(Re: Umlaut and diaeresis) Should U+0308 "combining diaresis" better be called "combining double dot above"?

From: Karl Pentzlin (karl-pentzlin@acssoft.de)
Date: Tue Jun 22 1999 - 04:33:00 EDT

Maybe the recent discussion of the "umlaut or diaresis"
problem is partially due to the fact that the names of
U+0308 and the precombined characters (e.g. U+00C4
"Latin capital letter A with diaresis") are misleading.

Looking at the "Ordinary diacritics" page U+0300..036F
all names denote the shape of the diacritic directly (e.g.
"overline", "dot above") or use a traditional name
which maybe denoted a function in the past (like "acute"
was the function of that diacritic in Byzantine Greek)
but is recognized of a shape name nowadays
(or has any Frenchman a "heavy" or "important" feeling
when encountering an "accent grave"?).

The single exception is U+0308 "diaresis", for which
the name implies a function rather than a shape.

The same diacritic is used in German to denote the "umlaut"
(a vowel change to indicate some grammatical
fuctions, e.g. "ich hatte" = I had (in fact), "ich hätte"
= (if) I had). [btw, Icelandic has also an "umlaut" function
but does not denote it by two dots, and has presumably
its own name for it.] Therefore, this diacritic is commonly
referred to as "diaresis or umlaut mark".
(In German, äöü are also used as normal characters without
any umlaut function, e.g. "über" = over, but there is no "uber".)

I doubt whether languages like Swedish or Finnish for ä/ö,
Turkish for ö/ü or Albanian for ë have any reason to call
these characters as something like "umlaut".

The "diaresis" diacritic serves different purposes in different
languages, as most other diacritics do. Diaresis in some
languages and umlaut in German are only some of this uses.

Thus, it seems to be appropriate to change the name
for U+0308 from "combining diaresis" to "combining
double dot above". (Accordingly, this is also appropriate
for the precombined characters with diaresis.)

Karl Pentzlin
AC&S Analysis Consulting & Software GmbH
Ganghoferstraße 128
D-81373 München

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