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The term umlaut denotes:

Other than the Germanic languages ​​have related phenomena to the umlaut. This includes in particular the epenthesis of the i, which is common in Greek and Avestan .

Linguistic umlaut

The term umlaut in the historical linguistic sense was introduced by Jacob Grimm , who also described the phenomenon of refraction for the a umlaut. The ablaut , which has a different etymological origin and function, must be distinguished from the umlaut .

Vowel change

The umlaut is the change of articulation (tongue and / or embouchure) of a vowel in a morpheme on which a diffraction - or derivative syllable follows or earlier followed, which - in the case of i-umlaut - the vowel i or semi-vowel j contains . In the case of the u umlauts and the a umlauts, a vowel is changed accordingly in the direction of the sound u or a (for this vowel triangle or vowel trapezoid ) The term umlaut actually designates the process, i.e. the vowel change, and secondarily also its result, i.e. the shifted vowels.

In later times, umlaut very often appeared analogously . While it is according to the law in guest - guests and lamb - lambs , it is a secondary takeover in nail - nails and forest - forests .

Cause of the vowel change


The light vowel i has an assimilating effect in that it makes the vowel of a preceding syllable similar to itself, i.e. lighter. In Old High German testimonies, this effect only appears with the ă , since its umlauted allophone is denoted by the letter e , as well as with the change from ë (Germanic e)> i, which occurred earlier . In later times, clearly since Middle High German , the vowels â, ŏ / ô and ŭ / û also have their own graphemes (today ä, ö, ü ) or digraphs such as ae, oe, iu (for the diphthongs üe <uo, öu <ou ) on. The umlaut was retained even if the i or j was dropped or was weakened to Schwa . In Middle High German it says I valle, but you vellest (fall) because the second person originally had an i (Old High German fallis ).

A later development (by analogy), on the other hand, is the formation of the verb rüemen (to boast, next to ruomen ) from ruom (fame); Primarily no umlaut could occur here because in Old High German the original j of the infinitive ending had already disappeared due to the previous change from -jan to -en (Germanic * hrōmjan → Old High German hruomen, ruomen ).

Even with nouns whose stem vowel is changed in the plural ( man - men ), this change is explained by the influence of an i earlier in the final syllable of the plural form .

On the other hand, it is not uncommon that with the loss of an i or j , its effect, the umlaut, has apparently disappeared (so-called " Rückumlaut "), as for example in Middle High German and New High German in the infinitive for Gothic brannjan (to burn) is said, but in the past tense middle high German brante (now written burned), although the corresponding Gothic form brannida is. In fact, in such cases (long stem syllable) an umlaut never occurred (see the old high German brennen / branta / gi-brant  !), Since the i in West Germanic is still preserved in Gothic between the root of the word and the derivation of the imperfect and the past participle had already failed. This category includes a. also think / thought / thought, bring / brought / brought, Low German sööken / sochte / (ge) socht or English to seek / sought / sought ( sucht / searched / searched - because of the change from Germanic * sōkjan → suohhen in High German entirely without umlaut); the consonantic sound change ( k / g → ch / gh, fading of the n ) is due to the early disappearance of the i .


In the Scandinavian languages ​​( Old Norse , Icelandic , Faroese ), perhaps also in Old High German (the issue is controversial), u in the following syllable also has the same assimilating power as the i . In this case one speaks of the u umlaut .


This means the lowering before an a in the following syllable; see a-umlaut .

Umlaut to denote letters

New and old umlaut forms

The letters Ä / ä, Ö / ö, Ü / ü are also known as umlaut . The sounds referred to are often, but not always, vowels that have been converted in the historical sense. The meaning “letter for the sound ä, ö or ü” must be distinguished from the umlaut in the linguistic historical sense. Phonetically, there is no particular difference in sound or expression value to the basic vowels.

The German umlaut dots (also called umlaut characters ) were created from a small e written over a, o or u (see also the origin of the umlaut letters ).

A trema has the same shape as umlaut points, but a different function. For example, in Aëlita, it indicates the separate pronunciation of A and e . For the distinction between umlaut and trema, which is occasionally necessary in data processing, see trema .

Articulation in the German language

  • ä [ ɛ ], also [ æ ] or [ e ]
  • ö [ ø ] or [ œ ]
  • ü [ y ] or [ ʏ ]

Articulation in Swedish

In the Swedish letters are Ä ( [⁠ ɛ ⁠] and [⁠ æ ⁠] ) and E ( [⁠ œ ⁠] and [⁠ ø ⁠] ) at the end of the alphabet , after Å , which is pronounced similar to the German O. The letter Ü does not exist in the Swedish language with the exception of foreign names. These are z. B. classified under Y in telephone books.

Articulation in Icelandic

The letter Ö is the last in the Icelandic alphabet .

