umlauts

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Fri Nov 14 12:12:57 EST 2003


On Thu, 13 Nov 2003 15:00:08 -0800 (PST), Jon Noble wrote:

>
>--- Charles Butler
><hannibal at thegates.fsbusiness.co.uk> wrote:
>> Sarah:
>> >Groening rhymes with complaining.
>> 
>> That does surprise me. I'd always assumed that the
>> 'e' indicated a missing
>> umlaut, 
>
>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,
>although one dictionary I checked does give their name
>as umlaut in the third definition of the term. 

Even if "umlaut" isn't the name of the two dots, almost every student of
German in the US is told to call it that.  (I know I was.)  Most other
diacriticals do have a name, and it's far more convenient to conflate the
vowel with the sign than to say "oh, and don't forget the two little dots
above the letter."  I think that common usage is what accounts for more
recent dictionaries including the "new" definition as correct, since I
believe they track how people actually use words as well as their original
meanings.

But that's interesting to know.  If even most German speakers seem unaware
of what an umlaut actually is, doesn't that make you wonder about the
meaning of "actually"?  :)

Melissa Proffitt

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