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A hyperforeignism is a type of qualitative hypercorrection that involves speakers misidentifying the distribution of a pattern found in loanwords and extending it to other environments, including words and phrases not borrowed from the language that the pattern derives from.[1] The result of this process does not reflect the rules of either language.[2] For example, habanero is sometimes pronounced as though it were spelled with an ñ (habañero), which is not the Spanish form from which the English word was borrowed.[3] Hyperforeignization reflects speakers' attitudes about linguistic and cultural stereotypes, particularly those provided by popular media.[4]

Hyperforeignisms can manifest in a number of ways, including the application of the spelling or pronunciation rules of one language to a word borrowed from another, an incorrect application of a language's pronunciation, and pronouncing anglicized words as though they were borrowed more recently. Hyperforeignisms may similarly occur when a word is thought to be a loanword from a particular language when it is not.

Although similar, words that exhibit deliberate language-play (such as pronouncing Report with a silent t in The Colbert Report or ironically pronouncing Target as /tɑrˈʒ/ tar-ZHAY, as though it were an upscale boutique[5]) are not, strictly speaking, hyperforeignisms. These are, instead, a way of poking fun at those who earnestly adopt foreign-sounding pronunciations of pseudo-loanwords.[6]

Similarly, speakers who echo hyperforeign pronunciations without the intention of approximating a foreign-language pattern are also not practicing hyperforeignization; thus, pronouncing habanero as if it were spelled habañero is not a hyperforeignism if one is not aware that the word has been borrowed from Spanish.[6]


In English, hyperforeignisms are seen in loanwords from many different languages. Many examples of hyperforeignisms are isolated examples, rather than ones showing a particular pattern applied to multiple words and phrases, though some patterns can be identified.

Replacement with postalveolar friciatives /ʃ/ and /ʒ/ is one common mark of hyperforeignisms in English. This leads to pronouncing smörgåsbord (with initial [s] in Swedish) as /ˈʃmɔrɡəsˌbɔrd/, parmesan (from French [paʁməzɑ̃]) as /ˈpɑːrməˌʒɑːn/ (the cheese itself is Italian, and this pronunciation may also have been influenced by the Italian word for the cheese, parmigiano, which has a postalveolar affricate: [ˌparmiˈdʒaːno]), and Mandarin Chinese terms like Beijing (with [], which sounds like // to English speakers) with /ʒ/: /bˈʒɪŋ/.[7][2]

American English speakers are particularly likely to use low back vowels when /æ/ would be a better approximation. For example, Vivaldi is pronounced [viˈvaldi] in Italian. Because American speakers tend to pronounce /ɑː/ as [ɒ] or [ɔ] before /l/, their pronunciation [vəˈvɔldi] does not sound as near as the typical British pronunciation of [vəˈvældi]. Another example of this comes from Persian, where the name Hamid is pronounced /ˌhɑːˈmd/ by American English speakers but [hæˈmid] in Persian.[8]

Dutch words[edit]

In Dutch, the letter combination sch represents [sx] at the beginning of a syllable, and [s] at the end. However, most English speakers Dutch words such as Rooibosch and veldschoen with /ʃ/, more closely following the pronunciation rules for German spelling.

French words[edit]

A number of words of French origin feature a final e that is pronounced in English but silent in the original language. For example, forte (used to mean "strength" in English as in "not my forte") is often pronounced /ˈfɔrt/ or /fɔrˈt/, by confusion with the Italian musical term of the same spelling (but meaning "loud"), which is pronounced [ˈfɔrte]. In French, the term is pronounced [fɔʁt], with silent final e. Similarly, the noun cache is sometimes pronounced /kæʃ/, as though it were spelled either cachet(meaning "signature") or caché(meaning "hidden"). In French, the final e is silent and the word is pronounced [kaʃ]. The word cadre is sometimes pronounced /ˈkɑːdr/ in English, as though it were of Spanish origin. In French, the final e is silent [kadʁ] and a common English pronunciation is /ˈkɑːdrə/.[9]

Legal English is replete with words derived from Norman French, which for a long time was the language of the courts in England and Wales. The correct pronunciation of Norman French is often closer to a natural contemporary English reading than to modern French: the attempt to pronounce these phrases as if they were modern French could therefore be considered to be a hyperforeignism. For example, the clerk's summons Oyez! ('Attention!') is commonly pronounced ending in a consonant, /s/ or /z/.[10]

A common pattern is pronouncing French loanwords without a word-final /r/, as with derrière, peignoir, and répertoire.[11]

Another common pattern, influenced by French morphophonology, is the omission of word-final consonants. Hyperforeign application of this tendency occurs with omission of these consonants in words with final consonants that are pronounced in French; This occurs notably in the term coup de grâce, in which some speakers omit the final consonant /s/, although it is pronounced in French as [ku də ɡʁɑs].[12][9] Other examples of this include Vichyssoise,[9] the chess term en prise, prix fixe, and mise en scène. There are many instances of this sort of omission connected with proper nouns. Some speakers may omit pronouncing a final /z/ or /s/ in names such as Saint-Saëns, Duras, Boulez, and Berlioz, though these words are pronounced in French with a final [s] for the first two words and [z] for the last two.

The Norman French language furthermore gave Southern England some ancient family names that were once associated with the aristocracy. An example is Lestrange which is sometimes pronounced with its natural and contemporaneous French inflection, though it is more often pronounced like the English word strange, /lɛstrn/.

