German Language Stack Exchange is a bilingual question and answer site for speakers of all levels who want to share and increase their knowledge of the German language. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

My understanding is that "Umlaut" represents the diacritical marks over 'a', 'o', 'u', etc.

But what is an "Ablaut"?

The topic came up in the comments on this question.

share|improve this question
"Umlaut" has two meanings: it could be the diacritical mark, or the change of vowel sound (e.g. foot->feet). Also, see Wikipedia's Ablaut vs. umlaut. – Tim Aug 1 '11 at 19:03
up vote 4 down vote accepted

"Ablaut" is a linguistic term symonymous to apophony:

A vowel change, characteristic of Indo-European languages, that accompanies a change in grammatical function; for example, i, a, u in sing, sang, sung.The Free Dictionary

The term was first introduced by Jacob Grimm who defines it as follows:

ABLAUT, m. permutatio vocalium literarum, geregelter übergang des vocals der wurzel in einen andern; ein edles und ihr wesentliches vermögen der deutschen sprache, verschieden von umlaut.Deutsches Wörterbuch von Jacob Grimm und Wilhelm Grimm

Examples in German woud be:

singen, sang, gesungen
stehe, stand, gestanden
reissen, riss, gerissen

share|improve this answer
What is the difference between foot-feet (umlaut) and singen-sang (ablaut)? – Tim Aug 2 '11 at 7:19
@Tim N. My guess is that the difference between "foot-feet" are represented by an umlaut only in GERMAN. Meaning that they would probably be "ablauts" in English. – Tom Au Aug 5 '11 at 20:05
@Tom: In the Wikipedia article, the vowel change between the English words "foot" and "feet" is listed as an umlaut (the change of sound, not the diacritic). – Tim Aug 5 '11 at 20:33
@Tim: I answered your question here:… (it was a bit long for a comment). – fifaltra Jan 2 '14 at 13:44

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.