Umlauts and mood

Sind die Deutschen wegen der Umlaute in ihrer Sprache depressiv?

The BBC once claimed an American psychology professor had proved Germans are depressive because of umlauts.

Mark Liberman has done a great job of writing this story up at Language Log (here, and here for Professor David Myers’ reply (beginning in true transatlantic fashion ‘Hoo boy, Mark’).

Languagehat has also taken the story up, and there are comments.

Some seem to think the Turks should be even more depressive, but then they should be bipolar, since by the rules of vowel harmony a sequence of words will either have lots of umlauts or none.

Mark shows that there is a (very remote) basis for this story in psychological experiments on the relation of sounds and mood.

On the subject of confusing word pairs (drucken / drücken, schwul / schwül), I am afraid I have myself committed the solecism of saying, ‘Ich habe die Katze gefuttert’ (‘I ate the cat’).

13 thoughts on “Umlauts and mood

  1. Perhaps PC wasn’t quite the right expression. I thought they might have been protecting people from germy potatoes, but maybe they just did it to make money. Wikipedia says:

    >>In 1974 the main potato part of the toy doubled in size and the size of its accessories were similarly increased. This was done mainly due to new toy child safety regulations that were introduced by the U.S. government.

  2. >>…they all have giant heads (Mr Potato Head just before he met the vegetarian cannibals, that kind of thing).

  3. Paul, you were obviously too young. But then again, the thing may not have been that common in Britain and my mother may just have happened to see one.
    I couldn’t find a picture of the original on the Web. I’d like to see one. Maybe in e-Bay?

    One of my elder brothers thought I ought to become a doctor. This was because he would have like to, but he couldn’t stand the sight of blood, whereas I was less squeamish but not interested. He bought me a toy called the Invisible Man, I think. It was a transparent body with inner organs that you could take out, paint in the appropriate colours and put back in. I can’t remember how old I was, just that the procedure was meaningless to me. Today, I would be curious to see where some organs are. But at that time, I painted them all the wrong colours and put them back in place.

  4. Ah, I’ve found one of these little guys… Link
    I’m sure someone could take offence at some aspect of him. Very cute indeed


  5. Is this Germany’s answer to Las Vəgas?

    Why the “ə,” you ask?

    “Comment Submission Error
    Your comment submission failed for the following reasons:

    Your comment could not be submitted due to questionable content: Vəgas

    Please correct the error in the form below, then press Post to post your comment.”

  6. It was the “Visible Man” – you most likely would have lost an “Invisible Man” shortly after having bought him. ;-)

    I loved that thing! :-)

  7. Yes, I thought I’d break the silence – I’ve been very, very busy. Today I forced myself to finally take a break from translating (for the first time in about two and a half months). It’s fun to see what everyone else is up to.

  8. Ah yes – the Visible Man, that makes sense.
    I could see no point in it at all. Now I can see it was a good thing to have got in the 1950s, but at the time I wasn’t interested.

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