The language contact phenomenon in Thailand: English borrowing, comprehension, and public attitudes

Wararat Whanchit, Nootchanat Sukkaew


As the English lexicon has become more frequently borrowed and used in Thai mass media and social media, Thais are quickly adapting to such foreignness and are open to language contact-induced change. The current study explores the extent of the public’s familiarity with borrowed words in contemporary Thai public media and attitudes toward language borrowing. The study participants comprised 120 Thais who voluntarily completed a questionnaire. They were from different age groups and were relatively highly educated. The instrument for the data collection was an online three-part questionnaire probing demographic information, an individual’s comprehension of the borrowed lexicon as tested via 15 questions of lexical borrowing in context, and personal views probed in the questionnaire questions about English lexical borrowing. Follow-up interviews with six selected respondents according to age groups verified and elicited attitudes toward lexical borrowing. The findings revealed that high exposure to English resulted in a high level of comprehension, especially when words were transcribed in the Thai script with tone markers. If the borrowing was in Romanized script, it was less likely to be understood. The majority of the respondents recognized the need for English language borrowing in Thai communication, especially for terminology. They also expressed positive views toward the adoption of the practice. English was perceived as necessary for effective Thai communication, particularly among acquaintances and professionals. The ubiquity of English in Thai society today has led to general adaptability and acceptance of borrowing as part of language evolution; such practices are no longer a sign of prestige. The study suggests that language classrooms should consider using borrowed English lexicons to assist Thai EFL learners in developing English proficiency.


code-mixing; language contact; language-induced change; lexical borrowing; mass media; Thai

Full Text:



Adamou, E., & Matras, Y. (Eds.). (2020). The Routledge handbook of language contact (1st ed.). Routledge.

Albarracin, D., & Shavitt, S. (2018). Attitudes and attitude change. Annual Review of Psychology, 69, 299–327.–122216–011911

Alnamer, A. S. M., & Alnamer, S. A. S. (2018). The use of loanwords in Emirati Arabic according to speakers’ gender, educational level, and age. International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature, 7(4), 158–176.

Auer, P. (2020). Language contact: Pragmatic factors. In E. Adamou & Y. Matras (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of language contact (pp. 147–167). Routledge.

Bar–Anan, Y., & Nosek, B. A. (2014). A comparative investigation of seven indirect attitude measures. Behavior Research Methods, 46, 668–688.

Bennui, P. (2019). Lexical borrowing in English language tourism magazines in southern Thailand: Linguistic features of Thai English words and users’ perspectives. Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences Studies, 19(3), 452-502.

Botha, W. (2017). The use of English in the social network of a student in South China: The social functions of language mixing among Chinese students. English Today, 33(4), 19–29.

Buripakdi, A. (2011). Thai journalists’ view on the notion of World Englishes. The Journal of English as an International Language, 6(1), 59–88.

Chantarothai, T. (2011). The effects of code–mixing (Thai–English) in print advertisements on product knowledge, understanding, attitude, and purchase intention: Consumers’ educational background as a moderator [Master’s thesis, Thammasat University]. TU Digital Collections.

Clyne, M. (2003). Dynamics of language contact. Cambridge University Press.

Combs, J. P., & Onwuegbuzie, A. J. (2010). Describing and illustrating data analysis in mixed research. International Journal of Education, 2(2).

Creswell, J. W. (2009). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (3rd ed). Sage.

Daulton, F. E. (2008). Japan’s built–in lexicon of English–based loanwords (Vol. 26). Multilingual Matters.

Dragojevic, M., Fasoli, F., Cramer, J., & Rakić, T. (2021). Toward a century of language attitudes research: Looking back and moving forward. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 40(1), 60–79.

Dreisbach, J. L., & Demeterio, F. P. A. (2021). Language use and preference in the multilingual context of Davao City, Philippines. Studies in English Language and Education, 8(1), 313–327.

Endarto, I. (2020). A corpus–based lexical analysis of Indonesian English as a new variety. Indonesian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 10(1), 95–106.

Garrett, P. (2010). Attitudes to language (key topics in sociolinguistics). Cambridge University Press.

