umlauts

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Thu Nov 13 19:08:07 EST 2003


Jon wrote:

>strictly speaking the e indicates the umlaut itself,
>the umlaut is the way the vowel is pronounced, and not
>the name of the two little dots that indicate it
>(something even most German speakers seem unaware of).
>AFAK the two little dots don't actually have a name,

Are they a diaeresis?  My friend Zoe-with-two-dots used
to say that word often, and we all learnt how to spell
it in the end, though it is a bit of knowledge that
comes and goes in my mind, sometimes I have it and
others I don't...  This time I didn't, so I reached
for a nearby gang of dictionaries.  Collins 2001 says
that it's the name of the dots even when they are not
being used, as in Zoe, to indicate that two vowels are
separate; Chambers 1988 doesn't, none of S.O.D.s does.

>although one dictionary I checked does give their name
>as umlaut in the third definition of the term.

The Shorter Oxford (1933 or 1972 or even 1993), and
Chambers 1988, each know that the umlaut isn't the
little dots; the most recent S.O.D. gives them as the
second meaning; Collins says umlaut is the two dots.

*sigh*  I think perhaps Collins is not in step with
the rest.  Or else the meaning has changed since 1993,
in each case.

Minnow


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