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2004/05/25 20:35:59
R&B Stewart
Re: _[HN]_"Kriese_Lingen_nach_Amerika"
Datum 2004/05/25 23:35:19
2004/05/24 23:51:09
Betreff 2004/05/25 23:35:19
2004/05/17 22:05:28
Re: [HN] Vorfahren in Herzberg
Autor 2004/05/25 23:35:19


Date: 2004/05/25 22:37:24
From: J B <johnbrene(a)...

It seems everyone has a different take on the umlaut, even Germans, to include differing ideas of their "correct" usage. The origins of umlaut use are not perfectly clear, though it is widely believed they came into use as early as the late Middle Ages, or perhaps Renaissance era.

Inflection wise, the process of umlaut is a modification of a vowel which causes it to be pronounced more to the front of the mouth to accommodate a vowel in the following syllable. The letters written as a-umlaut, o-umlaut, u-umlaut were perceived as blends of the basic vowel with the "e" sound, and were originally written as the basic vowel letter with a small letter "e" above it. In very formal, ornate German print, you still see it written this way sometimes.

It's worth noting that up until the early 1940s, the printed and handwritten script used in Germany looked very different from that used in the English-speaking world in recent centuries. The Germans used a family of printed typefaces that in English are usually referred to as "Gothic" -- the German name being "Fraktur". At the beginning of WWII, Adolf Hitler declared that the Germans should uniformly change to the modern styles of Roman type, as used commonly by most Indo-European speaking countries. His reasoning was practical for the most part, citing the need for modernization and for greater linguistic unification amongst the Western/Germanic speaking peoples.

Most (if not all) immigrants to English speaking countries dropped the use of umlauts for no other reason than there are no provisions for their use in English, as they are non-recognized characters (and inflections). This pertains equally to German and Scandinavian (and even Turkish!) umlauts. Some immigrants simply chose to drop the accompanying "e", while others left it. Name modifications such as these appear to have been put in place rather arbitrarily, depending on the individual making the name change. Moreover, for reasons of wanting to appear "less European" (and by extension not stand out any more than necessarily) and in hopes of assimilating to the American mainstream as quickly as possible, such name transformations seem to have often served this purpose.

As it stands there are more Americans of German ancestry than any other group, and by a large percentage at that, and thus it goes without saying that there had to be innumerable name modifications made by Germans who settled in the USA alone. In addition to simple umlaut dropping, many complete name transformations occurred. Who knows how many Schmidts are today known as Smiths, or Kochs Cooks, or how many Schneiders became Taylors, and on and on.

About the only visible use of umlauts in English today are those adopted by heavy metal bands (although the names will then sound pretty silly to anyone who use languages in which umlauts are common). And thus the so called Heavy Metal Umlauts adopted by bands like Blue Öyster Cult or Mötley Crüe -- for all of you not familiar with 'head banging' music. (I at least know the names ;)

Lastly not every ae, oe, ue combination in German is meant to be rendered ä, ö, or ü respectively. The poet Goethe's name, for instance, can not be set as Göthe to my knowledge, though this may be more an exception than a rule. Perhaps our German friends can help us out better here.


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