Issue of May 14, 2017
Mt. Province

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The umlaut and the diaeresis

THEY’RE BOTH ENGLISH words now, though they come from identified roots. Both are represented by two dots /../, placed over a vowel to represent certain uses, to wit:

THE UMLAUT IS that mark placed over a vowel to indicate a more central or front articulation, or a specific pronunciation. The term’s origins are from German um = around/transforming, and Laut = sound.

THE UMLAUT IS still used in Modern German. Note in the following examples: Männer, König, Stück – respectively meaning: men, king, and piece.

IT SHOULD BE easy to understand umlauted letters: a, o, and u (or ä, ö, and ü) because when you are hard up or ‘intimidated’ by the umlaut signs, just remove the umlauts but substitute each with the letter /e/, thus

MÄNNER, WILL BE rendered – and pronounced as well (!), as: Maenner; König as Koenig, and Stück as Stueck; and note, the umlautless spellings are actually alternate correct spellings in Today’s German

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THE DIAERESIS (OR Brit. Dieresis but which either is pluralled Diaereses  and Diereses, respectively) is that mark placed over a vowel to indicate that the vowel is pronounced in a separate syllable. The term’s origins are from Late Latin diaeresis, from Greek diairesis, division; from diarein, to divide; from dia, plus hairein, to take.

THIS SPECIFIC USE of Diaresis is still very much current in French. Note in the following examples: naïf (inborn, natural, self-taught, etc.) and Noël, i.e. the Lord Immanuel.

THE PURPOSE OF the first-example vowel /ï/ is so that it may not be simply pronounced [nayf], but rather [Na-if]; and the 2nd-example vowel [ë] not to be mis-rendered as [No-wel], but rather [No-ehl] or so.

THUS THEY SAY in French for Merry Christmas: Joyeux Noël! Pronounced somewhat like [dzwayuә No-ehl]!

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AND SO WE come to English. Do we have applications of the Umlaut or the Diaeresis? The answer is a definite

YES! OBSERVE SUCH applications in: Naïve, the feminine form of Naif (see Supra.) and in Brontë. The effects of the Umlaut or Diaeresis over the /i/ and the /e/ - thus /ï/ and /ë/, will render the syllabication of the words correctly to: Na-ive and Bront-eh, more or less.

[AT TIMES, THESE can be rendered by uninformed speakers as /nayv/ and /Bron-teh/ or so – in which cases, these imply their non-notice of the Umlaut, or Diaeresis, signs over the /i/ and the /e/, respectively.

[IN THIS RELATION, did I not propose the employment of the umlaut or diaeresis in the words coӧperative and reïmposition to teachers handling Speech and Phonology for Filipino students? The purpose was modestly to arrest those ‘tendencies’ of some student speakers of English to rather produce the first syllables of those words erroneously as |coop~| and /reim~/].

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FINALLY TO OUR own local languages. There are – it seems – some snowballing arguments, pro and con, on using the enroll e with umlaut, i.e. to represent the shwa IPA |ә| sound, so you say bakën (‘not’) in Kankana-ey; pësing (‘the way’) in Nabaloi; dakkël (‘big’) in Iluko, and so forth.

BUT SINCE WE are not just the isolated ‘local’ but also the aspiring ‘global’, how will we render the umlauted /e/s in our aforecited examples in the International Phonetic Alphabet? = /ә/ pa rin?

BESIDES, THE ILUKO example shall be in problem because of the ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ accents. How will we render our example if we make it plural: dadakkëlën; or, simply dadakkelen? And to the Kankana-ey and Nabaloi speakers:

YOU HAVE BEEN used to the spellings baken and pesing. Now, these two will flash to you as: bakën and pësing. No problem(s)? Nagtatanong lang po.

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FROM THE OBSERVATIONS, you stop in reconnaissance to wonder.. asking yourself: “so, perhaps the present-day English word geese must have proceeded from an original gӧs, or thereabouts?” And the answer is: ‘why,

YES! GӦS IS the precedent of ‘goose’, now the singular form of geese, i.e. from the archaic old English gӧs, the umlaut was removed, but another /o/ was added to give goose.

‘RETAINING THIS UMLAUTLESS alteration, the derived plural form is now geese – to account perhaps for “the reflex” of the former presence of a succeeding sound which has been lost or altered. The former plural must have been gӧse, or umlautless: = goese’.

BY INCIDENT ANALOGY, the Old English equivalent of said gӧs in Old High German – a cognate language of Old English, is: gans which when pluralized in Modern German becomes gänze, but could be written or typed gaenze (i.e. umlautless) in English or in other non-umlaut wielding typewriters. Note: gänze and gaenze are both perfect Standard German spellings. Ergo,

YO GO UMLAUT – or otherwise, and you’re still correct, because the ‘Rules’ are there laid out to guide you!

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