It just occurred to me that writing reäl with a diæresis is useful for indicating the pronunciation /rɪəl/ rather than /ri(ə)l/ (or /riːl/?). Are there any occurrences of this in literature? (Is there a freely available corpus of English lit. that will settle this?)

  • What corpora did you try? – Mitch Mar 25 '16 at 13:55
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    I just checked the COCA corpus and Google nGrams real quick and got zip, zero hits for reäl. Of course, there are several other free corpora we could investigate. – Dan Bron Mar 25 '16 at 13:55
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    Adjective real as disyllable does occur in Joseph Addison's hymn "The Spacious Firmament on High" (3rd verse), demanded by the iambic tetrameter and so set by both Haydn and Britten (who includes it in his Noye's Fludde). It bears no diaeresis, however. – Brian Donovan Mar 25 '16 at 15:15
  • @BrianDonovan, I thought this was fairly standard. The first pronunciation above is the first in the OED (although the (mac) SOED gives only the parenthesized one). – Toothrot Mar 25 '16 at 15:44

There seems to be at least one text where a dieresis occurs over the "e" in "real", but I think that in practice, this is no longer an option in normal English writing.

From Google Books:

  • And they have indeed a great influënce, when preſented in his Spirit, as aforeſaid, to work in our hearts true and reäl repentance from all our ſins

    (The Way to the City of God Described, Etc, 1678)

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