Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Umlauts and diaeresis - those two dots

There's a rather delightful short video doing the traps with an animated story about the umlaut.

There are a couple of things I want to add to it.

Jacob Grimm also discovered the "First Germanic Sound Shift", more often called "Grimm's Law". There's lots of fun stuff there that I'll explore another time, but you can follow the link if you're eager.

The other main use for those two dots is to indicate that a vowel is to be pronounced separately. This is called a diaeresis or trema. It is increasingly rare in English, but is still very common in other languages. For example, cooperate used to be written coöperate to show that the two 'o's are pronounced as separate vowels, not as a long 'oo'. Similarly, you might still occasionally see zoölogy, Noël, naïve, or Zoë. It's still often seen in Brontë, to indicate that the final vowel of Charlotte's surname is pronounced.

Finally, the video mentioned that the umlaut used to be written as a small 'e' over the vowel. Where umlauts are not available, it is not uncommon to add an e after the affected vowel. For example Ä would be written as AE. I recall seeing this modification on train and plane tickets when travelling through Europe back before WYSIWYG printers. For example, on this train ticket, Zürich is written as "Zuerich":
From this site

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