German umlaut – Two dots above the vowel
In linguistics, umlaut (from German um- "around"/"the other way" + Laut "sound") is a process whereby a vowel is pronounced more like a following vowel or semivowel.
German orthography is generally consistent in its representation of i-umlaut. The umlaut diacritic, consisting of two dots above the vowel, is used for the fronted vowels, making the historical process much more visible in the modern language than is the case in English: a>ä, o>ö, u>ü, au>äu.
This process took place separately in the various Germanic languages starting around 450 or 500 AD, and affected all of the early languages except for Gothic.
Umlaut is a form of assimilation, the process by which one speech sound is altered to make it more like another adjacent sound. If a word has two vowels, one far back in the mouth and the other far forward, this requires a greater effort to pronounce than if the vowels were closer and therefore one possible linguistic development is for these two vowels to be drawn closer together.
Practice your pronunciation in the next article.