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I don't know of any besides the horn on Ơ and Ư and the middle tilde on ᵯ and some other consonants I'm interested in particular in a diacritic precomposed with both "I" and "U"

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    There are several diacritics whose default position is neither above nor below letters; not all of them are used in any actual orthographies (e.g., I don’t recall seeing any language that uses ɨ or ʉ, but they’re used in IPA), but they can be applied to any letter (g̴, w̴, etc.) – that’s the nature of a diacritic. Even in regular orthographies, though, examples are not hard to find: Polish has ł, Danish, Norwegian and Faroese have ø, Icelandic (and Old English) has ð, Catalan has ŀl, etc. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 23 at 21:46
  • I like ɨ and ʉ but was wondering if there were any other examples. Also I'm looking for precomposed characters, not ones with a combining diacritic like g̴ – kwaalaateimaa Jan 23 at 22:05
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    The Cyrillic soft sign ь? Not sure it counts as a diacritic, but it is strictly a modifier with no sound of its own. – J... Jan 25 at 14:04
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    @J... Also the opposite sign: Ъ. I'd say these qualify, but I guess it depends on your definition of "diacritic". – Darrel Hoffman Jan 25 at 18:23
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    @JanusBahsJacquet What's the diacritic on ð (eth)? – Tim Pederick Jan 26 at 4:38

10 Answers 10

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Hebrew is one of those languages.

The dagesh is placed inside the letter. For example:

  • Bet without dagesh: ב
  • Bet with dagesh: בּ‎

The shuruk vowel point (nikkud) is placed to the left of the letter (afterwards, from the perspective of reading, since reading is done from the right to the left).

  • Vav without pointing: ו
  • Vav with shurruk: וּ

Note that these diacritics are considered optional in most contexts, and in fact are typically omitted from most printed material. The assumption is that if you know the language well enough, you will know how to pronounce the word without needing to check the diacritics. Diacritics are used in dictionaries, children's books, materials for learning Hebrew, and the Bible.

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    The second paragraph of this answer isn't quite right. A shuruk is identical to a vav with a dagesh; the dot is actually "inside" the vav in the same way that a dagesh would be, it's just that in some fonts the vav is just a vertical line so it's not obvious that the left side of the line is the "inside". (But, +1 for the rest of this answer.) – ruakh Jan 25 at 1:36
  • adding to ruakh's comment, the entire vav+dagesh glyph is the shuruk, not simply the dot. Shuruk is an example of a diacritic that appears to the left (after) the glyph it attaches to. The Thai abugida includes several vowel diacritics appearing to the left (before) and to the right (after) the consonant they attach to, as well as others appearing above or below – Tristan Jan 25 at 10:26
  • @Tristan: Shuruk is just the point. It is typographically identical to a Dagesh - a point in the middle of the letter, or after it in case of Vav - but its meaning is different: A Shuruk signifies an U vowel, while a dagesh changes a consonant's pronounciation. – Jonathan Jan 26 at 13:36
  • Nikkud is also used when pronunciation is ambiguous, and when writing poetry. – Jonathan Jan 26 at 13:38
  • Source for my Shuruk comment - that's how I learned it in Israeli grade school... – Jonathan Jan 26 at 13:44
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Some examples: d̵ which does not render well here (using the separate diacritic), but exists in Ð and đ, as well as e.u. o̵ (again, rendering problem), that is o-bar, and do on. The latter is official IPA, the former is orthography (đ in a number of languages including Saami, Vietnamese and S. Slavic). The rhotic hook ˞ is also not on the top or bottom, though it is top-ish. Slash is a conponent of a few symbols, e.g. Ⱥ in Saanich, ø in Norwegian, Danish, Faroese and S. Saami, Ł in various W. Slavic languages, ƛ in Lushootseed and other languages of the Pacific Northwest.

