Diacritical mark

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Diacritical marks
designation character
Acute, simple ◌́
Acute, double ◌̋
Breve, about it ◌̆
Breve, including ◌̮
Cedilla, including ◌̧
Cedilla, about it ◌̒
Gravis, simple ◌̀
Gravis, double ◌̏
hook ◌̉
Hatschek ◌̌
horn ◌̛
Comma below ◌̦
Coronis ◌̓
Kroužek, about it ◌̊
Kroužek, including ◌̥
Macron, about it ◌̄
Macron, underneath ◌̱
Ogonek ◌̨
Period about that ◌̇
Point below ◌̣
Dash ◌̶
Alcohol asper ◌̔
Spiritus lenis ◌̕
Tilde, about it ◌̃
Tilde, underneath ◌̰
Trema, about it ◌̈
Trema, including ◌̤
circumflex ◌̂

Diacritical marks or diacritics (singular diacritic, diacritic ; from Greek διακρίνειν diakrinein , "distinguish") are small characters attached to letters such as dots, lines, ticks, arcs or circles that indicate a pronunciation or accentuation deviating from the unmarked letter and the Letters are above or below, but also before or after and in some cases go through the letter. The character thus modified is sometimes considered to be the same, sometimes a separate letter. The diacritical marks allow an alphabet to be expanded without having to invent new letters.

Above all , diacritical marks can be found in the many Latin alphabets , but also in Arabic and Hebrew scripts as well as in Indian scripts; here they mostly serve to indicate the vocalization . The use of certain diacritical marks is often restricted to individual or related languages, which means that they can be used as identifiers for these languages. Diacritical marks are also used in scientific transliteration systems and in the International Phonetic Alphabet .

The same diacritical mark can have different functions in different languages. The appearance of the diacritical marks also varies from time to time. In ancient Greek, the circumflex , the perispomene , can also be written ~.

Not all fonts use diacritical marks to expand the alphabet. In different scripts, some sounds are written with separate letters that have to be represented in other scripts with diacritics or digraphs, e.g. B. Cyrillic separate letters to many sounds that in languages with Latin alphabet are represented by diacritics, such ш for the sound [⁠ ʃ ⁠] and ж for the sound [⁠ ʒ ⁠] , in other Languages ​​written š or ž .

Diacritical marks in German

In the German alphabet there are only the umlaut dots (in äöü ) as diacritical marks . The German umlaut dots were created from a small e written  over a , o or u (see also the origin of the umlaut letters ). They indicate a sound that differs from the base letters aou and which can have a completely different meaning (e.g. say - saw ). Therefore the umlauts in German are interpreted as independent letters and have their own names: Ä  [ɛː], Ö  [øː], Ü  [yː]. The umlauts can also appear as ablaut (e.g. hands - hands ).

Ä, Ö, Ü do not have a fixed place in the alphabet. When listing the alphabet, they are usually listed at the end, together with ß . When words and names are sorted alphabetically , they are arranged differently:

  • like A, O and U in some lexicons and dictionaries;
  • like Ae, Oe and Ue in some lexicons and dictionaries as well as in lists of names (e.g. telephone books) in Germany;
  • after Az, Oz, Uz in lists of names in Austria.

There are other diacritical marks in foreign words and names, including the trema . It looks exactly like umlaut dots, but has a different function: in Citroën , for example, it shows the separate pronunciation of the vowels o and e . The French word à (commercial language: pro , je etc.) also contains a diacritical: `( grave accent ).

Diacritical marks of the Latin writing system

Diacritical marks often have different functions in different languages, see the articles for the respective language.

Diacritical marks in data processing


On typewriters , diacritical marks do not cause a character feed , the carriage stops and the base letter is entered. This input sequence is based on the fact that the reverse order would be associated with disproportionate mechanical effort.

On computer keyboards, this was mostly retained for the diacritical marks used in the respective language, in order to facilitate the switch from the typewriter to the computer. Since the stop of accent keys (such. As ^, ¨ ° ~, `, ') not initially displayed, they are sometimes called" dead keys , dead keys "or dead keys designated (English). For the output of single diacritical marks, the Unicode standard recommends the non-breaking space ( Unicode U + 00A0) as the preceding base character , e.g. B. ´ (free-standing acute ), represented by U+00A0 U+00B4.

Many special characters can also be entered under Microsoft Windows using Alt+ <three-digit number on the numeric keypad>. The three-digit decimal number corresponds to the number of the ISO 8859-1 characters; the same is possible with four-digit Unicode numbers. However, availability depends on the software, not only the operating system but also the keyboard driver and input assistance programs; see input method .

Another input method uses a composition key ( compose, multi-key ), for example an äComp " a can be generated on an English keyboard by pressing the keys one after the other . This input method is the standard among many GNU / Linux systems.


The Unicode standard prescribes the following sequence: first the base letter, then the diacritical mark.

In many languages ​​and even more so in linguistic texts, the “stacking” of diacritical marks is common. The Unicode standard stipulates that several diacritical marks must be used in the order in which they are mentioned from the inside, i.e. H. directly at the base character, outwards, away from the base character, to the base character.

Concrete Unicode fonts and software support the stacking of any diacritics to varying degrees. This requires advanced writing techniques such as OpenType , AAT or Graphite .

See also


  • Rose Hartmann: Duden. Typesetting and correction. Edited by Brigitte Witzer. Dudenverlag, Mannheim 2003, ISBN 3-411-70551-5 , p. 341.
  • Hadumod Bußmann (Ed.) With the collaboration of Hartmut Lauffer: Lexikon der Sprachwissenschaft. 4th, revised and bibliographically supplemented edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-520-45204-7 .

Web links

Wiktionary: diacritical mark  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Diakritikon  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. especially vowel diacritics in Abugidas
  2. Unicode 5, Chapter 2 , page 43ff. (PDF, English; 1.22 MB)