Friday, May 4, 2012

Diacritical Marks

Diacritcal marks or diacritics are linguistic marks (or glyphs) placed above or below a letter. Diacritics – often called accents – can indicate or change a letter’s sound – though not all diacritical marks alter pronunciation.

One of the most basic English diacritics, the macron – a single bar (ā) – indicates a long vowel. In most dialects of American English, long vowels are pronounced like each letter’s name, like in cake, Pete, mice, grove, and rule. Conversely, the breve – shaped like the bottom half of a circle (ă) – marks a short vowel, like in cat, bet, fit, rot, and nut. Although these diacritics help with pronunciation, they don’t appear in the actual word.