Germa Umlaut (was: String name and Character Name)

From: Otto Stolz (Otto.Stolz@uni-konstanz.de)
Date: Mon Apr 25 2005 - 07:48:08 CST

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    Hello Hans Aberg,

    you have written:
    > The Swedish language symbol (a with two dots above) is a separate
    > letter, not to be viewed as an alteration of the letter a. So it is
    > atomic. It is reasonable to enter it as a separate character. In German,
    > however it is an umlaut, alteration of the letter a.

    Not quite so: It has its own phonetic value (almost equal to its
    Swedish sibling, IIRC), and is taugh as seperate character in schools
    (believe me, I am German and interested in linguistic issues, and my
    wife is a teacher at an elementary school).

    The term "Umlaut" for a class of characters does not render these
    umlauts as non-characters. There is a similar term, "Ablaut", e. g.
    for the "a" and "o" in "barst" and "geborsten" (from "bersten") --
    yet, this does not qualify "a" and "o" as non-characters, alterations
    of "e".

    Admittedly, German "" collates with "a" in level 1, but so does "A"
    in Swedisch. Still, German "" and Swedisch "A" are characters,
    distinct from "a"; the difference is accounted for in higher
    collation levels.

    Admittedly, most crossword-puzzles treat "" as two letters "AE",
    but that does not qualify "" as a non-character, in any other
    respect. In the fifties, some crossword-puzzles used to treat "ch"
    as a unit; still, nobody would ever have thaught of calling "ch"
    a (single) letter.

    Best wishes,
        Otto Stolz



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