Jon Noble jon_p_noble at
Thu Nov 13 22:32:17 EST 2003

--- minnow at wrote:
> 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.
A german-english dictionary I checked gives two german
words for the english word diaerisis, diärisis and
trema. Only trema appeared in the german secion (with
the english meaning diaerisis). The use of a diaerisis
in the word diärisis is interesting. I wonder if it is
there to indicate a diaerisis or an umlaut, both would
be possible. The original meaning of the word
diaerisis in English was for the double vowel sound
rather than for the mark to indicate it, although that
meaning has been around since the 17th century.
The german word umlaut has modified as its English
meaning. Many, many years ago when I did German at
school our german teacher (who was German) seemed to
think that the two dots were called an umlaut
(although i may have misinterpreted what he said)


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