He is spoken: [⁠ œ ⁠] as a Ö in spoon.
Example: köttur ( cat )
However, if it comes before nk, ng or gi, it is pronounced as [ œy ], similar to feuille (French for leaf )
Example: fjallgö ng umaður ( mountaineer )

Articulation in Estonian

In Estonian , the letters Ä , Ö and Ü are at the end of the alphabet and are independent letters. A paraphrase of Ä as AE, Ö as OE and Ü as UE is not possible, since these would then count as diphthongs .

Articulation in Finnish

In Finnish , the letters are Ä ( [⁠ æ ⁠] ) and E ( [⁠ 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 Hungarian

In Hungarian, the letters ö, ü and ő, ű come after o and u, like o ó ö ő and u ú ü ű. In Hungarian, umlauts are called ékezet , in German adornment or embellishment , whereby the umlauts are short with dots and pronounced long with dashes (˝, double acute ).

Representation of umlauts

Origin of umlaut points using the example of the ä

In Fraktur fonts , the umlauts were formed by adding a small "e" after or above the letter (example: ae → aͤ). To refer to the convention, umlaut with two dots above the letters, developed in Germany from a vertical ligature of vowel and a above indicated Kurrent - e, which, like two spreads (such as 11) was written. In the 19th century, however, replacing Ä, Ö, Ü with Ae, Oe, Ue in capital letters was the norm; Back then, certain Gothic fonts still used the overwritten "e" even in lower case letters. In the case of capital letters, the Antiqua also did not originally have the superimposed points, so that Ae, Oe, Ue instead of Ä, Ö, Ü are often found in older texts of the 20th century . In some place names such as Aegidienberg , Oettingen , Uelzen and regularly in German-speaking Switzerland ( Aefligen , Oerlikon , Ueberstorf ) this is still official today. Otherwise this paraphrase is only common if the character set used does not provide the corresponding letters (examples: ä → ae, Ä → AE or Ae). In German-language crossword puzzles , however, umlauts are mostly written as AE, OE and UE.

In cursive script there are also other ways of writing ( allographic variants) in addition to the two superimposed points . The two most common variants are a) two short vertical lines instead of the dots (therefore, in Austria , where this spelling is preferred, the word ü- / ä- / ö -stricherl is also used ), b) a horizontal line above the letter, which is straight or slightly bent downwards. This bar can be both the U-bend and the Reduplikationsstrich resemble through which in the German cursive and lower-case letter from the small n respectively from the doubled nn (N) is differentiated. A careless implementation of this notation can lead to a mix-up between u, nn (n und) and ü.

In advertising graphics and in stylized writing, the umlaut dots are often alienated; z. For example, a single point or line or another graphic feature is used instead, which looks more original and should nevertheless distinguish the umlaut (see, for example, the logos of the FPÖ and KPÖ in Austria).

In Hungarian , on the other hand, two forms of umlaut marking are each to be assessed as a graphematic feature, i.e. that is, they have a meaning-distinguishing function. A distinction must be made between the dots ( trema ) and the so-called double acute accent (two adjacent acute accents), which, like the single acute accent on other vowel letters, is used to identify the long pronunciation.

In Finnish , accented characters (Á, Ó) can be used instead of the umlaut dots. However, this spelling is considered out of date and is only rarely used in handwritten texts and in advertising (especially illuminated advertising).

In Nauruan the umlauts are represented with a tilde (ä = ã, ö = õ, ü = ũ). The spelling of tildes is no longer common these days, so words with umlauts are usually written without tildes.

Representation and input in computer systems

Umlauts on German computer keyboard

Since early computer technology was often developed without taking national peculiarities into account, the display of umlauts was only possible in many areas, if at all, by making special adjustments.

In the seven-bit ASCII - character set umlauts are not included, which is why many older computer systems they did not do easily. However, according to ISO 646, twelve characters were intended to be used for national special characters. Of these, seven characters ([\] {|} ~) were used to represent the German umlauts and the Eszett (ÄÖÜäöüß) before the introduction of extended character sets ( DIN 66003 ). For the ASCII code, the additional use of the ASCII quotation mark (") was originally intended as an umlaut character, analogous to the double use of the tilde (~), the circumflex (^) and the grave accent (`).

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

In the command prompt of Microsoft Windows is still the old one is for compatibility IBM PC character set used so that umlauts and ß there other code numbers are as in other Windows programs.

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

Depending on the keyboard, the input of umlauts is different - on keyboards in the German-speaking area there are specially designed keys, on other keyboard layouts keyboard assignment software can be used to enter umlauts.


In Unicode there are two different coding forms of umlauts: decomposed ('broken up') and precomposed ('previously put together').

The form decomposed is formed by following the character U + 0308 (COMBINING DIAERESIS), which actually means a trema that has been added to the vowel .