Goria, E. (2021). The road to fusion: The evolution of bilingual speech across three generations of speakers in Gibraltar. International Journal of Bilingualism, 25(2), 384–400.

Haspelmath, M., & Tadmor, U. (Eds.). (2009). Loanwords in the world’s languages: a comparative handbook. De Gruyter Mouton.

Haugen, E. (1950). The analysis of linguistic borrowing. Language, 26(2), 210–231.

Hoffer, B. L. (2002). Language borrowing and language diffusion: An overview. Intercultural Communication Studies, 11(4), 1–37.

Jindapitak, N., & Teo, A. (2011). Linguistic and cultural imperialism in English language education in Thailand. Journal of Liberal Arts, Prince of Songkla University, 3(2), 10–29.

Kachru, B. B. (1985) Standard, codification and sociolinguistic realism: The English language in the outer circle. In R. Quirk and H. Widdowson (Eds.) English in the World: Teaching and Learning the Language and Literatures (pp. 11–30). Cambridge University Press.

Kannaovakun, P., & Gunther, A. C. (2003). The mixing of English and Thai in Thai television program. MANUSYA: Journal of Humanities, 6(2), 66–80.

Kongkerd, W. (2015). Code switching and code mixing in Facebook conversations in English among Thai users. Executive Journal, 35(1), 126–132.

Kumtanit, S., & Srisakorn, P. (2016). Code–mixing between Thai and English in Thai printed media: A case study of the Thairath Newspaper. KKU Research Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, 4(2), 52–66.

Lee, S. (2020). Attitudes toward English borrowings in South Korea: A comparative study of university professors and primary/secondary teachers of English. Asian Englishes, 22(3), 238–256.

Mala, D. (2021, January 2). Long–overdue end of O–Net exams. Bangkok Post.

Matras, Y. (2013). Languages in contact in a world marked by change and mobility. Revue Francaise De Linguistique Appliquee, 18(2), 7-13.

Matras, Y. (2020). Language contact (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press.

Matras, Y., & Sakel, J. (2007). Grammatical borrowing in cross–linguistic perspective. Mouton de Gruyter.

Monaghan, P., & Roberts, S. G. (2019). Cognitive influences in language evolution: Psycholinguistic predictors of loan word borrowing. Cognition, 186, 147–158.

Musor, M. N. (2017). Thai-English code-mixing in Hormones the Series (Doctoral dissertation). UIN Sunan Gunung Djati Bandung.

Muysken, P. (2000). Bilingual speech: A typology of code–mixing. Cambridge University Press.

Myers–Scotton, C. (1992). Comparing codeswitching and borrowing, Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 13(1–2), 19–39.

Narkkaew, N. (2011). English code mixing in Thai: A case study in Thoey Thiaw Thai [Unpublished master’s thesis]. Silpakorn University.

Ogasawara, M. (2008). The importance of raising awareness of English loanwords in Japanese. Journal of Aomori University of Health and Welfare, 9(1), 29–34.

Otwinowska, A. (2016). Cognate vocabulary in language acquisition and use: Attitudes, awareness, activation. Multilingual Matters.

Padival, A., Michael, L. K., & Hebbar, S. (2019). Consumer perception towards social media advertisements: A study done in a semi-urban city of South India. Indian Journal of Marketing, 49(2), 38-51.

Pattillo, K. (2021). On the borrowability of body parts. Journal of Language Contact 14(2), 369–402.

Poplack, S. (2018). Borrowing: Loanwords in the speech community and in the grammar. Oxford University Press.

Poplack, S., & Walker, J. (2003). Pieter Muysken: Bilingual speech: A typology of code-mixing [Review of the book bilingual speech: A typology of code-mixing, by Pieter Muysken]. Journal of Linguistics, 39(3), 678-683.

Ramat, N. H., Othman, N. A., & Unin, N. (2019). Exploring the functions and reasons for inter–sentential code–switching among lecturers. European Journal of English Language Teaching, 4(4), 112–129.

Ruanglertsilp, E. (2018) Thai-English code-mixing in Thai reality television shows: The Face Thailand season two and The Face Men Thailand season one [Master’s thesis]. St. Cloud State University.

