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Re: Umlaut

From:Christian Thalmann <cinga@...>
Date:Thursday, June 19, 2003, 21:31
--- In, "Mark J. Reed" <markjreed@M...> wrote:
 > Quick terminology question:
 > I thought umlaut was a specific variety of ablaut - a consistent featural
 > change.  But it doesn't seem to be; in German, for instance, while umlaut
 > does always move a vowel from back to front, it has an inconsistent
 > effect on the height: ä [e] is higher than a [A]; ö [9] is lower than
o [o],
 > while ü [y] is the same height as u.

That's not quite correct. Ä is [E:] and [E], ö is [2:] and [9],
ü is [y:] and [Y].  Thus ö and ü have kept their height stable,
suffering from some centralisation only when short.

German a is not [A] (that would be Swiss accent), it's closer
to [a].  Thus, fronting alone would have no effect.

BTW, in modern High German, [E:] is usually rendered as [e:],
but that a much more recent development.  Then again, modern
High German has refined all its vowels to sound more posh and
high-brow.  For example, short /I/ often comes out slightly
rounded, sometimes bordering on [Y].  I remember a boy in a
TV commercial for toilet air fresheners going to extremes:
"Ein Clück, und alles üst früsch!"

 > Is there some other consistency here
 > that I'm missing?  Is the effect perhaps consistent for a given
 > vowel across languages that exhibit umlaut?

The consistency is simply a trend towards high front vowels,
being triggered by endings containing i or e:  Hand -> Hände,
Dame -> dämlich.  ):-D

-- Christian Thalmann


Mark J. Reed <markjreed@...>