This is a (slightly modified) translation of a text I wrote in January on the distribution of last names in Germany. It was requested by Petra and I hope it meets your expectations! My heartfelt thanks go to Robert for proofreading, all remaining errors are of course my own.
During the Christmas holidays I noticed once more how names can shape a region. When I’m travelling south, I realize that I’ve arrived home not only because the Alemannic dialect creeps into people’s speech but also because people are suddenly named Himmelsbach, Göppert and Ohnemus: Names that are, to my ear, deeply rooted in the region.
And sure enough: All of them can be shown to have the highest frequency in “my” or one of the neighboring districts (“Landkreise”). I then discovered an excellent strategy to find more of these last names: I scrolled through the facebook friends of my relatives. (And I got lots of ideas doing that – you could analyze public facebook profiles that specify the place of residence in order to created a city’s “name profile”. You could put more weight on names of high school students, because they tend to live were they were born. Major cities would have to be ignored because people move a lot, etc. However that research strategy might border on illegality and would set a rather bad example concerning privacy.)
So, what to do if you suspect that a last name is typical for a certain region? How can you localize it? Weiterlesen →
Welcome to Schplock’s first English post – a tutorial on rounded front vowels, namely <ö> and <ü>. Impatient readers might want to skip the more theoretical first “half” and jump right to the DIY-part below.
What is round in a rounded vowel?
Rounded vowels are generally produced by forming a circle with your lips. Or more technically:
Lip rounding involves drawing the corners of the lips together and protruding the lips forward from their normal rest position. (Maddieson 2008)
That’s a very common property in back vowels (produced by putting your tongue somewhere in the back of your mouth) like
[o]which doesn’t exist in English, but you may know it from French eau ‘water’, Italian sole ‘sun’ or Spanish tomar ‘take’,
[ɔ] in thought,
[u] in goose and
[ʊ] in book.
An extremely simplified version of where those sounds are produced can be found in the figure to the right.
In German, those four sounds differ not only in tongue position, but also in length: the “lax” vowels /ɔ/ and /ʊ/ are always short, the “tense” vowels /o/ and /u/ are always long.
Front vs. back
Rounding in front vowels is pretty rare in the world’s languages. The property can be found in only 37 of the 526 languages considered for the corresponding WALS-map. Only 23 of these possess both high (i.e. ü) and mid (i.e. ö) rounded front vowels.1
Source: Ian Maddieson, World Atlas of Language Structures. CCBY-NC-ND.2 (Click for a larger version)