1. dillseed
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    dillseed Active Member

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    Are diacritic marks optional?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by dillseed, May 23, 2014.

    Are diacritic marks optional?

    Or should we use them in all words that have them?

    Example:

    résumé instead of resume

    Thank you.
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I would not use those diacritics for resume, tho, confusingly, I am a stickler for its use in cliché. o_O For legal translations, the only diacritics I reproduce in the English product (from Spanish) are the tilde (mañana) and the rare umlaut (Mayagüez), but only ever in proper nouns, which would be the only nouns left untranslated.
     
  3. sunsplash
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    sunsplash Bona fide beach bum

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    I can't answer as to whether we should but I will say I always do. Especially when you have a word like résumé that reads as a completely different word without its accent marks. My last name ends in "é" and it drives me batty when it's left off as it completely changes the pronunciation and looks and sounds ridiculous without it, lol. Pinata doesn't look nearly are correct as piñata. My kids call my grandparents Vovó and Vovô...spelled the same but completely different pronunciations and without their marks, indistinguishable. I suppose for those with little to no understanding of them it might not make a difference, or even offer confusion without explanation, but I've always used them and have a hard time being away from my Alt-codes for the ones I've not memorized...I always seem to need them when I don't think I will.
     
  4. Komposten
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    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    As sunsplash said, the diacritic marks are their to give a clue of how to pronounce a word, and thus removing them could lead to confusion for the reader. For example, reading "resume" I instantly think that you talk about resuming a paused video, going back to working, etc. while "résumé" sends my thoughts to a summary or job application.

    Another example, taken from Swedish, is words like "armé" and "arme", where the former means "army" and the latter is about equivalent of "poor" (as in "that poor guy"). They might be spelled almost identically, yet have two completely different meanings.

    Seeing as the diacritics help the reader, I can't find a reason to remove them. It isn't really that much of a chore to put them there, after all. And in case it is already to late, you always have "search and replace". ;)
     
  5. dillseed
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    dillseed Active Member

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    Thank you!
     
  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    But there's a difference with words like resume or cliche. Though these words are of foreign origin, they are well rooted in the English language at this point. I know across the pond what I call a resume is called a CV, but here in the States, resume is the standard term. As a native speaker I feel no confusion in pronunciation when faced with: Have you updated your resume in order to resume your position with the company?

    Where does one draw the line when words are already adopted and in common play? I could make a similar argument for words of Asiatic origin obligatorily being written in Kanji characters because rendering them in Pinyin removes the radicals within the kanji glyphs that would differentiate two words of similar or same pronunciation.
     
  7. Komposten
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    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    In most cases I suppose the different versions of a word (with or without diacritic marks) do not only have different meanings, but belong to different parts of speech as well, and thus mixing them up is hardly likely (like in your example, where the former is a noun and the latter a verb). I cannot, however, see that as a reason to drop the diacritics and with them the aid of pronunciation they provide. In my point of view it is better to make reading easy, rather than chancing that the reader does not find the lack of diacritics a hindrance.
     
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  8. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Resume" means to continue or recommence
    "Résumé", is a compilation of a person's credentials and/or experience.
    There is a distinct difference between them.

    Consider if your name was... Ralph. Somebody might decide, is it really necessary to spell it that way? Why can't I just spell it Ralgh or Ralf? The arbitrary manipulation of spelling, in grade school, would earn you a failing grade. Why, then, as a reasonably intelligent adult, would it be okay to do so?

    (Sorry, but this is a soapbox topic for me!)
     
  9. sunsplash
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    sunsplash Bona fide beach bum

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    That's a fair point so I'll amend my answer to include "those I'm familiar with" instead of all but, when unsure, I do check. The only times I would not use them is if the Anglicized word is now more commonplace, like hotel vs. hôtel...though if I'm writing a character with a French accent, I will spell it in the original way. :whistle: In your example 'Have you updated your resume in order to resume your position with the company?' I personally read it phonetically and have to back track to correct the statement in my head while reading, even though the context it's presented in leaves no room for misinterpretation of the usage. The accent marks personally allow me to read more smoothly, leaving no room for misunderstanding...otherwise I pause and think about how I wish it was included to make it easier. Maybe I have issues, LOL.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    since sans the accent aigu marks, the word becomes 'resume' as in 'continue' i always use them... in using any foreign words, the marks should be included... even if it's become common usage in english, it's still a guide to how the word should be pronounced...

    if english speakers ever start calling a 'ray-zoo-may' a 'ree-zoom' then go ahead and drop the marks!
     
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  11. Komposten
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    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I had a similar discussion like this one about a Swedish phenomenon a while back. In Swedish we tend to write words together and, by doing so, give them new meanings. A lot of people seem to have trouble with recognising when write such words together and thus it has been discussed whether or not to write every separate word for itself (as in most of the English language). It seems easier to write these things as separate words, and in most cases there is no doubt what you are referring to. However, writing the words together as one indicates how to pronounce the words and therefore adding spaces between the words would make a lot people have to reread every sentence (or just the word in question) in order to sort out the meaning the author actually wanted to convey.
    As with the diacritic marks, making it a rule not to write these words together would make reading more of a chore for a lot of people, while keeping the words written together makes reading easier for everyone.
     
  12. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I prefer seeing the diacritics, but they're a complete pain in the ass to use on my keyboard. They're all alt codes, and I haven't memorized them, so every time I want to write résumé, I have to bring up an alt-code list, look up the é, and hold down the alt key while typing three digits (remembering to set Num Lock first). That's a lot of work for the sake of getting an accent on the e, especially since most readers of English would recognize the word from context without the marks.

    I wish it were easier to access these accents without going through all the silliness.
     
