From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

A hyperforeignism is a non-standard language form resulting from an attempt to apply the rules of a foreign language to a loan word (for example, the application of the rules of one language to a word borrowed from another) or, occasionally, a word believed to be a loan word. The result does not reflect the rules of either language.[1] For example, "habanero" is sometimes spelled or pronounced with an ñ (habañero), which is not the Spanish form from which the English word was borrowed.[2]

In an extreme form, this can also apply to words that have a foreign origin but have since been assimilated to follow the general rules,[clarification needed] or even words that are not foreign at all but are misperceived as foreign.


In English, hyperforeignisms are seen in loan words from many different languages.

Chinese words[edit]

Some English speakers pronounce Beijing with /ʒ/. In fact, the Standard Chinese sound represented by j in Pinyin (/tɕ/) is an affricate similar to the "g" in "gin". The same applies to Mahjong.[1]

Dutch words[edit]

In Dutch, the letter combination sch is pronounced [sχ]), except at the end of a word where it is pronounced [s]. However, most English speakers pronounce it as [ʃ] ("sh") in all positions, following the rules for German, in words such as Rooibosch and veldschoen. (In Afrikaans, these words have been re-spelled "Rooibos" and "veldskoen", to reflect the correct pronunciation.)

French words[edit]

French-derived forte, [fɔʁt] (used to mean "strength" in English as in "not my forte"), with silent final "e" is pronounced /ˈfɔrt/, by confusion with the Italian musical term of the same spelling, but meaning "loud", which is pronounced [ˈfɔrte]. The double hyperforeignism with a stressed final syllable, /fɔrˈt/ is also heard.

The noun cache, which means and should rhyme with "stash", but is sometimes pronounced /kæʃ/, as though it were either cachet or caché.

The word cadre is sometimes pronounced /ˈkɑːdr/ in English, as though it were of Spanish origin. In its French original, the final "e" is silent [kɑdʁ], whereas it is a schwa in common English pronunciations.[3]

Speakers of American English typically pronounce lingerie[3] /lɑːnʒərˈr/, excessively 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 -é, -er, -et and -ez.

Similarly, the French spelling repartie (pronounced /rəpɑrˈt/, "rejoinder") was changed to English spelling repartee, "banter", giving rise to a hyperforeign /rəpɑrˈt/.

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/.[4]

The Norman French language furthermore gave Southern England some ancient family names that were once associated with the aristocracy, which should be given their natural English pronunciation. A good example is Lestrange which is sometimes mistakenly pronounced with its natural and contemporaneous French inflection.

The word parmesan, though it denotes an Italian cheese, derives its spelling from French and should therefore be pronounced /ˈpɑːrməzɑːn/. However it is often mispronounced as /ˈpɑːrməʒɑːn/ in American English under the influence of the Italian name for the cheese, parmigiano (pronounced [parmiˈdʒaːno] in Italian).

Final consonants[edit]

Many English speakers who have limited familiarity with the French language may erroneously omit the last consonants in words like Vichyssoise /z/,[3] in the chess term en prise, in prix fixe, in mise en scène, and in coup de grâce in which some omit the final consonant /s/, although it is pronounced in French [ku də ɡʁɑs].[3]

There are many instances connected with proper nouns. Some speakers may omit the final z or s in pronouncing names such as Saint-Saëns, Duras, Boulez, and Berlioz, though in French the final letter in these words is pronounced as /s/ for the first two words and /z/ for the last two words.

"Claret" is often thought of as a French loanword and mispronounced /klæˈr/, losing the "t". In fact it is an Anglicised (and genericised) version of the original French clairet, and the "t" should thus be pronounced, with the stress 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 /dʒ/.[1] (j in most other Roman-alphabet spellings of words associated with languages of India is best approximated /dʒ/.)

Another example is the pronunciation of Punjab as /ˈpʊnɑːb/; a closer approximation to the original is Listeni/ˈpʌnɑːb/.[5] The letter u in this case represents the Hindi neutral vowel, with a sound similar to that of the u in English cut.

Italian words[edit]

The "g" in Adagio may be realized as /ʒ/, even though the Italian original has an affricate /dʒ/.[1] Similarly English-speaking musicians render the Italian word mezzo as /metsoʊ/, though in Italian that word is pronounced /ˈmɛd.dzo/. (In Italian, "z" is pronounced as /ts/ in some words, but not that one.)

The word bruschetta, particularly in American English is commonly rendered as /bruːˈʃɛtə/ with an English 'sh' sound instead of the correct 'sk', probably as a result of Americans' familiarity with words and surnames of German origin containing 'sch', which would be pronounced this way. An approximation that is more reflective of Italian phonology would be /bruːˈskɛtə/ and the authentic pronunciation in Italian would be /bruˈsket.ta/. This also afflicts the brand name Freschetta, the maraschino cherry, the surnames Schiaparelli and Schiavo .

