I am looking for the name of the following phenomenon:

  1. Speakers of Language 1 transplant a given word to a new environment in which Language 2 is the dominant language spoken in the area.

  2. Language 2 has a word that is phonetically similar to a word found in Language 1 - though with a completely different meaning.

  3. With continued exposure to the dominant Language 2 - speakers of Language 1 alter their pronunciation of their native word and begin to pronounce the relevant native word identically to the phonetically similar word that they were exposed to in the dominant Language 2 - while retaining the original meaning found in Language 1.

Is there a particular name for this phenomenon? This seems to be Phonetic Interference, but what kind of Interference is this? I am looking, specifically, for the name of this particular phenomenon. All of my books mention this phenomenon, but do not give it a name for some reason. What exactly is it called?

  • 1
    If it's about a change in pronunciation of just one particular word and it affects all or a substantial part of Language A speakers, then it is a kind of borrowing. “Interference” is a term which is usually used when talking about L2 acquisition when L1 affects one's L2 skills, but in your case the direction is reversed, it's not interference (or maybe it is, but then it's interference in some very wide sense).
    – Yellow Sky
    Sep 19, 2020 at 1:21
  • I'm interested in something that explains when acquisition of L2 affects one's pronunciation of words retained from L1 in such a way that words retained from L1 among a particular population are now pronounced like similar forms (though with vastly different meanings) found in L2. Is there any literature on this topic? Is there an actual name for this phenomenon, or is this something that has not yet been studied (which I find hard to believe)?? Please help.
    – Snacl
    Sep 20, 2020 at 11:12
  • Did you consider the strata phenomena? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stratum_(linguistics) If your languages A and B continue to co-exist, then they are in adstratum relationship. If B finally suppresses A, then A is substratum and B is superstratum.
    – Yellow Sky
    Sep 20, 2020 at 19:39
  • I have heard of the strata phenomena, but have some confusion about the uses (or contexts for usage) of the terms substratum and superstratum. If Language A is suppressed by Language B, but former speakers of Language A retain some words from Language A, are those retained words referred to as substratum?
    – Snacl
    Sep 22, 2020 at 9:20
  • That's right, the retained words of a suppressed language are substratum.
    – Yellow Sky
    Sep 22, 2020 at 12:01

1 Answer 1


On the individual level, there is the well-known phenomenon of Phonetic accommodation when two speakers in a dialogue tend to converge phonetically.

I would consider this kind of levelling still as an accommodation process (caused by a superstrate language, as @Yellow Sky has noted in a comment to the question).

  • Would this kind of levelling still be an accommodation process if Language A is finally suppressed by Language B, while former speakers of Language A retain words only from Language A?
    – Snacl
    Sep 22, 2020 at 9:24
  • 1
    I don't understand your additional question. When the language A is suppressed, why should former speakers of A only retain words of A? Do you mean they retain only some words [note the position of only] of language A? In that case, we change the perspective and talk of an A-substrate in language B. Sep 22, 2020 at 9:43
  • "Do you mean they retain only some words [note the position of only]" Yes, that's what I mean, pardon. I thought that "substrate" only referred to the syntax of a given language - and that if grammar is not retained, then there is no substrate. Is this untrue?
    – Snacl
    Sep 22, 2020 at 9:56
  • 1
    Strata can affect anything in a language: Phonemes, vocabulary, idioms, derivation and inflection, syntax, there is no restriction here. Sep 23, 2020 at 12:56

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