Vietnamese uses a high number of diacritics. Are there any languages that are even higher, in terms of either the maximum or the mean of the number of diacritics added to letters?

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    Andrew, I reworded your question a bit to avoid using the (decidedly less than formal) term "zalgo".
    – Joe
    Feb 24 '16 at 7:36
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    This one is difficult to answer: What counts as a diacritic, what not (think of the stroke of the t, the dot on the i, the stroke in the letters ø or ð ...), does only standardised orthography as tought in schools count, or also transcriptions? Feb 24 '16 at 10:35
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    Tongue in cheek answer: any language written by a medieval scribe, but probably especially Greek or super annotated Arabic. (Note that this actually does show a problem: German ö/oe are equivalent, but do both count or not count? Abbreviations like q+tilde or c+tilde are common in Spanish, etc. Feb 25 '16 at 0:03
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    Greek vowels, when transcribed into the Latin alphabet, can have at least seven different diacritical forms, depending on whether they are short or long, stressed or unstressed, and if stressed, whether the accent is acute, grave or circumflex. I think that this number can be doubled if you count instances where a diaeresis (¨) appears above a vowel to indicate a syllable division, as in the name Mōüsês (”Moses”).
    – user8017
    Feb 25 '16 at 9:14

If we are speaking of current official spelling systems, I believe that Vietnamese wins the prize. Potential competitors would most likely be a language with a rich vowel system than included independent tone, phonation and nasalization contrast, which points to Ju|'hoansi and !Xóõ, which would have a higher maximum and probably a higher text frequency – if these languages were transcribed in IPA. However, Ju|'hoansi has been undergoing a progressive reduction in diacritics to the point that the 1994 orthography is diacritic-free (tone isn't marked). !Xóõ orthography likewise trades in diacritics for VC digraphs.


I do think Yoruba has at least the same amount of diacritics, if not more.

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    More than what? Vietnamese?
    – OmarL
    Nov 29 '20 at 19:18
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    – bytebuster
    Nov 30 '20 at 0:07
  • I've done a little research, and I've found out that both Vietnamese and Yoruba are tonal languages and with both languages, each diacritical mark represents a tone. Yoruba has three tones, one of which has no diacritical mark. With some letters in Yourba, there will be a little dot below the letter. Therefore, Yoruba has 3 diacritical marks in total. As with Vietnamese, there are six tones, one of which has no diacritical mark. Like Yoruba, with some letters there is a little dot below the letter. Therefore, there are six diacritical marks in Vietnamese in total. (Sorry, I was responding to @
    – Max
    Jan 30 at 13:29

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