A similar effect can arise from confusion between Italian and Spanish. Shakespeare spells the name of the principal male character in The Taming of the Shrew as "Petruchio", intended to be the Italian name Petruccio, using English or Spanish phonetic spelling conventions, both of which use "ch" for [tʃ]. The name should be pronounced /peˈtrut.tʃo/ in English, like the Italian name, but is commonly mispronounced /peˈtruːkijo/. This pronunciation assumes that Shakespeare's spelling is genuinely Italian and is therefore a hyperforeignism: in Italian there is no name "Petruchio" so spelled.

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). 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", is often misspelled as latté or lattè, despite having no accent on latte in Italian as it has the stress on the "a". Conversely, the word "frappé" is supposed to have an accent, as it was borrowed from French.

Spanish words[edit]

The digraph ch of Spanish is generally realized /tʃ/, similarly to English. 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.[1] The z in the Spanish word "chorizo" is sometimes realized as ts by English speakers, which is the pronunciation of the double letter zz in Italian, but never in present-day Spanish. Rather, the z in chorizo would be realized as /θ/ or /s/ depending on dialect in Spanish. [6]

Some English speakers add a tilde to Spanish words where it does not belong, such as habañero for correct habanero and "empañada" for correct "empanada".[7][8] Habanero means "from Havana", which is La Habana in Spanish, while "empañada" changes the meaning in Spanish from "breaded" (from pan, "bread") to "fogged up" and perhaps even "diapered" (from paño, "wool").

The surname of the Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet, is usually pronounced /pinoˈtʃet/ in Chilean Spanish, similarly to how the name would pronounced if read phonetically in English. English speakers, however, often pronounce the name /ˈpiːnoʊʃeɪ/, applying French pronunciation rules.[9]

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).[10] The accented spelling does, however, serve a purpose, indicating to English speakers 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") -> тэма, текст ("text") -> тэкст, музей ("museum") -> музэй, газета ("gazette") -> газэта and эффект ("effect") -> эффэкт. This comes from the rule that Russian э can only appear at the beginning of a word or after another vowel (as in аэропорт), with е obligatory after a consonant even if it is not palatalized, leading to inconsistent pronunciation of these foreign borrowings.


An example of hyperforeignism in Swedish is the common use of "chevré" in "chevré[ost]" for "chèvre cheese", which is pronounced quite different from the original French "chèvre" (possibly by false analogy with the Swedish "grevé" cheese, grevéost).

Similarly "entrecôte", which also can often be spelled "entrecoté", or "entrêcotè", or some other combination of ^ and ` or ´. More often than not it is pronounced without the ending "t" sound.

For comic effect[edit]

The silent "t" in "Report" in the title of the parody pundit show The Colbert Report is a hyperforeignism used for comedic effect. It is a play on the host's surname, Colbert (which he pronounces /klˈbɛər/).[11]

In the BBC sitcom Keeping Up Appearances, Richard Bucket pronounces his surname like the water vessel, but his snobbish wife Hyacinth insists on /bˈk/ (like bouquet), à la française.[12] Series creator Roy Clarke said he got the inspiration for this character trait after meeting someone with the surname "Bottom" who insisted it was pronounced /bˈtm/ boh-TOHM.[citation needed]

Similarly, some people jokingly give retailer Target the pseudo-French pronunciation /tɑrˈʒ/ tar-ZHAY, as though it were an upscale boutique.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Wells, John Christopher (1982). Accents of English: An Introduction. Cambridge University Press. p. 108. ISBN 0-521-29719-2. 
  2. ^ www.merriam-webster.com: habanero (variant spelling)
  3. ^ a b c d Merriam-Webster, Inc (1994). Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage (revised ed.). Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster. p. 516. ISBN 0-87779-132-5. 
  4. ^ http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/oyez http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/oyez
  5. ^ Pronounce Names
  6. ^ Quinn, Sue. "Mispronounced food words: can you say chorizo?". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 8 May 2014. 
  7. ^ "Hispanic Play Food Set". : "Serve up awareness for Hispanic cultures... Eight-piece play set includes tamale, enchilada, taco, quesadilla, empañada, rice, beans and flan."
  8. ^ "Empanadas Grande (recipe from Chi-Chi's)". : "Bake 1 empañada at a time on lower oven rack 12 to 18 minutes…"
  9. ^ "Pinochet" in Wells, John C. (1990). Longman pronunciation dictionary. Harlow, England: Longman. p. 537. ISBN 0-582-05383-8. 
  10. ^ "FAQs: Pronunciation and Spelling". Yerba Mate Association of the Americas. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  11. ^ See inogolo:pronunciation of Stephen Colbert.
  12. ^ Jaworski, Adam; Coupland, Nikolas; Galasiński, Dariusz, eds. (1998). Metalanguage: Social and Ideological Perspectives (3rd ed.). The Hague, Netherlands: Mouton de Gruyter. p. 290. ISBN 9783110178777. 
  13. ^ Muy, Ylan Q. (21 June 2006). "Where Target Is Always 'Tar-zhay'". The Washington Post. Retrieved 27 September 2011.