Jan Ivarsson TransEdit transedit.h at TELIA.COM
Wed May 2 20:44:01 UTC 2001

Wahrig, Deutsches Wörterbuch has a "Tabelle der Aussprachezeichen" (Table of pronunciation signs) that can help clarifying things (Englishspeaking people seem to have difficulties in understanding that in languages like German, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian or Finnish, the letters "ä, ü and ö" signify vowels in their own right - Finnish for example does not know any "umlaut" at all):

[a] short a (as in kann)
[a:] long a (as in Hahn)
[e] short, closed e (as in Debauche)
[e:] long, closed e (as in Reh)
[epsilon] short, open e (as in Fest, Gänse)
[epsilon:] long, open e (as in Bär)
[o]  short, closed o (as in Vokativ)
[o:] long, closed o (as in Lohn, Los)
[oe] short ö (as in Köln)
[o with slash:] long ö (as in Köhler)
[u] short u (as in rund)
[u:] long u (as in Gruss)
[y] short ü (as in Jünger)
[y:] long ü (as in führen)
(The Net poses problems when it comes to phonetics)

As you can see, to a German it is rather a word like "Fest" that is a problem, when it comes to spelling orally.

Jan Ivarsson
jan.ivarsson at

----- Original Message -----
From: "Douglas G. Wilson" <douglas at NB.NET>
Sent: Monday, April 30, 2001 2:34 PM
Subject: Re: umlaut

> >... He would only have to say "ü", since any non-deaf German would know
> >from the pronunciation that the vowel is "umlautized".
> > > >... I think the German schoolboy *would* say "u-umlaut" if spelling
> > orally.
- - - - -
> In my formal (although laughably rudimentary, no doubt) education in
> German, I was taught to spell aloud with "a-umlaut", "o-umlaut",
> "u-umlaut", and a quick glance at the Web suggests that this remains a
> standard. There does seem to be another standard using spoken "ä", "ö", and
> "ü", but I have not encountered it in German conversation with Germans --
> possibly the more transparent of the two standards was routinely employed
> in deference to this ignorant non-German. The "ö" and "ü" wouldn't cause
> any problems, but it's not clear to me how one would say "ä" (the letter)
> in such a way that it is reliably distinguishable from "e" (the letter) in
> German aloud-spelling.
- - - -
> -- Doug Wilson

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