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We report optical phonon frequency studies in anisotropically strained c-plane- and a-plane-oriented GaN films by generalized infrared spectroscopic ellipsometry and Raman scattering spectroscopy. The anisotropic strain in the films is obtained from high-resolution x-ray diffraction measurements. Experimental evidence for splitting of the GaN E1(TO), E1(LO), and E2 phonons under anisotropic strain in the basal plane is presented, and their phonon deformation potentials cE1(TO) , cE1(LO) , and cE2 are determined. A distinct correlation between anisotropic strain and the A1(TO) and E1(LO) frequencies of a-plane GaN films reveals theaA1TO, bA1TO, aE1LO, andbE1LO phonon deformation potentials. The aA1TO and bA1TOaA1TO and aE1LO phonon deformation potentials agree well with recently reported theoretical estimations [J.-M. Wagner and F. Bechstedt, Phys. Rev. B 66, 115202 (2002)], while bA1TO and bE1LO are found to be significantly larger than the theoretical values. A discussion of the observed differences is presented.