umlaut (ŏmˈlout) [key] [Ger., = transformed sound], in inflection, variation of vowels of the type of English man to men. In this instance it is the end product of the effect of a y (long since disappeared) that was present in the plural; the y caused the vowel before the n to be pronounced higher and more forward in the mouth in the plural than in the singular; eventually there was replacement of the vowel in the plural. Other examples are mouse, mice; tooth, teeth; to fall, to fell; doom, deem. Umlaut is also called mutation and inflection. For the variation of sing, sang, see ablaut. Umlaut is also the name for the diacritical symbol placed above a vowel to indicate a sound change in Germanic languages, as in the German Fräulein and the Swedish fröken (see accent).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

More on umlaut from Fact Monster:

  • ablaut - ablaut ablaut [Ger.,=off-sound], in inflection, vowel variation (as in English sing, sang, sung, ...
  • German language: Distinctive Features - Distinctive Features Besides differences in word order, the German language is unlike English in ...
  • inflection - inflection inflection, in grammar. In many languages, words or parts of words are arranged in ...
  • Madeleine Albright - Biography of Madeleine Albright, U.S. Secretary of State, 1997-2001
  • Germanic languages: Common Characteristics - Common Characteristics Strong evidence for the unity of all the modern Germanic languages can be ...

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Language and Linguistics

Play Hangman

Play Poptropica

Play Quizzes

Play Tic Tac Toe