Hudson Bay and Hollivoot: The influence of English and other foreign languages on Finnish restaurant names

  1. 1. Lisa Lena Opas-Hänninen

    University of Oulu

  2. 2. Pekka Hirvonen

    University of Joensuu

  3. 3. Fiona Tweedie

    University of Edinburgh

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The main consequence of contacts between languages is borrowing, ie. "the incorporation of foreign features into a group's native language by speakers of that language" (Thomason and Kaufman 1988: 37). Borrowing begins, and is at its strongest, in the lexicon; with prolonged intensive contacts, morphosyntactic and phonological features will also begin to be borrowed. Language contacts are typically found in border regions and multilingual, multicultural communities. However, the present dominance of English as a world language, combined with the spreading of Anglo-Saxon popular culture into the daily lives of many peoples across the world, has brought English in particular into contact with most European languages. This paper examines some of the consequences of such contacts. Among the manifestations of the ever-present, powerful influence of English on other languages are the names of businesses, especially, it seems, of those catering for younger generations or dealing in freetime activities. Both of these criteria are met by restaurant businesses. In the study at hand, we investigated the extent and geographical distribution of the influence of English and other foreign languages on restaurant names in Finland.

Material and methods

Our data was collected in a truly Labovian fashion: from the white and yellow pages of all of Finland's 1999 telephone catalogues, we gathered the names of all restaurants (including bars, cafés, grills and pubs), comprising a total of 4041 businesses. A database was created comprising information on source language (English, Finnish, Swedish, Russian, French, Italian, Spanish, or other), type of loan (unadapted loanword, adapted loanword, loan shift, loan translation, or hybrid; the classification is essentially that of Lehiste 1988), type of word (place name, person name, noun [including simple, modified and compound nouns], or phrase), type of establishment (restaurant, bar, pub, café, or grill), region (represented by area codes), name of community, and type of community (ie. whether it was a largish city or part of an outlying area). In the determining of the community there was a slight problem: while the white pages indicated the community of each establishment, the yellow pages typically indicated the region (=area code) only. To assign the latter establishments, too, to a particular community, the following procedure was used: the percentage of each community of all the restaurants in the region was computed from the white page listings, after which the unspecified yellow page listings were allocated to that region's communities in the same proportions (a standard statistical procedure). For example, if a region had 10 English-named restaurants in one community and 5 in another, plus 6 that were not specified for community, we assigned four of the six to the first community and two to the other. While this procedure led to fractional figures for some communities, we preferred that to losing the information provided by the yellow-page listings.

In the processing of our data, we used a variety of methods for dealing with categorical data, such as chi-squared tests for differences in multinomial populations and tests for 3 and 4-dimensional contingency tables. In addition, to look at the data more closely, we digitised a map of Finland marking the boundaries of some 450 cities and municipalities. This map was then used to portray the acquired information in a variety of ways.


The results show that approximately half (52%) of the restaurants in Finland have Finnish names and approximately one quarter (21%) have English names. Names derived from other languages thus make up the last quarter (27%). There is also a significant difference in the distribution of English names across the area codes. If the country is divided into four areas, ie north, south, east and west, using area codes, the proportions of English names are fairly evenly distributed across the country. However, if we look at the data by community, a digitised map produces some very interesting results. There are five main areas where the proportion of restaurants with English names exceeds 30%. Two of these show quite clearly the importance of tourism in the respective area, ie. Lapland and the lake district. In two areas the large porportion of English names might be due to the fact that in a bilingual country these areas are almost monolingual and lie close to areas which are almost monolingual with respect to the other national language (i.e. Finnish or Swedish, as the case may be). Perhaps therefore it is better for your restaurant to have a foreign name than one in the other native language. The last area where English names have a proportion greater than 30% is an area dominated by a religious community that does not approve of alcohol. If you are setting up a restaurant in this area it seems to be better to give it an English name than a Finnish one, which is more likely to mark it as an establishment selling liquor. The map also reveals the interesting fact that there are two main areas that have no restaurants with English names, ir the easternmost communities and central Finland. The reasons for this are not quite so clear. The eastern communities are sparsely populated and have been influenced by Russian culture. Central Finland seems to have a disproportionate amount of restaurants with names derived from other foreign languages than English and may also be an area which has taken in a number of refugees, who speak diverse languages.

The difference in the distribution of loan types is also significant. Most (70%) English restaurant names are unadapted loans, e.g. Buggy Burger. These may or may not have an adapted pronounciation in the speech of the locals, which it is impossible to determine, however. The distribution of word type is also significant and is dependent on the type of restaurant. Establishments with place names are likely to be restaurants, whereas pubs are somewhat more likely to be named after people than other establishments are, e.g. O'Malley's.

It seems then that the influence of English is greater than that of any other single language on Finnish restaurants and is at its greatest in the names of pubs and bars, which tend to be frequented by the younger gerations. The English establishment names are mainly nouns in an unadapted form. If your establishment is called Hudson Bay, Hollivoot or Nelson, you are associating it with the place or the person. If, however, you have called it The Watering Hole or Jet Set Bar, the influence is linguistic rather than cultural. It is another matter whether the restaurants that have foreign names actually are referred to by these names, or whether they have a finnicised name that is used by their patrons, e.g. Restaurant Sea Horse, which is called Sikala (the Pig Sty) by its patrons, and Old Dog Pub, which is called Koira (the Dog) by its patrons. A questionnaire is being developed to help answer this question.


1. Lehiste, Ilse. 1988. Lectures on Language Contact. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
2. Thomason, Sarah & Terrence Kaufman. 1988. Language Contact, Creolization, and Genetic Linguistics. Berkeley: University of California Press.

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Conference Info



Hosted at Göteborg University (Gothenburg)

Gothenborg, Sweden

June 11, 2004 - June 16, 2004

105 works by 152 authors indexed

Series: ACH/ICCH (24), ALLC/EADH (31), ACH/ALLC (16)

Organizers: ACH, ALLC

  • Keywords: None
  • Language: English
  • Topics: None