laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Apr 24 04:38:25 UTC 2001
At 8:41 AM -0700 4/24/01, Peter A. McGraw wrote:
>I first heard of this usage (diaeresis vs. umlaut, both indicating the same
>orthographic symbol) on this list, I think. I've always (well, at
>least since grad school) used "Umlaut" to indicate a vowel
>alternation in the Germanic languages and, especially, the
>historical process that resulted in
>that alternation, and at least when speaking technically, used
>"diaeresis" for the orthographic symbol that happens to be used in
>German to mark the fronted vowel of each alternating pair and in
>English to mark syllabicity. Using two separate words for a single
>orthographic symbol, one of which confuses the symbol with the sound
>alternation it indicates, seems imprecise--but oh well, who am I to
>argue with the AHD4?
Well, the first part of that--using separate words for a single
orthographic symbol--isn't unique to the two-dot diacritic(s); how
about O ("zero" or "O")? But it's clear that there are enough
speakers who share Safire's "dialect" on this that ADH4, OED, etc.
need to add a sense for "umlaut" = DIAERESIS.
As for the French, Doug is right in that the term for the process is
"diérèse", with the first "e" acutely and the second gravely
accented. My dictionary just gives "tréma" as 'diaeresis', same as
"diérèse", but Doug may be right about the distinction between the
term for the process vs. the term for the diacritic marking it; I
think I knew about that when I was a French major, but that was 36
years ago, and my memory is no better than Maurice Chevalier's in
Gigi. Sigh. On the other hand, maybe the French aren't any more
careful about these things than we are.
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