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    Note that the OP question is not limited only to the scripts based on the Latin alphabet. In Hebrew, the dagesh (דָּגֵשׁ‎) is a dot inside a Hebrew letter and it has the effect of modifying the sound in one of two ways, either making a fricative from a stop (with ב‎ bet, ג‎ gimel, ד‎ dalet, כ‎ kaf, פ‎ pe and ת‎ tav) or indicating a gemination (doubling) of that consonant in the pronunciation of pre-modern Hebrew. Also, Soviet Cyrillic alphabets for the languages of the USSR included letters Ғ (from Г), Ҧ (from П), Ұ (from Ү), Ҵ (from Т+Ц), Ҹ (from Ч). – Yellow Sky Jan 23 at 22:41
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    Note: while I didn't specify the Latin alphabet, that's where my interest is. – kwaalaateimaa Jan 23 at 23:08
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    I don't know about Đ, but neither Ø nor Ł are diacritics, they're separate letters based on pre-existing Latin letters (unlike Ń or Ś in Polish, which are exactly equivalent to "Ni" and "Si" and it's only orthographical rules that decide which one to choose). Those are not interchangeable terms, unless you also want to include G (which originated as a variant of C). – mathrick Jan 25 at 3:46
  • Then contain diacritics. – user6726 Jan 25 at 5:32
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    @JanusBahsJacquet But conversely, the fact that two letters are the same except for a squiggle doesn't make the squiggle a diacritic. Then there are sort-of diacritics like the one in Vietnamese d-bar, where it makes a lot of sense to look at the squiggle as a modifier, but you can't confirm this because there are no other examples. Would you consider the extra detail in G to be a diacritic added to base C, and if not, what is the difference between that and Vietnamese d-bar (or possibly ð)? – rchivers Jan 26 at 16:15
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Comanche uses “U bar” <Ʉ, ʉ> in the official orthography for /ə/. Other languages that use this letter in their official orthographies include Kanakanabu (an Austronesian lanuage of Taiwan) and Koyukon for /ɞ/ (an Athabascan language spoken in Alaska).

<Ɨ, ɨ> is used in Mfumte (Nfumte), a Grassfields Bantu language of Cameroon for /ɯ/.

Apart from vowel letters, <Ŧ, ŧ> known as “T with a bar” or “T with a stroke sign” is used in Northern Sámi alphabet, where it represents the voiceless dental fricative [θ].

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    Also barred h from Maltese (since you’re on the barred letters). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 27 at 9:23
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In the Japanese hiragana syllabary, the softening mark (dakuten) on the symbol て (te) is technically inside the letter, giving で (de).

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In Modern Greek the accent (tonos — τόνος) is placed on the left of capital letters:

Ά Έ Ί Ό Ύ Ώ

Contrast that with the diairesis sign (dialytika — διαλυτικά), which is placed on top:

Ϊ Ϋ

In Ancient Greek the same holds true for the acute accent (oxeia — οξεία), the grave accent (vareia — βαρεία), the circumflex (perispomeni — περισπωμένη), the rough breathing (psilòn pneûma — ψιλὸν πνεῦμα), the smooth breathing (dasù pneûma — δασὺ πνεῦμα), and their combinations:

Ἀ Ἁ Ἂ Ἃ Ἄ Ἅ Ἆ Ἇ Ὰ Ά Ἐ Ἑ Ἒ Ἓ Ἔ Ἕ Ὲ Έ Ἠ Ἡ Ἢ Ἣ Ἤ Ἥ Ἦ Ἧ Ὴ Ή Ἱ Ἲ Ἳ Ἴ Ἵ Ἶ Ἷ Ὶ Ί Ὀ Ὁ Ὂ Ὃ Ὄ Ὅ Ὸ Ό Ὑ Ὓ Ὕ Ὗ Ὺ Ύ Ὠ Ὡ Ὢ Ὣ Ὤ Ὥ Ὦ Ὧ

Again, contrast this with lowercase letters, which have the corresponding signs placed on top in both Ancient Greek and Modern Greek:

ἀ ἁ ἂ ἃ ἄ ἅ ἆ ἇ ἐ ἑ ἒ ἓ ἔ ἕ ἠ ἡ ἢ ἣ ἤ ἥ ἦ ἧ ἰ ἱ ἲ ἳ ἴ ἵ ἶ ἷ ὀ ὁ ὂ ὃ ὄ ὅ ὐ ὑ ὒ ὓ ὔ ὕ ὖ ὗ ὠ ὡ ὢ ὣ ὤ ὥ ὦ ὧ ὰ ά ὲ έ ὴ ή ὶ ί ὸ ό ὺ ύ ὼ ώ ῒ ΐ ῖ ῗ ῢ ΰ ῦ ῧ ῶ

