0

I do not mean acutes which denote special letter pronunciation, like in "canapé" or "résumé". I mean solely the acute accent mark which is used to indicate stress, or stressed syllable. For example, in Russian we use it in textbooks, books for children, in dictionaries etc. In Greek it is mandatory in almost every single word except monosyllabic ones.

Is it used in English, at least in some cases? I think if it were used, it would be useful because it would help distinguish such pairs as présent–presént, cóntrol–contról and so on. However, I have no idea where to put this mark in words like "repeat" or "deceive".

  • 1
    In dictionaries, accents are not generally used but pronunciations often include apostrophes ( ' ) to show stress. So "deceive" could be denoted as " de ceive' " where the apostrophe shows that the accent is on the second syllable. Bold apostrophes show the major accent if necessary: " mo' no syl lab' ic " – G-Cam Nov 14 '17 at 16:25
  • Oh, somehow I completely forgot that stress can be indicated by using a specific superscript mark, e. g. an apostrophe, before the stressed syllable. Thanks for that observation. – Alexander Nov 14 '17 at 16:28
  • @G-Cam - Lest your comment be misconstrued, such notations are generally found in dictionaries only; one wouldn't use such notations in, say, a letter or job application. – J.R. Nov 14 '17 at 16:31
4

English rarely uses accent marks; it’s not even unusual to see resume or canape where résumé or canapé is intended. For the most part, the stressed syllable is determined by context, rather than orthography.

  • It's actually difficult to write English words like entrée or façade with their diacritics, because the standard keyboard layout doesn't have easy shortcuts for these special characters. You have to specially enable the international keyboard in Windows, which most of us won't do (unless we commonly type other languages). So we instead just write these as entree and facade. – Andrew Nov 14 '17 at 21:49
  • @Andrew - As regards the choice of the EN-US vs US-INTL keyboards, yes, that's almost certainly a factor (although on every computer I have sufficient control over, I make US-INTL my default); however, even in handwriting, I often see diacritics omitted. – Jeff Zeitlin Nov 15 '17 at 12:42
  • @Andrew - I actually think that there are two factors with respect to the default of EN-US vs. US-INTL; first is that so few words, and all of them borrowed, use diacritics at all, and second is that when the keyboard layout was established in typewriters, they couldn't handle diacritics mechanically in a sensible fashion, and that carried over to early computers, which were not used for what we now call "word processing" or "document processing", and thus had no real need to support diacritics. That's since changed, but old habits die hard. – Jeff Zeitlin Nov 15 '17 at 12:46
  • Jeff, I completely agree, those are good points. It would be possible with modern auto-correct to have the system add the diacritics after the user types the word completely, but it's a moot point since the plain version is perfectly understandable. – Andrew Nov 15 '17 at 14:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.