  13. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Well, then, shall we spell revolution as révolution? Add to that all the other words that end in -tion in English that would take a diacritic in French because every single last one of those words comes to English directly from French by way of Norman conquest.
     
  14. sunsplash
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    sunsplash Bona fide beach bum

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    Revolution and révolution don't present changes in definition with pronunciation though when said/read in English. I for one wish the English language had accents marks themselves...thinking of read vs. read, wind vs. wind, and other homographs.
     
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  15. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    These homographs were actually going to be my next point of argumentation. :D We happily accept them and think nothing of them (And these are true Anglo-Saxon rooted words. As native as native gets to the Mother Tongue.), but suddenly résumé as resume is an insurmountable hurtle? We don't redress the ridiculousness of laugh, bough, and through, but we would add diacritics to a language that technically does not use them? :whistle:
     
  16. Komposten
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    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    My (Swedish) keyboard has a fancy little button to the left of backspace. When you press it nothing seems to happen, and then, when you write a letter, the diacritic magically appears above the character. :love:
    Using the shift key I can get both the left- and right-angled ones without any problems: é, è, í, ì, ú, ù, á, à, ý.
     
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  17. Komposten
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    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    How would you use diacritics to show the pronunciation of "read" vs "read"? :confused:
    Since the "ea" is pronounced as one vowel, you'd have to either replace them with a single "e" with a diacritic or somehow add diacritics to both of them without causing problems with separating the couple into two vowels.
     
  18. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I would not use diacritics at all in those cases. That's my point. ;)
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2014
  19. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Off topic, but diacritics marks are a breeze on a Mac keyboard. The most common are option+letter, and the more obscure are accessed by just holding down the letter and you get a little pop up choice bubble.
     
  20. sunsplash
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    sunsplash Bona fide beach bum

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    The English language is ridiculous in many respects, I'll give you that. I'm not suggesting that we add them to existing English, I just think it would've helped with many of the homographs when initially constructed...after all, dictionaries use them to help differentiate pronunciations and show how to properly say them. I'm not a fluent in Spanish like you so I'll use some very basic words that I remember from high school, like mi vs. mí and que vs. qué. They serve their purpose. When bringing foreign words into English and using them with their foreign definitions, I don't see any reason to leave the accent marks out just for the sake of the writer, but can accept facade over façade because there is no change to the meaning or pronunciation of the word. My particular beef is when there is an existing English word that looks identical to its foreign counterpart and each have a separate meaning...I think it is then especially important to use the diacritic marks.
     
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  21. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have always been one to mock the foolishness of the English languages. Those 'gh' ending words used to throw my teachers into a tizzy when I would deliberately mispronounce them. And then, when I was told that 'bough' is pronounced bow, (as in taking a bow at the end of a performance) I, less than innocently, asked, "Then can you milk a c-o-u-g-h?"

    Yes. I've been a hemorrhoid since a very early age!

    The fact of the matter is, many words taken from foreign languages have been adopted and adapted into the English language. Those words that were appreciably changed in pronunciation or meaning by the non-use of diacritical marks tended to retain them into the twenty-first century. Those not noticeably changed by the absence of those marks generally found them dropped due to 'lack of necessity'.

    Having watched the progress of the dumbing down of America to the point that college admissions testing has lowered standards because not enough kids can pass, for me, not using them is simply another sign of not caring enough to use your naturally endowed gifts and talents to 'do it right'. Do we prefer to assimilate to the lowest common denominator? Or should we do our part to elevate that intellectual gene pool?
     
  22. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    It all depends on one's take on the matter. I don't consider standardizing a word to the orthographics of English as a "dumbing down". Again, where does one draw the line? Shall we all learn Kanji, or Arabic script? How about Cyrillic? There are no letters in English that distinguish the difference between ы, и, and й and none that approximate the x of Russian. Shall we call for those letters to be included into the Latin Alphabet to represent these unique sounds when needed? Let's look at it outside the vacuum of just English. In Spanish, regimentation is the rule. It doesn't matter where a word comes from, if it is adopted into Spanish, the spelling must, and I mean must, follow the strict orthographic code of Castellano. Does this mean the Spanish language has taken the "dumbed down" route, or is it just trying to avoid the mangled mess of idiosyncrasies we have the gall to call "rules" in English. :p
     
  23. Komposten
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    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    My point as well. Diacritics cannot be used in those cases, thus they shouldn't be. That doesn't at all affect the point of using diacritics in other cases. :)

    I've always thought that a "c" followed by an "a" should be pronounced as a "k" (as in "cat", "car" and "cash"). Therefore that little thing (is it also a diacritic?) has to be present on the "c" in "façade" in order to show that it should sound like an "s".
     
  24. Komposten
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    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    We add the diacritics to aid the reading of texts that use anglicised words. Adding all other languages' alphabets to the English one would not be an aid, but a hindrance. Adopting words from Russian, Arabic or another language with a separate alphabet requires that the word's pronunciation is changed to work with our letters. While writing a Russian word, Cyrillic script (or phonetics) should probably be used, but writing an anglicised version of a Russian word should not require that. In most cases the pronunciation is probably not the same anyway as the word is adopted within the English accent.

    Yes, we might have added the diacritics to show how to emphasize foreign words, but they're an aid and not completely new characters, and they work for words from any language and not only French.
     
  25. sunsplash
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    sunsplash Bona fide beach bum

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    You are right. Bad example on my part. What about a word that doesn't translate to anything (in modern usage) without the diacritic marks, like pâté? You don't eat pate (as in pāt) and although it's still a familiar enough word and dish, doesn't using the proper marks seem reasonable, if not necessary here? I would instinctively read pate as pāt, not pâté.
     

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