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.

  • 2
    "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

"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

  • 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: german.stackexchange.com/questions/9425/… (it was a bit long for a comment).
    – fifaltra
    Jan 2 '14 at 13:44

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