French historically has caused the presence of several unique sounds in English that would not have been present otherwise. For example the "dʒ" sound in "garage". Similarly, I believe I've read Japanese gained the "n" sound as a result of influence from Chinese.

Due to English's widespread influence in the modern age, has it caused any languages to develop new sound features, or grammar features?

To be clear, I'm not talking about a creole or pidgin which may have been formed from a mix of English, and is more of a newly formed language, but a long standing language that has undergone influence from the English language. Japanese has adopted a large amount of English loanwords, but I don't think it's adopted any sound change, only adopted the words to the current phonological constraints of Japanese. (Or maybe it has? One sentence on the Wikipedia page for Japanese phonology indicates that it may have but has no citation.)

I've read some sounds in Quebec are present due to the influence of English but other sources I've read indicate these are actually just holdovers from older French that were lost in Parisian French.

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    Ask any German jazz fan how they pronounce jazz. There are no German sounds in this word, and pronunciation varies wildly. Haj Ross tells me that real jazzmen just call it [ja:ts].
    – jlawler
    Commented Jul 15, 2016 at 21:23
  • I don't think a few loan words pronounced "authentically" count as systematic change in a language. But if the number increases, that seems like a reasonable place for new sound "acquisition".
    – pixelearth
    Commented Jul 17, 2016 at 15:18

4 Answers 4


Yes, English has influenced at least one language's phonology (and probably many more).

Japanese did not distinguish the phonemes /ɸ/ and /h/ before English loanwords. You can read a description of the current situation in "An acoustic study of the Japanese voiceless bilabial fricative" by Scott Ruddell.

In native Japanese words, this sound etymologically derives from lenition of the bilabial stop /p/, and there is evidence (such as Portuguese transcriptions that use f) that at one point it was pronounced as [ɸ] (a bilabial voiceless fricative) before all vowels.

However, later on the sound debuccalized to [h] (at least in Standard Japanese) in all contexts except for before the vowel /u/. Before /u/, the sound change is still in progress, and some speakers have [ɸ] while others have something more like [h]. A common synchronic analysis of this situation is that there is a single phoneme /h/ with a conditional allophone [ɸ] that is possible before /u/. I don't know of any synchronic alternations between these sounds in modern Japanese within inflectional paradigms or due to derivation (which I think would be the strongest evidence of allophony, if such alternations were shown to be productive with neologisms and nonce-words) but they do behave similarly in the context of the (somewhat phonologically productive) process of rendaku: both become /b/.

So, there are a number of reasons (common etymological origin, complementary distribution, phonetic similarity, similar phonological behavior) for considering [ɸ] to be a mere allophone of /h/... until the introduction of English loanwords. The presence of the phone [ɸ] in native Japanese words meant that Japanese speakers had a sound close to English [f] available to use in the pronunciation of loanwords. In English, /f/ can occur before any vowel, so the use of [ɸ] in Japanese to represent /f/ in English loanwords introduced a lot of words into standard Japanese that have [ɸ] before vowels other than /u/.

Ruddell gives the following examples:

/ɸan/ “fan”
/ɸirumu/ “film”
/ɸeruto/ “felt”
/ɸorio/ “forio”

The sequences /ɸa/ /ɸi/ /ɸe/ /ɸo/ contrast with /ha/ /hi/ /he/ /ho/.

  • I would have a little problem with this. The fact that two sounds are distributed complementarily (even as a result of sound change like here) does not mean they are not phonemes. Strictly speaking, they should not be, however if their acoustic difference is significant enough, they will likely be anyway (e.g. in my native tongue, there is a complementary distribution between [i] and [k], i.e. there are no minimal pairs that would allow to distinguish these two sounds as phonemes).
    – Eleshar
    Commented Oct 16, 2016 at 17:15
  • @Eleshar: In addition to being in complementary distribution (or free variation before /u/) in native words and having a common source, the sounds /ɸ/ and /h/ are acoustically similar. Commented Oct 16, 2016 at 19:39
  • It's clear that the phonemic split between them has progressed pretty far by now (as evidenced by the contrast in loanwords). Commented Oct 16, 2016 at 19:41

When French borrowed English words that contain [ŋ] (e.g. camping), French kept the [ŋ] sound, which thus became an addition to French phonology.

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    The velar nasal took some time to penetrate, however. In the 17th Century, loans with that sound were heavily adapted to French phonology: /ʃəlɛ̃/ for shilling. Later, the nasal consonant was kept, but switched to /n/ or /ɲ/. It's only late during the first half of the 20th Century that [ŋ] and [ŋg] became a common realisation. It should also probably be noted that [ŋ] was already present in French as a allophone of /g/ and /k/ in nasal contexts: segment /sɛgmɑ̃/ [sɛŋmɒ̃] - instinctif /ɛ̃stɛ̃ktif/ [ɐ̃ːstɐ̃ːŋt̪ɪf] (my realisation in brackets) Commented Jul 17, 2016 at 17:56

English influenced Polish phonotactics in some very frequent words, such as weekend (which currently is a perfectly Polish word for, well, a weekend). In general, /wi/ is not allowed in Polish and a natural adaptation of "weekend" to Polish phonology would be /vikent/ or /wɨkɛnt/ (cf. Wikipedia /vikipɛdja/). However, nobody pronounces weekend with /v/ or /ɨ/ - you may say /wɨkɛnt/, but only if you intentionally want to sound slightly off. The correct pronunciation (from both prescriptive and descriptive points of view) is /wikɛnt/ or /wikɛnd/.

Strangely enough, even though /wi/ doesn't sound odd to Polish ears anymore, the regular way of writing /wikɛnd/ (łikend) does look strange for some reason, and therefore, the original English spelling is used instead (weekend).


German acquired the /eɪ/ diphthong from English, e.g., in the word "Spray" that is pronounced /ʃpreɪ/ (note the initial /ʃp/—it is not just a foreign word in its original pronunciation).

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