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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]

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,[4] an incorrect application of a language's pronunciation, and pronouncing loanwords 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 pronouncing Target as 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 fricatives and is one common mark of hyperforeignisms in English. This leads to pronouncing ''smörgåsbord'' (with initial [s] in Swedish) as , parmesan (from French [pa?m?z]) as (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: [?parmi'd?a:no]), and Mandarin Chinese terms like Beijing (with [t?], which sounds like /d?/ to English speakers) with /?/: .[2][7]

Dutch words

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

French words

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 or , by confusion with the Italian musical term of the same spelling (and same Latin origin, but meaning "loud"), which is pronounced ['f?rte]. In French, the word "forte" is pronounced [f??t], with silent final ⟨e⟩, and the word for a person's strong point is actually "fort", with a silent t. Similarly, the noun cache is sometimes pronounced , as though it were spelled either ⟨cachet⟩(meaning "seal" or "signature") or ⟨caché⟩(meaning "hidden"). In French, the final ⟨e⟩ is silent and the word is pronounced [ka?]. The word cadre is sometimes pronounced in English, as though it were of Spanish origin. In French, the final ⟨e⟩ is silent [kad?] and a common English pronunciation is .[8]

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, or /z/.[9]

A common pattern is pronouncing French loanwords without a word-final /r/, as with derrière, peignoir, and répertoire.[10]

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 d? s].[8][11] Other examples of this include Vichyssoise,[8] 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] or [z].

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, .

Speakers of American English typically pronounce lingerie ,[8] depressing the first vowel of the French [l?i] 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-derived term repartie (, 'rejoinder') was changed to English spelling ⟨repartee⟩ ('banter'), giving rise to a hyperforeign .

Claret is often pronounced , 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: .

Moët, a brand of French champagne, is often wrongly pronounced with a silent "t". The name is Dutch and so the correct pronunciation is "mo-ette" or "mo-wett" [mo?t].[12]

Indian-language words

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

Another example is the pronunciation of Punjab as ; a closer approximation to the original is .[13] This spelling of "Punjab" dates to British colonial rule and is intended to be pronounced according to English spelling rules, as with other words borrowed from Indian languages into English, such as curry, suttee, and mulligatawny, or other colonial-era names ("Calcutta"); a closer Romanization of the name is "Panj?b", from Persian for "five waters".

Italian words

The ⟨g⟩ in Adagio may be realized as /?/, even though the "soft" ⟨g⟩ of Italian represents an affricate [d?].[2] Similarly, English-speaking musicians render the Italian word mezzo as , as in the commonly used Italian loan-word pizza, though the Italian pronunciation is ['m?ddzo], with a voiced [dz], rather than a voiceless [ts].

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 ([pe'trutt?o]), reflecting more conventional English pronunciation rules that use ⟨ch⟩ to represent /t?/. However, the name is commonly pronounced , 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 (and Spanish), the gender is indicated by the article; il (el) 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⟩, 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 [fra'pe], where there is such an accent mark.

Italian ⟨sch⟩, as in maraschino or the brand name Freschetta, is often mispronounced as English "sh" rather than the correct "sk", due to greater familiarity with the German pronunciation due to, for example, German surnames among Americans.

Russian words

Because the Russian loanword dacha (? ['dat]) looks like it could be German, the pronunciation , 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 , which sounds closer to the original Russian word.

Spanish words

The digraph ⟨ch⟩ of Spanish generally represents [t?], similar to English ⟨ch⟩. Hyperforeign realizations of many Spanish loanwords or proper names may substitute other sounds. Examples include a French-style [?] 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 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 [?] 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 [a?a'ne?o] (without the tilde) in Spanish. English speakers may instead pronounce it , as if it were spelled ⟨habañero⟩; the phenomenon also occurs with empanada, which may be pronounced as if it is spelled ⟨empañada⟩. The city of Cartagena, Colombia is very commonly pronounced as if it were spelled ⟨Cartageña⟩.

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 meaning '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 . Following Spanish orthography though, the only 'correct' place to add an accent which matches the natural stress of the word (and therefore does not change its pronunciation) would be as "máte".

Other languages


Hyperforeignisms occur in Polish sometimes with English loanwords or names. One example would be the name Roosevelt, which is pronounced ['ruzv?lt], as if it started like goose, even though a natural Polish pronunciation would be closer to the English one.

Phenian, now obsolete name for Pyongyang, which was a transcription of Russian ?, was pronounced ['fan], as if 'ph' represented voiceless labiodental fricative like in English.[16]

Loanwords from Japanese are often subject to hyperforeignism. The names of three of the four main islands of Japan, Honsiu, Kiusiu, and Sikoku, are already Polish transcriptions with close approximations of Japanese sounds - ['h?n?u], ['k?u?u], [?i'k?ku], but are often pronounced with changing native /?/ into "foreign" /sj/. Other Japanese words use English transcription, which causes further problems. Tsunami, which in original Japanese has the sound /t?s/, present in Polish, is pronounced with effort to separate /t/ and /s/, since it sounds more "foreign".


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: ? ('theme') is normally pronounced ['tm?]. A hyperforeign pronunciation would be ['t?m?], as if the word were spelled ⟨?⟩. Similarly, ?? ('text') is pronounced [tkst], with the hyperforeign pronunciation being [t?kst], as if it were spelled ⟨⟩. Other examples include ? ('museum') [mu'z?ej] > [mu'zej], ? ('gazette') ['zt?] > ['z?t?] and ? ('effect') [?f?'fkt] [?f'f?kt]. The variation is attributable to the tendency to use ⟨?⟩ 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 differently 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].


Like in Swedish, in Norwegian the entrecôte can be pronounced without the final [t]. This might also happen in pommes frites (french fries), and the [z] is often removed in the pronunciation of Béarnaise sauce.[17] Also, non-French Latin words are pronounced with French rules, such as Tenerife, Don Quixote, Lasagne and Spaghetti Bolognese are all pronounced without the final -e, none of which is correct Norwegian, despite being in common usage.

See also


  1. ^ Janda, Joseph & Jacobs (1994), p. 74.
  2. ^ a b c d e Wells (1982), p. 108.
  3. ^ "Habanero". Merriam-Webster. under "Variants of Habanero". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  4. ^ Janda, Joseph & Jacobs (1994), p. 72.
  5. ^ Muy, Ylan Q. (21 June 2006). "Where Target Is Always 'Tar-zhay'". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2011.
  6. ^ a b Janda, Joseph & Jacobs (1994), p. 73.
  7. ^ Janda, Joseph & Jacobs (1994), p. 80.
  8. ^ a b c d Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage (revised ed.). Merriam-Webster. 1994. p. 516. ISBN 0-87779-132-5.
  9. ^ "Definition of oyez in English". Oxford Dictionaries. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  10. ^ Janda, Joseph & Jacobs (1994), p. 75.
  11. ^ Janda, Joseph & Jacobs (1994), p. 76.
  12. ^ Enting, Carolyn (2002). "Moët for Linguists". Lucire. Jack Yan & Associates. Retrieved 2017.
  13. ^ "How to say or pronounce Punjab". Pronounce Names. Archived from the original on 7 March 2016.
  14. ^ Janda, Joseph & Jacobs (1994), pp. 72, 75.
  15. ^ Quinn, Sue. "Mispronounced food words: can you say chorizo?". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Archived from the original on 14 May 2016.
  16. ^ http://www.like2do.com/dictionary?s=Phenian
  17. ^ Entrekå med påmm fri og bærné, takk - K7 Bulletin (Norwegian)


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