Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Apr 26 02:56:30 UTC 2001

At 12:22 AM -0500 4/26/01, Mark Odegard wrote:
>>From: Mark_Mandel at DRAGONSYS.COM
>>If you're talking with an American about the spelling of a word in the
>>Roman alphabet in any language, you have a much better chance of being
>>understood if you call the diacritic in question an "umlaut" than if you
>>call it a "dieresis". As far as I'm concerned, that's all that's necessary
>>to validate this usage. The high general probability that your interlocutor
>>doesn't know the language in question, let alone the historical or
>>synchronic processes that motivate the presence of the diacritic in this
>>particular word, only strengthens the argument.
>Umlaut, diaeresis and trema all seem to be used for the double dot over a

Is "tréma" used outside of French?

>As Mark Mandel says, its unlikely that the latter two terms are
>going to be understood by the average speaker.

But the average speaker doesn't necessarily call the two dots over
the second of two vowels in a non-diphthong (coöperation, reënter) an
umlaut, and I see no reason to encourage them to do so.  I'd rather
call them two dots over a letter.  Of course I care more about how we
think of them than what we call them--we pronounce "505" 'five oh
five', but we know the 0 is "really" a zero, not an o, so maybe I
should accept that people call a diaeresis an umlaut but know it's
not "really" an umlaut...


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