Speakers of American English typically pronounce lingerie[9] /lɑːnʒərˈ/, depressing the first vowel of the French [lɛ̃ʒʁi] to sound more like a "typical" French nasal vowel, and rhyming the final syllable with English ray, by analogy with the many French loanwords ending in , -er,, -et, and -ez. Similarly, the French-derived term repartie (pronounced /rəpɑrˈt/, 'rejoinder') was changed to English spelling repartee ('banter'), giving rise to a hyperforeign /rəpɑrˈt/.

Claret is often pronounced /klærˈ/, without a final /t/. However, it is historically an Anglicised (and genericised) version of the original French clairet, with the t more typically being pronounced and the stress falling on the first syllable: /ˈklærɪt/.

Indian-language words[edit]

The j in the name of the Taj Mahal or raj is often rendered /ʒ/, but a closer approximation to the Hindi sound is //.[2] The j in most words associated with languages of India is more accurately approximated as //.

Another example is the pronunciation of Punjab as /ˈpʊnɑːb/; a closer approximation to the original is Listeni/ˈpʌnɑːb/.[13] The letter u in this case is used to parallel English spelling where u represents /ʌ/ as in cut.

Italian words[edit]

The g in Adagio may be realized as /ʒ/, even though the "soft" g of Italian represents an affricate [].[2] Similarly, English-speaking musicians render the Italian word mezzo as /ˈmɛts/, though the Italian pronunciation is [ˈmɛddzo], with a voiced [dz], rather than a voiceless [ts].

The word bruschetta, particularly in American English is commonly pronounced as /brˈʃɛtə/, as though it were spelled with sh sound instead of /brˈskɛtə/, with /sk/ that more closely reflects the Italian pronunciation of [bruˈsketta]. This hyperforeignism may have arisen as a result of words and surnames of German origin containing sch, which are pronounced with /ʃ/. This also occurs with the brand name Freschetta, maraschino, as well as the surnames Schiaparelli and Schiavo.

The name of the principal male character in Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew is spelled Petruchio, intended to be the Italian name Petruccio ([peˈtruttʃo]), reflecting more conventional English pronunciation rules that use ch to represent //. However, the name is commonly pronounced /pɛˈtrki/, as though Shakespeare's spelling is genuinely Italian.

Substituting baristo for a male barista, when in fact barista is invariable in gender in Italian and Spanish (as are other words ending in the suffix -ista) is a hyperforeignism. In Italian, the gender is indicated by the article; il barista for a male and la barista for a female.

The word latte ('milk'), as in caffè latte ([kafˈfɛ ˈlatte]), is often misspelled as latté or lattè, implying stress on the final syllable. However, latte has no accent mark in Italian and has the stress on the first syllable. This may be an analogy with French words such as frappé [frapˈpe], where there is such an accent mark.

Russian words[edit]

Because the Russian loanword dacha (дача [ˈdatɕə]) looks like it could be German, the pronunciation /ˈdɑːxə/, with a velar fricative, shows an attempt at marking a word as foreign, but with a sound not originally present in the source word.[14] The more common pronunciation is /ˈdɑːə/, which sounds closer to the original Russian word.

Spanish words[edit]

The digraph ch of Spanish generally represents [], similar to English ch. Hyperforeign realizations of many Spanish loanwords or proper names may substitute other sounds. Examples include a French-style [ʃ] in the surname Chávez and in Che Guevara, or a German-influenced [x] or Ancient Greek-influenced [k] in machismo.[2] The z in the Spanish word chorizo is sometimes realized as /ts/ by English speakers, reflecting more closely the pronunciation of the double letter zz in Italian and Italian loanwords in English. This is not the pronunciation of present-day Spanish, however. Rather, the z in chorizo represents [θ] or [s] (depending on dialect in Spanish).[15]

Some English speakers pronounce certain words of Spanish origin as if they had a tilde when they do not in the original language. For example, the word habanero is pronounced [aβaˈneɾo] (without the tilde) in Spanish. English speakers may instead pronounce it /ˌhɑːbəˈnjɛr/, as if it were spelled habañero; the phenomenon also occurs with empanada, which may be pronounced as if it is spelled empañada.

The South American beverage, mate, is frequently spelled maté in English, adding an accent which, in Spanish, changes the pronunciation and meaning of the word (maté means 'I killed' in Spanish). The accented spelling may however, serve a purpose, as it is interpreted by some English speakers to indicate that the word has two syllables and is not pronounced like the English word mate.


In Russian, many early loanwords are pronounced as native Russian words with full palatalization. Hyperforeignism occurs when some speakers pronounce these early loanwords without palatalization. For example: тема ('theme') is normally pronounced [ˈtʲɛmə]. A hyperforeign pronunciation would be [ˈtɛmə], as if the word were spelled тэма. Similarly, текст ('text') is pronounced [tʲɛkst], with the hyperforeign pronunciation being [tɛkst], as if it were spelled тэкст. Other examples include музей ('museum') [muˈzʲej] > [muˈzej], газета ('gazette') [ɡɐˈzʲɛtə] > [ɡɐˈzɛtə] and эффект ('effect') [ɨfʲˈfʲɛkt] [ɨfˈfɛkt]. The variation is attributable to the tendency to use е in foreign words after a consonant, even if it is not palatalized.


In Swedish chevré (as in chevré[ost] for 'chèvre cheese') is pronounced quite different from the original French chèvre (possibly by false analogy with the Swedish "grevé" cheese, grevéost).

Similarly entrecôte, which can often be spelled entrecoté, or entrêcotè, or some other combination of ^ and ` or ´. More often than not, it is pronounced without a final [t].

See also[edit]