The precomposed form is defined and coded as follows:

Coding in Unicode
character Unicode Surname
position designation
Ä U + 00C4 Latin capital letter A with diaeresis Latin capital letter Ä
Ö U + 00D6 Latin capital letter O with diaeresis Latin capital letter Ö
Ü U + 00DC Latin capital letter U with diaeresis Latin capital letter Ü
Ä U + 00E4 Latin small letter a with diaeresis Latin Small Letter Ä
ö U + 00F6 Latin small letter o with diaeresis Latin Small Letter Ö
ü U + 00FC Latin small letter u with diaeresis Latin Small Letter ü

In URL coding , umlauts are encoded according to UTF-8 and preceded by a% symbol, and umlauts should also be encoded as UTF-8 in e-mails. The latter should be implemented by every modern e-mail program.

The umlauts in URLs
character Unicode Unicode binary UTF-8 binary UTF-8 hexadecimal
Ä U + 00C4 00000 000 11 000 100 110 00011 10 000 100 % C3% 84
Ö U + 00D6 00000 000 11 010110 110 00011 10 010110 % C3% 96
Ü U + 00DC 00000 000 11 011100 110 00011 10 011100 % C3% 9C
Ä U + 00E4 00000 000 11 100 100 110 00011 10 100 100 % C3% A4
ö U + 00F6 00000 000 11 110 110 110 00011 10 110110 % C3% B6
ü U + 00FC 00000 000 11 111100 110 00011 10 111100 % C3% BC

Since it was not originally possible to specify the character encoding in the HTML source text , umlauts had to be used using so-called named characters ( named entities ) , which consist of an introductory , a symbolic name and a closing . Today any unicode character can be represented by enclosing the decimal number with and or the hexadecimal number with and . Furthermore, there is now the option of defining the character set using a meta instruction (<meta ... />) in the HTML document, which means that it is usually not necessary to display umlauts using named characters. &;&#;&#x;

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

Coding in HTML
character Unicode position HTML
hexadecimal decimal named
Ä U + 00C4 & # x00C4; & # 196; & Auml;
Ö U + 00D6 & # x00D6; & # 214; & Ouml;
Ü U + 00DC & # x00DC; & # 220; & Uuml;
Ä U + 00E4 & # x00E4; & # 228; & auml;
ö U + 00F6 & # x00F6; & # 246; & ouml;
ü U + 00FC & # x00FC; & # 252; & uuml;

TeX and LaTeX

TeX and LaTeX can set the umlaut over any characters. There are two commands for this

  • in text mode for typesetting creates \"aan ä
  • in math mode generates \ddot athe formula symbol
  • With the package yfonts, umlauts with a superscript e can be created for some fonts \*.

With the (outdated) package german.styor with the package babel, entering the German umlauts to "a, "oand is simplified "u. By specifying a suitable option for the package inputenc, it is also possible to enter the umlauts directly in text mode.

Modern TeX implementations such as XeTeX and LuaTeX support Unicode directly and therefore allow umlauts to be entered without the need for additional packages.

Other areas

Umlauts can be used in domain names using the IDNA coding process.

With typewriters, besides the usual design with separate umlauts, there are also types in which the umlauts are composed of separate characters for the letters and the umlaut dots.

Heavy metal umlauts are used to give band names a strange appearance and to express “hardness”.

Personal names with umlauts

People with umlauts in their names often have problems, as many electronic systems cannot process umlauts and one has to resort to paraphrasing (simple vowel + e). In identity cards and passports, in particular, the name is then written in two ways, once correctly and in the machine-readable zone (MRZ) with umlauts, which causes confusion and suspicion of document forgery, especially abroad. Austrian identification documents can (but do not have to) contain an explanation of the German special characters (in German, English and French, e.g. 'ö' corresponds to / is equal to / correspond à “OE” ).

The German name right (no. 38 NamÄndVwV) also recognizes special characters in the family name as a reason for a name change (even a mere change of spelling, for. Example of Schr ö to be Schr oe of, is considered as such). On 1 October 1980, the Federal Administrative Court again found that the technically caused erroneous reproduction of special characters on electronic systems can be an important reason for the change of surname (the plaintiff spelling wanted his name of G ö tz in G oe change tz , but initially failed at the registry office; file number: 7 C 21/78).

Alphabetical sorting

The sorting of words that contain umlauts depends on both the country and the purpose. For more information, see alphabetical sorting .

Web links

Commons : Umlaut  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Umlaut  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
  • Christian Lehmann: Umlaut , detailed description of the German vowel change
  • Umlauts instructional video

Individual evidence

  1. Duden online: Umlaut
  2. Cf. Duden online: umlauten
  3. ^ Fausto Cercignani : Early "Umlaut" Phenomena in the Germanic Languages . In: "Language", 56/1, 1980, pp. 126-136.
  4. ^ Fausto Cercignani: Alleged Gothic umlauts . In: "Indo-European Research", 85, 1980, pp. 207-213.
  5. Maximilian Weller, Grete Keienburg-Weller: The Speech Lexicon. Textbook of speech and speech training. Econ Verlag, Düsseldorf 1957, p. 259.
  6. Svenska skriv regulator