 2019 at 10:19
  • @vectory Draconis at least understood my question. The question is not specifically about systemic, or the Greek language. But rather whether counteloans and neologisms do more harm than good. Apr 7, 2019 at 15:40

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