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Culture & Religion

Here’s Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Knöw About the Umlaut

Arika Okrent of The Week recently shared eleven facts about everyone's favorite Germanic diaeresis.

If your knowledge of umlauts is restricted to the realm of heavy metal, Arika Okrent has a great article over at The Weekto help fix that. In it, she shares eleven useful facts about everyone’s favorite Germanic diaeresis.


For instance, those two dots placed above a vowel (ä, ö , ü) aren’t actually umlauts. Those are diaereses. “Umlaut” refers to the sound made when a vowel is affected by another adjacent vowel. In German, it leads to a rounded pronunciation of the first vowel sound:

“Try this: make a u sound (an ‘oo’). Now imagine there’s an i-sound (an ‘ee’) coming up. Keep your lips completely frozen in u position while you try to say ‘ee’ with the rest of your mouth. You should feel the body of your tongue move forward and up in your mouth. Hold that u sound with your lips though! Good. That’s an ü.”

If you’re a language nerd like me, this stuff is gold.

Another fun factoid: according to Okrent, the umlaut was developed by Jacob Grimm (yes, of thoseGrimms), who created the word from the roots “um” (around) and “laut” (sound). Take a look at the piece (linked again below) to learn more about German grammar, the Big Mäc, and why metal umlauts aren’t so metal after all.

Read more at The Week

Photo credit: Bernd Juergens / Shutterstock



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