In Spanish, the letter 'u', pronounced like the English w, after a g (gey--"hay" in English) before an e ("ay") or i ("ee"). A Spanish 'g' followed by an 'e' or 'i' becomes like the letter jota (j, pronounced "HO-ta"), so gémelo (twin) is pronounced "HAE-mae-loe".
The g can be turned into a hard "g" sound by adding a 'u': guerra (war) is pronounced "GAE-rra" (with that lovely trilled "rr".
A 'u' between a 'g' and another vowel, however, forms a dipthong sounding like a "w-vowel" combination: Uruguay, pronounced "oo-roo-GWAY"º.
Now, what if you want this with an 'e' or 'i'? That is, something sounding like "gwae"? Then you add a dieresis to the 'u', making it ü! Result: pingüino (penguin), pronounced "peen-GWEE-noe".

Oh, and in HTML it's ü (even though it's a dieresis, not an umlaut (Ü for capital Ü)

º For some reason, this doesn't sound right according to general stress rules, but that's how I remember my high school Spanish teachers pronouncing it...

The letter ü is used in Estonian, German, Hungarian, and Turkish, all with essentially the same sound, a front rounded high vowel, not occurring in standard English, but something (though not exactly) like the one some younger speakers use in good*. Some languages with both Ö and Ü sounds use Y instead of Ü: Finnish for one; and French writes it as plain U. The IPA phonetic symbol is [y]. To make it, pronounce [i] as in machine with rounded lips. The HTML codes for capital and lower-case are Ü and ü

In German it generally arises from the umlaut mutation of a U that was once followed by I or J, as in Buch 'book', plural Bücher: pluralization is one common use.

Hungarian has a peculiar letter that won't show up in all browsers. An acute accent indicates length: so Á is long A, Ó is long O. Hungarian has short vowels Ö and Ü; to make these long replace the two dots with two acutes. In Unicode it's ű and makes this: ű

In Spanish, as noded above, it indicates the U is pronounced, not silent. In French there are rare instances where a similar treatment is required: the feminine of aigu 'acute' would, if simply written aigue, look like a monosyllable, so a diaeresis is added. However, it appears to be a debatable point whether to write aigüe or aiguë. To me the former is more logical because it is the U that is being marked as non-silent.

Both umlaut and diaeresis are processes, one a fronting of vowels in the Germanic languages, the other a separation of two vowels that would otherwise form a diphthong. The accent itself has no separate name: you can call it either. It doesn't matter.

It is also used in the pinyin transcription of Chinese, with the usual Ü sound, but only after some consonants, such as N, where both nu and are possible. After Q, X, and Y, a plain U is not possible, so these are written qu, xu, yu but pronounced with Ü.

* A discursion on the sound in good. A fronted U, phonetic symbol [u], has long been common in Scotland: witness the spelling guid. This isn't Ü, it's about midway between U and Ü. Many young people in England now also have a fronted vowel like this, but it's also unrounded, like Japanese U. It seems to be particularly forward in common words like good and cool. I recently noticed that a similar fronting occurs in some American speech.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.