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  • Same in Italian – Adam Bittlingmayer Jan 26 at 21:30
  • I’m not sure that’s really the same thing. The placement of the tonos is usually no higher than the ascender, but it is occasionally seen placed above capital letters too in older texts – and on lowercase letters, it’s above the letter. I’d put the placement of the tonos more on par with the placement of the umlaut in Ü in German (between the two ascenders instead of above the letter), or the shape of the acute accent in Icelandic and Irish (very vertical in Icelandic, almost a̍; very horizontal in Irish, almost a᷄, but without the bend). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 26 at 23:37
  • You could equally argue, of course, that in non-initial position on an uppercase letter, the tonos has an even more unusual position: it’s not there at all! – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 26 at 23:38
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    Not to forget the adscript iota. – phipsgabler Jan 27 at 16:01
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Polish has one letter with oblique strike in the middle and two letters with hooks in the right bottom corner. All these have upper and lowercase forms.

Ł, ł, Ą, ą, Ę, ę

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    The ogonek is below the letter (and ł has already been mentioned). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 26 at 23:12
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In Czech, the caron on lowercase letters "t" and "d" is placed to the side rather than directly on top: ť, ď.

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  • Why wasn't that applied to the majuscule forms T and D? – kwaalaateimaa Jan 25 at 11:22
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    Myself being Czech, I didn't consider this to apply here, but perhaps it does. In any case it is just typography. @kwaalaateimaa It is quite the opposite, all forms use a normal ˇ except these two where the long vertical stroke hinders a nice-looking combination so it is printed as ť instead. There is no single vertical stroke in T and D just like in any other letters. BTW, Slovak also has ľ and also Ľ. As you can see, the Ľ does contain that vertical stroke and hence the apostrophe-like form is used. – Vladimir F Jan 25 at 12:52
  • Yes, I was wondering why the variant forms for ť and ď didn't carry over to the capital letters for consistency. – kwaalaateimaa Jan 25 at 16:20
  • @kwaalaateimaa There is consistency: it’s always ̌ except when there’s a vertical ascender, in which case a ’ is used instead. So it’s Šš Žž Čč Ňň Řř Ěě Ť Ď, but in the cases when the diacritic would sit right on top of a vertical ascender, it’s ť ď Ľľ instead because it would look unaesthetic otherwise. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 26 at 23:20
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One approach to answering this type of question is to query the Unicode Character Database. One of the many useful features of Unicode that is it tracks various properties of each character, some relevant ones being: Is a Mark a Diacritic?, In What Position if any Does the Mark Combine with a Base Character?, What Block of Characters is a Character in?, What Characters does a Pre-Composed Character Decompose to?, and What is the Name of the Character?

Unicode has an online search utility, UnicodeSet, that allows us to specify one or more properties and will return all code points that match.

Let's start with a strict interpretation of the title of this question:

Are there any diacritics not on the top or bottom of a letter?

Now, there are actually several options for top and bottom ("above" left or right, "below" left or right, attached, etc), but those are still either "above" or "below" so they will be excluded. That leaves us with: left, middle / inside, and right.

The following search criteria returns 21 code points that are diacritics that combine on the left, right, or in the center (i.e. "overlay"):

[[:Diacritic=Yes:]&[:ccc=/^(1|21|224|226)$/:]&[:^Block=Musical_Symbols:]]

The ccc values (Canonical Combining Class) are:

  1. 1 = Overlay (i.e. inside)
  2. 21 = Hebrew Dagesh
  3. 224 = Left
  4. 226 = Right

I had to exclude 4 "Musical Symbol" characters that for some reason are marked as being diacritics (which might be an accurate categorization, but clearly not wanted in this case).

The question then goes on to mention:

... the horn on Ơ and Ư, and the middle tilde on ᵯ and some other consonants.

