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A diacritic mark or accent mark is an additional mark added to a basic letter.

Table of contents
1 Types
2 Usage
3 Generation with Computers
4 External Links


Some common types of diacritical marks:

¹/ Strictly taken not diacritics but parts of the character.

Marks that are sometimes diacritics, but also have other uses, are:


Grave, acute, circumflex, cedilla and diaeresis are used in French. However, not all diacritics occur on all vowels in French:

Umlaut is used in German on a (Ä/ä), o (Ö/ö), and u (Ü/ü).

Diaeresis is used in Dutch. For example in "rune" it means that the u and i are separately pronounced in their usual way, and not in the way that the combination ui is normally pronounced. Thus it works as a separation sign and not as an indication for an alternative version of the i.

In Ukrainian there's a letter ï, which is part of an alphabet, however.

Among the Scandinavian languages, Danish and Norwegian use ash (æ, actually a ligature), o-slash (ø) and a-ring or a-angstrom (å). Swedish uses a-umlaut (ä) and o-umlaut (ö) in the place of ash and o-slash, but also uses a-circle (å).

Acute, diaeresis and tilde are used in Spanish. Acute is used on all vowels to mark stress. Tilde is used on n, forming a new letter () in the Spanish alphabet. Diaeresis is used only over u () so that it is pronounced in the combinations gue and gui (where u is normally silent). In poetry, diaeresis may be used on i and u as a way to force hiatus.

Acute, grave, circumflex, cedilla, diaeresis and tilde are used in Portuguese.

Grave, acute, cedilla and diaeresis are used in Catalan.

Acute, diaeresis, and double acute accent are used in Hungarian.

Caron is used in many Slavic and the Baltic languages to signify either palatalisation or iotation.

Breve is used in Romanian, as well as in Esperanto together with circumflex.

Umlaut, used only on u (), in Chinese Romanizations.

Acute (Sắc), grave (Huyền), tilde (Ngã), dot below (Nặng) and Hỏi are used in Vietnamese, which combines up to three of them with a single letter.

Russian has two letters with additional marks. The letter й is now treated as a separate letter and has its place in the alphabet. The letter ё is officially equivelent to letter е, although in have different pronunciation. The most part of books are printed with е instead of ё, but people often use when writing by hand. A minimal pair is все (all, pl.) / всё (all, n. sg.).

In Belorussian there's a letter ў.

Modern English still uses diacritics, but only in foreign and loan-words with the exception of which is used to modify the pronunciation of words ending in -ed within poetry and songs.

Different languages use different rules to put diacritic characters in alphabetical order. French and German treat letters with diacritical marks the same as the underlying letter for purposes of ordering and dictionaries, but in German phone books the umlauts are treated as combinations of the vowel with a suffixed 'e'. The Scandinavian languages, by contrast, treat the diacritics as new and separate letters of the alphabet, and sort them after z. Other languages treat diacritically marked letters as variants of the underlying letter, but alphabetize them following the unmarked letter. In Spanish is considered a new letter different from n and placed between n and o, however, acute accents and diaeresis are ignored.

Non-pure abjads (such as Hebrew and Arabic script) and abugidas use diacritics for denoting vowels (not in the list above). Hebrew and Arabic also indicate consonant doubling and change with diacritics; Hebrew and Devanagari use them for foreign sounds.

See also: Alphabet

Generation with Computers

Depending on the keyboard layout, which differs amongst countries, it is more or less easy to enter letters with diacritics on computers and typewriters. Some have their own keys, some are created by first pressing the key with the diacritic mark followed by the letter to place it on. Such a key is sometimes referred to as a dead key, as it produces no output of its own, but modifies the output of the key pressed after it.

On computers with the Microsoft Windows operating system, one can also enter each character of the current codepage, e.g. windows-1252, by holding the Alt key and entering the respective decimal position on the Num pad, e.g. Alt+0210 is Ò.

In modern Microsoft Windows operating systems, the keyboard layout US International allows one to type almost all diacritics directly: "+e gives , ~+o gives etc.. In addition to this, the layout provides many 'special characters' behind the AltGr modifier: AltGr+t is , AltGr+z is , etc..

Using the Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator (MSKLC) people using Windows 2000, Windows XP or Windows Server 2003 can edit or create any keyboard layout.

On Apple Macintosh computers, there are keyboard shortcuts for the most common diacritics:

On computers it is also a matter of available codepages, whether you can use certain diacritics. Unicode tries to solve this problem, among others.

External Links