Sunday, April 10, 2016

Umlaut or Diaeresis?

Carol from East Bay asked about the double dots used above some vowels, such as Häagen-Dazs. Though they look identical, there are two different elements that use these dots: the umlaut and the diaeresis.

The umlaut [Ger. changed sound] is strongly Germanic and changes the sound of a vowel. The sound change may also involve a change in meaning: schon means already, but schön means beautiful. Two other examples are Kurt Gödel and über.

The diaeresis [Gr. divide] is used when two vowels sit side by side and are meant to be pronounced separately: naïve, Laocoön, preëmptive, coöperation, Noël. Many publications have stopped using this mark in common words, the thought being that few people will pronounce cooperation, for instance, as if it were a chicken coop.


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