The "Horn" diacritic is categorized as "Attached Above Right" (ccc = 216), which is still "above" so it was initially excluded, but we can include it now along with "Attached Below Left" (ccc = 200), and "Kana Voicing" (ccc = 8). I originally excluded "Kana Voicing" class (the subject of @Jan's answer) due to the Unicode Standard (page 730 in version 12.0) describing those marks as follows (emphasis mine):

18.4 Hiragana and Katakana

Combining Marks. Hiragana and the related script Katakana use U+3099 combining katakana-hiragana voiced sound mark and U+309A combining katakana-hiragana semi-voiced sound mark to generate voiced and semivoiced syllables from the base syllables, respectively. All common precomposed combinations of base syllable forms using these marks are already encoded as characters, and use of these precomposed forms is the predominant JIS usage. These combining marks must follow the base character to which they apply. Because most implementations and JIS standards treat these marks as spacing characters, the Unicode Standard

And I wasn't sure if that really fit with a strict interpretation of the title. Either way, they are included now. The updated search criteria is:

[[:Diacritic=Yes:]&[:ccc=/^(1|21|224|226|200|216|8)$/:]&[:^Block=Musical_Symbols:]]

That returns 25 matching code points.

Ah, but the question goes on to say:

I'm interested in particular in a diacritic precomposed with both "I" and "U"

Fortunately we check decompositions. The following search criteria uses the non-Canonical decompositions to match any single character (i.e. the .) followed by a character having one of the combining classes noted in the previous search (excluding "Attached Below Left", ccc = 200, as that was breaking the search and not returning any value anyway):

[[:toNFD=/(?i).(\p{ccc=1}|\p{ccc=21}|\p{ccc=224}|\p{ccc=226}|\p{ccc=8}|\p{ccc=216})/:]&[:Alphabetic=yes:]]

That returns the following 106 code points (I had to filter out non-alphabetic characters as the search would otherwise return 164 code points, some of which are music symbols, some are math, etc):

ゞ ヾ ơƠớỚờỜỡỠởỞợỢ ưƯứỨừỪữỮửỬựỰ אּ-זּ טּ יּ כּךּ לּ מּ נּ סּ פּףּ צּ-שּשּׂשּׁ תּ ゔヴ がガ ぎギ ぐグ げゲ ごゴ ざザ じジ ずズ ぜゼ ぞゾ だダ ぢヂ づヅ でデ どド ばバぱパ びビぴピ ぶブぷプ べベぺペ ぼボぽポ ヷ-ヺ

Please note that no characters with a middle tilde are returned ("" == U+1D6F). This is due to none of them having a stated decomposition, which is noted in the Unicode Standard (page 298 in version 12.0):

Other Phonetic Extensions. The remaining characters in the phonetics extension range U+1D6C..U+1DBF are derived from a wide variety of sources, including many technical orthographies developed by SIL linguists, as well as older historic sources.

All attested phonetic characters showing struckthrough tildes, struckthrough bars, and retroflex or palatal hooks attached to the basic letter have been separately encoded here. Although separate combining marks exist in the Unicode Standard for overstruck diacritics and attached retroflex or palatal hooks, earlier encoded IPA letters such as U+0268 latin small letter i with stroke and U+026D latin small letter l with retroflex hook have never been given decomposition mappings in the standard. For consistency, all newly encoded characters are handled analogously to the existing, more common characters of this type and are not given decomposition mappings. Because these characters do not have decompositions, they require special handling in some circumstances. See the discussion of single-script confusables in Unicode Technical Standard #39, “Unicode Security Mechanisms.”

NOTES

  1. The O.P. also commented about focusing on Latin characters. With that in mind, in that final search we could have used [:Script=Latin:] instead of [:Alphabetic=yes:]. That would have returned just the 24 code points involving "O" and "U", as you can see here:
    [[:toNFD=/(?i).(\p{ccc=1}|\p{ccc=21}|\p{ccc=224}|\p{ccc=226}|\p{ccc=8}|\p{ccc=216})/:]&[:Script=Latin:]]

  2. In that final search criteria, the (?i) is to set the search pattern to be case-insensitive. This isn't necessary when using the . to mean "any" character, but I left it in the search criteria to make it easier for anyone to change the . into a particular letter and still have it return upper-case and lower-case results.

