On Monday, October 27, 2003, at 02:42 , Douglas Koller, Latin & French

>> Ray Brown scripsit:
>>>  Strictly speaking the double-dot superscript
>>>  diacritic is called _trema_.  The terms 'umlaut'
>>>  and 'di(a)eresis' refer to _uses_ of the trema.
> I couldn't find "trema" in the OED, though "diaerisis" and "umlaut"
> were certainly there.

Strange - Chambers English Dictionary gives 'trema'.

"diaeresis" surely <-- Greek: dia (apart) + haresis (taking).

>> In Spanish, and in certain Catalan uses, u-trema simply
>> indicates that the u is pronounced as /w/ rather than
>> being a mere indicator that the preceding "g" is /g/.
>> Catalan also uses a French-style diaeresis.
> French has both usages, each of which I surmise the OED calls
> "diaerisis". As has been discussed earlier, it separates vowels:
> Nol, mas /mais/ (vs. mais /mE/)

Yep - taking the two vowels apart.

> but is also used as in John's Spanish example:
> if the feminine of "ambigu" or "exigu" were written without trma, it
> would yield "ambigue" (/a~mbig/) and "exigue" (/egzig/). To retain
> pronunciation of the "u", trma is added:
> ambige (a~mbigy), exige (/egzigy/)

And in verse they might be /a~bigy@/ and /Egzigy@/ thus, in theory, the
vowels /y@/ are separated.

> I suppose this is analogous to the "Bront" example proferred by the
> OED as also being diaerisis.

which it strictly ain't.  I would think Bront is analagous to Zo; it does
mark diaeresis with the latter example but not with the former. /t/ is
a vowel or semi-vowel.  But it was undoubtedly put on the final -e by
analogy with diaeresis.

But the problem with calling the double-dot symbol diaeresis is that:
(a) it is not always used to denote diaeresis (the Germans, e.g. use
it to denote i-umlaut);
(b) diaeresis may be shown in other ways. In English by using a hyphen
is sometimes used, e.g. co-operate, re-activate, re-educate.

Calling the two dots 'an umlaut' can be even more confusing. Only i-imlaut
AFAIK is ever shown this way and, I believe, only German uses the symbol
consistently to show i-umlaut.  In English we show i-umlaut quite readily
without any diacritic, e.g.
foot ~ feet
goose ~ geese
man ~ men
mouse ~ mice

Welsh has both i-umlaut and a-umlaut and, although it happily uses the
circumflex and the trema, it uses no diacritic to show either type of
(a) examples of i-umlaut
bachgen ~ bechgyn  (boy ~ boys)
car ~ ceir         (car ~ cars)
castell ~ cestyll  (castle ~ castles)

(b) examples of a-umlaut
gwyn ~ gwen    (white: masc. ~ fem.)
byr ~ ber      (short: masc. ~ fem.)
crwn ~ cron    (round: masc. ~ fem.)

Umlaut, of course, is caused a final vowel at or near one of the apexes
of the 'vocalic triangle'; the mouth anticipate movement towards the vowel,
affecting the pronunciation of preceding vowel(s).  The final vowel causing
the change then get dropped.  i-umlaut seems to be the more common, but
a-umlaut certainly occurs in other languages besides Welsh. u-umlaut is the
rarest but IIRC correctly is known in Swedish - perhaps Philip and/or
can confirm or refute  :)

Then we have examples like Turkish (or Volapk) where  and  are used in
imitation of German orthography, but do not denote umlaut.  Indeed, in view
of the fact that umlaut is so often not indicated by two dots and that,
where it is so indicate, it is only i-umlaut involved, we should perhaps
this use of the trema 'fronting' rather than umlaut.

As you can see, to call the double-dot either 'diaeresis' or 'umlaut' can
(and does) cause confusion.  It would be very convenient to have a neutral
term which just denoted the symbol and nothing else.  But I guess we'll
continue to muddle on with the confused terminolgy  :)

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