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The Umlaut

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I was on Goethe Platz in Frankfurt last weekend and wondered why the name was not spelled with an umlaut.  I later learned that that's how he wrote his name and that apparently the umlaut was a relatively recent addition to the language.  I wanted to learn more and, in my searching, I came across 11 Facts One Should Know About The Umlaut.

Anyway, I found it interesting.

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The article indicates that English ï (naïve), ë (Noël), ö (coöperation) are not Umlauts. Well, these are actually anti-Umlauts, they do with pronunciation the opposite of what Umlauts do.

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From the article: "Since the Middle Ages, umlauted vowels have been indicated in various ways in German. Before the two-dot version became the standard in the 19th century, it was usually written as a tiny “e” above the vowel"

 

Disclaimer: I'm not a linguist. In learning German, I appreciate that there are no (or few) "silent" letters -- letters that aren't pronounced. German is very phonetic compared to English, which has relatively many words with silent letters. So I've wondered how English -- a Germanic language -- developed the "silent e" at the end of words, when German doesn't have this. That is, the silent e seems unique to English. But knowing that the umlaut used to be written as a "tiny e" above the affected vowel, perhaps it is because, in English, this German "tiny e" umlaut was moved to the end of the word? For example, we know in English to pronounce differently, the vowels in "hat" and "hate", "rot" and "rote", "cut" and "cute". In these examples, the silent e functions like an umlaut (tiny e) in signaling to the reader to pronounce the vowels as "long-a", "long-o" and "long-u", respectively. So is the German umlaut/"tiny e" and English "slient e" (roughly) equivalent? Hmmmmm.

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French influence (also not a linguist), where no last letter is ever pronounced, so silent e is used when one wants the last letter to be pronounced.

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On ‎04‎.‎05‎.‎2017‎ ‎08‎:‎10‎:‎18, royalplumper said:

German is very phonetic compared to English, which has relatively many words with silent letters. So I've wondered how English -- a Germanic language -- developed the "silent e" at the end of words, when German doesn't have this. That is, the silent e seems unique to English. But knowing that the umlaut used to be written as a "tiny e" above the affected vowel, perhaps it is because, in English, this German "tiny e" umlaut was moved to the end of the word? For example, we know in English to pronounce differently, the vowels in "hat" and "hate", "rot" and "rote", "cut" and "cute". In these examples, the silent e functions like an umlaut (tiny e) in signaling to the reader to pronounce the vowels as "long-a", "long-o" and "long-u", respectively. So is the German umlaut/"tiny e" and English "slient e" (roughly) equivalent? Hmmmmm.

this is indeed a very interesting thought, I can totally imagine it developed this way

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The music secretary in Bayreuth used to put a ~ over the u in my last name, to indicate there was no oomlaut. I always found that a little strange. 

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Languages do not develop in standard or consistent forms and many people with varying levels of education have different interpretations of how the same word is spelt.

Spellings of names and placenames such as "Goethe" and "Bayreuth" may be simply explained as historical developments - often at the hand of officialdom - which just became the standard(ised) forms.

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The Dutch language uses ë and ï for a number of words like zeeën (plural of seas), reëel (real), ideëel (ideal) and naïef (naive), but also in present perfect like heb geïnformeerd (have informed) or heb geëxporteerd (have exported).

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@ LukeSkywalker:

Dutch uses the diaresis (not the Umlaut) to indicate a separate syllable between vowels.

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4 hours ago, LukeSkywalker said:

zeeën (plural of seas), reëel (real), ideëel (ideal)

 

I love all these treble vowels. Dutch is brilliant.

 

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@kiplette Before the latest Dutch spelling reform (or the one before that, I lost track), there was the word kraaieeieren (crows' eggs) which is almost Finnish in how it makes you cross-eyed :)

 

They ruined it and the equally wonderful koeieuiers (cow udders) by adding an n to separate the parts (kraaieneieren, koeienuiers)

 

More pertitent to the topic of the thread, the Umlaut (best translated as "sound shift") being depicted as two dots was, like so many spelling conventions, developed for printing. It takes up way less space to put two dots above a vowel than fitting a small e (which might well turn into an ink blob on cheap paper). Same for the ß or (again Dutch) ij (U+0133, not available for printing on Toytown apparently)

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On 5/3/2017, 9:17:08, RedMidge said:

12th fact- no umlaut on my  Cdn/French laptop!

I know this is an old thread, but:

13th fact - if you configure your keyboard layout to be "United States.- International Keyboard", then you achieve the umlaut by typing " followed by (letter)

i.e. " + u = ü

" + o = ö

etc.

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@Gwaptiva

The Swiss have abolished the Umlaut and the double s (ess-Zet) and they seem to get on OK.

(Dunno about French-language accents there, though.)

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22 hours ago, onemark said:

@ LukeSkywalker:

Dutch uses the diaresis (not the Umlaut) to indicate a separate syllable between vowels.

Diaresis? Sounds like something between bowel movements rather than between vowels!

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I think it's a trema. It's used in English (and technically in Dutch too I think) informally, and is not exactly a part of the alphabet like the accented letters are in German.

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20 hours ago, onemark said:

@Gwaptiva

The Swiss have abolished the Umlaut and the double s (ess-Zet) and they seem to get on OK.

(Dunno about French-language accents there, though.)

The city of Zürich rolls its eyes: what have the Swiss abolished?

 

Letter ß is not used in Swiss German, but all other letters are. The only exception applies to street and railway station names: they are written in Latin alphabet only.

 

One notable word from Swiss German is Müesli, which Germans converted to Müsli thinking that "üe" was a magic Swiss way to type "ü". But, no, correct spelling is Müesli, "e" is pronounced.

 

The same applies to Swiss greeting: it's Grüezi and not Grüzi as Germans pronounce it.

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51 minutes ago, kaffeemitmilch said:

I think it's a trema. It's used in English (and technically in Dutch too I think) informally, and is not exactly a part of the alphabet like the accented letters are in German.

10 points to Kaffeemitmilch.

 

Try to pronounce this one:  geëuropeaniseerd  (Europeanized)

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2 minutes ago, LukeSkywalker said:

10 points to Kaffeemitmilch.

 

Try to pronounce this one:  geëuropeaniseerd  (Europeanized)

 

Though trying to pronounce the "g" would be worse.

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