  3. Just FYI: there are even some diacritics that span two characters, either "above" or "below". For example, a double-tilde (code point U+0360):

    y͠o

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  • Out of interest, what is the ccc of e.g. U+E49? – rchivers Jan 27 at 9:03
  • @rchivers The THAI CHARACTER MAI THO has a Canonical Combining Class of 107. There are apparently 4 characters in that class. CCC 107 is a "Fixed Position" class: "combining marks whose positions were conceived of as occurring in a fixed position with respect to their grapheme base, regardless of any other combining mark that might also apply to the grapheme base." Classes 10 - 199 are all "fixed position". – Solomon Rutzky Jan 27 at 16:31
  • Thanks. That explains why it isn't picked up in the search, I guess. I find the official description strange because it does not occur in a fixed position relative to the base consonant, but moves up when there is a vowel mark in the way (อ้า อ้ำ). I can't think of a way to define "grapheme base" or "combining mark" that would make the description match the actual behaviour. Anyway it's a diacritic that doesn't appear directly above the letter - though not one used with Roman script. There is an equivalent at U+EC9 which presumably behaves in the same way. I think the one at U+1A76 is centred. – rchivers Jan 28 at 3:15
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(Others have already mentioned Hebrew, Serbo-Croatian đ and the Polish letters.)

A lot of the diacritics originated as a letter.

The dots in an umlaut represent an e. You can find examples with the little e inside the the a.

ь was added to л and н to yield Serbo-Croatian љ and њ (lj and nj).

I assume something similar for Russian ы.

But at least in the prescriptivist traditions of their respective homelands, they're not considered diacritics.

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  • Which ‘they’ are you referring to in the last sentence – just the jers? Umlauts are definitely considered diacritics in the prescriptivist tradition of German orthographies where they originated. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 26 at 23:41
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Yeah. – Adam Bittlingmayer Jan 28 at 10:36
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On the case of ð, Ð, ø and Ø discussed above, these are not diacritics. These are separate characters which there exists no "unmodified" form of.

Also, in Icelandic, Á, É, Í, Ó, Ú, Ý, Ö, á, é, í, ó, ú, ý, ö (right-leaning accent - NOT vertical) are all considered separate characters and have their place in the alphabet (and ö/Ö in Swedish and Norwegian) - and should therefore not be considered as alphabet characters using modifiers/diacritics - even though you do (for traditional, not practical reasons) need to push a modifier (mute-acute) to create all of these except ö/Ö which has a separate keyboard key.

I didn't see anyone mentioning the interpunct from Catalan and Occitan ( l·l / s·h )

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  • but they're composed as characters with diacritics by fonts right? – kwaalaateimaa Jan 27 at 12:43
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    Digraphs like ch and ll (Spanish), sz and gy (Hungarian) or aa (Danish) are also considered separate letters of the alphabet in their respective languages – that doesn’t change the fact that they’re made up of two letters. The same is true of letters with diacritics – in fact, I’d say most letters with diacritics are considered separate letters of the alphabet in their respective orthographies. In Unicode terms, ø and ð are not compositional, but they are still clearly and transparently derived from o and d, respectively, by the addition of a diacritic. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 27 at 13:15
  • ð is not composed of 2 letters, it is one letter and one letter only. EVEN if it looks different for you. By your reasoning, E is a diacritic letter composed of F and _ – Þór Sigurðsson Jan 28 at 14:00
  • @ÞórSigurðsson You’re either missing or deliberately twisting my reasoning. Ð was historically created by adding an extra stroke to a D, and this derivation is still completely transparent. Anyone who sees the letter will recognise that it’s a d with an extra stroke (I never said it was two letters: it’s one letter and a diacritic – unlike æ, which is a ligature composed of two letters). In opposition to this, E was never related to F in any way – they have entirely different origins and just happen to look similar. Also, you have to ping people if you want them to see your comment. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 2 at 23:51

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