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, 2016 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, 2016 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, 2016 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, 2016 at 9:14

3 Answers 3


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.


Ozumacín Chinantec has ten vowels (a, ä, e, ë, i, ɨ, o, ø, u, ʉ), which may be nasalized (indicated by an underscore), and nine tones (indicated by ˈ, ˊ, ˉ, ꜗ, ꜘ, ꜙ, ꜚ, ˜, ˋ after the syllable). This results in words such as "läꜙjë̱ë̱ꜙ", "ø̱ø̱hꜗ", or "hä̱ä̱˜". It seems that this beats even Vietnamese.


There is a non-standard language in northern Italy called Emilian which is divided into many sub-dialects. Some of the variations, like Bolognese, have at least one diacritic mark in almost every word. Example:

Al prémm sît bulgnaiṡ dla Raid däl Raid, dedichè a tótt i bulgnîṡ, zitadén e ariûṡ ed tótt i lè, e anc ai linguéssta e ai furastîr ch’i in vôlen savair de pió, e pò naturalmänt ai bulgnîṡ ch’i s én dscurdè la längua di nunón, mo ch’i la vôlen turnèr a inparèr!

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    This is much less than vietnamese, which can have multiple diacritics on a single vowel. Nov 9, 2021 at 7:25

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