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.
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