Umlaut (linguistics)

The term umlaut is used

  • For a certain type of change of a vowel in the Germanic languages ​​, with the exception of the Gothic: a- umlaut, i- umlaut and u - umlaut. To be distinguished from the umlaut is the ablaut, which has a different etymological origin and function.
  • Special characters in the German alphabet with which the corresponding sounds of the NHG are presented, the language history all i- umlauts: ä, ö, ü and the diphthong AEU.

The name umlaut comes from Jacob Grimm, who also invented the term refraction for the a- umlaut.

Other than the Germanic languages ​​have the umlaut related phenomena. This includes in particular the frequent in Greek and Avestan epenthesis of i

  • 2.1 articulation in the German language
  • 2.2 articulation in Estonian
  • 2.3 articulation in Finnish
  • 2.4 articulation in Swedish
  • 2.5 articulation in Hungarian
  • 2.6 articulation in Icelandic
  • 2.7 Representation of umlauts
  • 2.8 representation and input into computer systems 2.8.1 Unicode UTF -8
  • HTML

Vowel change

The umlaut is the change in articulation ( tongue and / or lip position) of a vowel in a morpheme, which is followed by a diffraction or derivative syllable or earlier followed that - contains the vowel i or the semi-vowel j - in the case of i- umlaut. In the case of u - umlaut and a- umlaut, the change of a vowel is done accordingly u or a ( vowel to vowel triangle or trapezoid) in the direction of the sound. The term umlaut actually refers to the process, ie the vowel change, secondary and its result, ie the shifted vowels.

Cause of the vowel change

I- umlaut

The bright vowel i exerts an assimilative effect by making the vowel of a preceding syllable themselves similar, so bright. In Old High German products, this effect occurs only in the first ă in appearance, as its vice lautetes allophone is denoted by the letter e, as well as the earlier occurring change of e> i In later times, significantly since the Middle High German, also come with the vowels a, o / ô and ŭ / û the longer the more own graphemes (today ä, ö, ü) or digraphs as ae, oe, iu ( for the diphthongs üe < uo, ÖU < ou ) on. The umlaut is retained even if the i or j has failed. Thus we read in Middle High German I valle, but you vellest ( fall ), because the second person originally an i had ( Old High German Fallis ).

A later development ( by analogy ), however, is the formation of the verb rüemen ( boast, besides ruomen ) of ruom ( fame); here was primarily occur no umlaut in Old High German as the original j the infinitive was -en already disappeared due to the previous change of -jan ( Germanic * hrōmjan → Old High German hruomen, ruomen ).

Even with nouns whose stem vowel is umlaut in the plural ( man - men ), this change is explained by the influence of a previously standing in the final syllable of the plural form i

On the other hand, it also happens not infrequently that is apparently with the loss of an i or j also its effect, the umlaut, disappeared (so-called " reverse umlaut " ), as for example in Middle High German and New High German in the infinitive for gothic brannjan ( burn ) is said, but in the past tense middle High German brante (now burned ), although the corresponding Gothic form brannida is. In fact, however ( long root syllable ) in such cases is primarily never entered an umlaut (see already in Old High German Writing / Branta / gi - brant! ) As the i surviving the Gothic between the stem and the derivative of the past tense and past participle perfect tense in the West Germanic had failed before. Falls into this category and Others also think / thought / thought, bring / brought / brought down German sööken / sochte / (ge ) socht or English to seek / sought / sought ( seek / sought / wanted - because of the change * sōkjan of Germanic → suohhen in high German entirely without umlaut ); the consonantal sound change (k / g → ch / gh, loss of n ) is due to the early elimination of the i.


In recent Neuhochdeutsch deemed umlaut vowels and diphthongs usually ä, ö, ü, AEU. ä and AEU (instead of e and eu ) is generally written as where a related word or a related form with a present or even without historical knowledge of the language is easy to assume, for example, in lamb - lambs, house - houses, but such B. tavern ( tavern next ). orthography reform until after the 1996/2006

The umlaut has become increasingly important for the German flexion; it is now used to designate the majority, eg in mothers expressed the subjunctive, for example in would. In analogy umlaut were he used several times as a plural feature without ever was one -i - present: man / men / men; Word / words / words.

