Glyph of the Week

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visible shape: 3x4 px / total advance width: 4px

Glyph: ä Name: adieresis Unicode: 00E4

Latin Small Letter a with Dieresis

2018-01-15 Week 3/2018 posted by RFI

It's not easy to put a name on 'ä'. The same diacritic is usually identified with at least two radically different functions which can coexist to some degree even within a single language. One of them us the 'umlaut', the other one is called 'trema' or 'dieresis'.

The umlaut, natively identified as such mostly in German, indicates a sound change. Umlauted 'ä' historically derives from the two-letter sequence 'ae' and is still deconstructed to that when it cannot be rendered properly. The trema in contrast is a separation marker. In terms of pronunciation, it explicitly indicates that the 'a' remains unchanged by any circumstance. To make things more complicated, Scandinavian languages do not think of 'ä' as a composite at all but as a singular letter of their alphabets, even though it only comes after 'z'.

In conjunction with small letters, the dieresis is usually wider than the base form itself. If another letter follows, or a character that can fit under the dieresis, it aligns closely – through lots of individual kern pairs, to ensure flawlessness and best compatibility.

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