Rusli, W. N. S. S. W, Shaari, A. H., Zainuddin, S. Z., Shi, N. L., & Amin, A. S. (2018). Intra and intersentential code–switching phenomena in modern Malay songs. 3L: The Southeast Asian Journal of English Language Studies, 24(3), 184–205.

Snodin, N. S. (2014). English naming and code–mixing in Thai mass media. World Englishes, 33(1), 100–111.

Snodin, N. S., Higgins, J., & Yoovathaworn, S. (2017). How Thai businesses utilize English in their product names. Kasetsart Journal of Social Sciences, 38(2), 123–128.

Soh, O., Azman, H., & Ho, S. (2020). A systematic review on bilingualism and language processing from 2015–2019. 3L: Language, Linguistics, Literature, 26(1), 18–31.

Sokolova, A. G. (2020). Anglicisms and loanwords: The contribution of English exemplified by contemporary Italian tourist terminology. Training, Language and Culture, 4(2), 21–30.

Sutrisno, B., & Ariesta, Y. (2019). Beyond the use of code mixing by social media influencers in Instagram. Advances in Language and Literary Studies, 10(6), 143–151.

Tajolosa, T. (2013). Motivations for code–switching in advertising and the construction of consumers’ multiple identities: The case of Philippine TV commercials. Philippine ESL Journal, 11, 48–85.

Tanabut, T., & Tipayasuparat, N. (2019). An analysis of English code–mixing in the television series U–Prince. KKU Research Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, 7, 112– 120.

Thailand Gazette. (1989). Regulations for English loanwords [available only in Thai]. Ratchakitcha.

Thomason, S. (2007). Language contact and deliberate change. Journal of Language Contact, 1(1), 41–62.

Trakulkasemsuk, W. (2012). Thai English. In E.L. Louw & A. Hashim (Eds.), English in Southeast Asia: Features, policy and language in use. (pp.101–111). John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Trakulkasemsuk, W. (2018). English in Thailand: Looking back to the past, at the present and towards the future. Asian Englishes, 20(2), 96–105.

Tramutoli, L. (2021). The code–mixing of the Senegalese migrants in Italy. International Journal of Bilingualism, 25(5), 1235–1262.

Troyer, R. A. (2012). English in the Thai linguistic netscape. World Englishes, 31(1), 93–112.

Verschik, A. (2017). Language contact, language awareness, and multilingualism. In J. Cenoz, D. Gorter, & S. May (Eds.), Language awareness and multilingualism (pp. 1–13). Springer.

Vivas–Peraza, A. (2020). English in the linguistic landscape of Thailand: A case study of public signs in Hat Yai. Language Value, 13(1), 23–57.

Waluyo, B., & Tuan, D. T. (2021). Understanding help–seeking avoidance among EFL students and the social climate of EFL classrooms in Thailand. Journal of Asia TEFL, 18, 800–815.

Wildan, W., Iskandar, D., Yusuf, Y., Nuthihar, R., & Kana, R. P. (2022). The integration of Acehnese words in Kamus Besar Bahasa Indonesia. Studies in English Language and Education, 9(3), 1239–1255.

Winford, D. (2010). Contact and borrowing. In R. Hickey (Ed.), The handbook of language contact (pp. 170‒187). Wiley–Blackwell.

Winter–Froemel, E. (2017). The pragmatic necessity of borrowing: Euphemism, dysphemism, playfulness–and naming. Taal en Tongval, 69(1), 17–46.

Yiamkhamnuan, J. (2011). The mixing of Thai and English: Communicative strategies in Internet chat rooms. Kasetsart Journal of Social Science, 32, 478 – 492.

Yutthayotin, V., & Tippayasuparat, N. (2018). A study of Thai–English code–mixing in “Pentor”, Thai Sitcom television program. Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 14(1), 153–174.

Zenner, E., Rosseel, L., & Calude, A. S. (2019). The social meaning potential of loanwords: Empirical explorations of lexical borrowing as expression of (social) identity. Ampersand, 6, Article 100055.


Article Metrics

Abstract view : 0 times
PDF - 0 times


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Print ISSN: 2355-2794, Online ISSN: 2461-0275

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

View Journal Stats