Incidentally, the umlaut is not carried out consistently, and some dialects have almost not at him. In some southern dialects, for example, in the Swiss dialects, the Umlaut, however, has spread ( by analogy ) and often occurs in places where historically no i was present, which would have the umlaut can cause ( for example Taag - Tääg or dog - little dog ). He is very productive and is also applied to younger foreign words ( Course - Kürs, Kantoon - Kantöön ).

U - umlaut

In the Scandinavian languages ​​( Old Norse language level, Icelandic, Faroese ) and the u is the same as the assimilating power i have in this case one speaks of the u - umlaut.

A- umlaut

In the Proto-Germanic language level there was also the a- umlaut.

Umlaut characters

With umlaut ( Pl: umlauts) are also referred to the letters that are used in English to represent vice lauteter vowels, so Ää, Öö, Üü.

Umlauts are distinguished in the palaeography of the vowels with diaeresis, which may look identical, but have different meanings (eg, the separate pronunciation of the vowels "A" and "e " in " Aelita "). To occasionally necessary in data processing distinction between umlaut and Trema Trema see.

Articulation in the German language

  • ä [ ɛ ], and [ æ ] or [ e] AEU / eu [ ɔɪ ]

Articulation in Estonian

In Estonian the letters Ä, Ö and Ü are at the end of the alphabet and are considered separate letters. A description of Ä as AE, Ö as OE and OB as UE is not possible, since this would be considered as diphthongs.

Articulation in Finnish

In Finnish, the letters stand Ä ( [ æ ] ) and Ö ( [œ ] ) at the end of the alphabet, according to the Y, which, like the German Ü as [y ] is pronounced. The letter Ü does not exist in the Finnish language.

Articulation in Swedish

In Swedish the letter Ä are ( [ æ ] ) and Ö ( [œ ] ) at the end of the alphabet, after Å, which is similar to the German O is pronounced. The letter Ü there is not, with the exception of names, such as Müller in the Swedish language. These are classified, for example, in telephone directories under Y. (Source: Svenska skrivregler )

Articulation in the Hungarian

In Hungarian, the letters ö, ü and o, u after o and u as o ó ö ú ü ű ő and u. In Hungarian hot ékezet umlauts on German Beschmückung or embellishment, the umlauts with points short, the ( " ) in length pronounce with strokes.

Articulation in Icelandic

The letter E is the last in the Icelandic alphabet.

Representation of umlauts

In Fraktur fonts umlauts were formed by a suffix letter or letters excepted small " e" (example: ae → a ͤ ). The convention to distinguish umlauts with two dots over the letter, developed in German from a vertical ligature of vowel and one above indicated Kurrent -e, which was, like two spreads written (such as 11). In some Fraktur on the written is to find "e" even today. The representation of a umlaut followed by "e" long remained in uppercase characters (hence today in some place names such as Uelzen ), is now only a few exceptions but only common when the character set used is no corresponding characters left (Examples: ä → ae, Ä → AE or Ae ). In German crossword puzzles umlauts are, however, usually written as AE, OE and UE.

In the script, there are in addition to the two questions above points also other spellings ( allographic variants). The two most common options are a) two short vertical lines instead of points (hence is in Austria, where this notation is preferred, ü-/ä-/ö-Stricherl of the speech ), b) a horizontal line above the letter, which is bent straight or slightly down. The latter notation has the disadvantage that it is similar to the u - bar, some lowercase u provided with the in the script to the letter n to distinguish him. Thus, in this notation a risk of confusion between u and ü.

In the advertising graphics and stylized fonts, the umlaut dots are often alienated; For example, instead individual dots, lines are set or other graphical features that act original and distinguish the umlaut should nevertheless ( see for instance the logos Austrian parties).

In Hungarian, however, two forms of identification umlaut are to be regarded respectively as graphematisches feature, that is, they have meaning-differentiating feature. To be distinguished from the points ( Trema ) is the so -called double acute accent ( two adjacent acute accents), which serves as the simple acute accent on the labeling of the other vowel letters long debate.

In Finnish and accented characters ( á, Ó ) can be used instead of the umlaut. This notation but is considered obsolete and is rarely used in handwritten texts, and in advertising (by a neon sign ).

In Nauruan the umlauts are shown with a tilde (ä = ã, õ ö =, u = ũ ). However, the case of Tilden is now no longer common, so words with umlauts usually without tildes are written.

Representation and input into computer systems

Since early computer technology has often been developed without consideration of national characteristics, was the appearance of umlauts in many areas, if at all, only by special adaptations.

In the seven-bit ASCII character set umlauts are not included, which is why many older computer systems they did not do readily. However, according to ISO 646 twelve signs to be used for national characters were provided. To represent the German umlauts and sharp s ( ÄÖÜäöüß ) | ( ~ [\ ] { }) used by them were used for the representation of the German alphabet before the introduction of extended character sets seven characters. For the ASCII code, the additional use of the ASCII quotation mark ( " ) was originally intended as umlaut characters, similar to the double use of the tilde ( ~ ), the circumflex (^ ) and the grave (`).

The ASCII extension ISO 8859-1 (Latin 1 ) contains all the umlauts. Almost all modern computers also use the first published in 1991 Unicode standard and can process and display umlauts. Since the earlier ISO encodings do not match the common UTF -8 encoding for Unicode, problems with the display of umlauts may also arise on modern computers.

In the Command Prompt of Microsoft Windows, the old IBM PC character set is used for compatibility reasons still so umlauts and ß there other code numbers than in other Windows programs.

Through foreign language optical character recognition is from above sometimes mistakenly ii, such as Miihe take effort, which is sometimes further used by German - ignorant.

The digraph entry is configured differently depending on the keyboard - on keyboards in the German language, there are specially assigned keys on other keyboards can key assignment software can be used to enter special characters.


In Unicode, there are two different forms of encoding special characters: decomposed ( broken down, ') and precomposed ( composed before ').

The decomposed form is formed by the consequences of the character U 0308 ( COMBINING diaeresis ), which really means a subsequently set on the vowel Trema.

The precomposed form is defined as follows and codes:

UTF -8

In the URL encoding umlauts are encoded to UTF -8 and preceded by the% character and also in emails umlauts should be encoded as UTF -8. The latter should implement any modern e- mail program.


Because you originally could not set the character encoding in the normal HTML code, you had umlauts using so-called named character ( named entities ) to use, consisting of an introductory and, a symbolic name and a closing; exist. Today it is possible to represent any Unicode character by one and the decimal number with & #; or hexadecimal number with & # x and; surrounds. Furthermore, there is now the possibility of the character set by meta- instruction ( ) in the HTML document set, so that the representation of the special characters using named character is not usually necessary.

In general, the named character of a vowel with two points is formed thereover in HTML according to the following scheme: & followed by the vowel followed by uml; .

TeX and LaTeX can put the umlaut over any character. There are two commands

  • In text mode for the text generated kit \ "a one ä
  • In math mode generates \ ddot a, the symbols
  • With the package yfonts can be generated umlauts with a superscript e for some fonts \ *.

German.sty With the package or with the babel package simplifies the input of German umlauts to " a, " o and " and by specifying an appropriate option for package inputenc, it is also possible to enter the special characters in text mode directly.

The Program XeTeX based on TeX and LaTeX. It is a development that supports Unicode directly.

Other Areas

In Domain name umlauts can be used by the coding method IDNA.

When typewriters there besides the usual design with separate umlauts also designs where the umlauts were composed of separate sign for the letter and the umlaut.

Alphabetical sorting

The sort of words that contain umlauts, is dependent both on land as well as on the purpose. For details on the Order can be found at: Alphabetical sorting.