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What I mean by no diacritics.

Czech has: ř, ů, á, š ...

Spanish has: Ñ, á ...

German: ä, ö, ü...

Italian: è, ò, ...

...

At least in Europe, I am not aware of a language that doesn't use diacritics. Of course, except English.

UPDATE: I also excluded classical Latin, because it's, obviously, based on it -> Latin alphabet/letters and it's practically dead language maybe with the exception of Vatican and some Academia, Medicine and Science departments.

UPDATE 2: By diacritic I mean this: di·a·crit·ic noun \ˌdī-ə-ˈkri-tik\ : a mark that is placed over, under, or through a letter in some languages to show that the letter should be pronounced in a particular way

Is this true?

What about other languages in the world that use only 26 (or less) Latin characters like English. Are there any? Or is English the only language without any accents?

P.S. Maybe you could argue that there is one special "symbol"and that is '

e.g. I'm , I've, John's etc. However, these are mostly abbreviations of I am, I have etc. so it is not necessary to use. And John's father could be written like the father of John or if you are a historian ;D Johnes father

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    I'm voting this down since what is a diacritic and what is an integral part of a letter, or what came about in this way historically is either arbitrary, confused, or not stated as part of the question. I find the question to be poorly conceived. Dec 17 '13 at 13:28
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    a mark that is placed over, under, or through a letter in some languages to show that the letter should be pronounced in a particular way can be interpreted more than one way: "G" is the letter "C" with a diacritic. "ä" is the letter "a" with a diacritic in German. "ä" and "a" are two independent full letters in Swedish and neither has a diacritic. Etc. Dec 17 '13 at 14:50
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    Note that "diacritic" is a term that can only be used of an orthography, not a language. Many languages (Malay, for instance) have several writing systems, some of which use diacitics, and some of which don't, depending on what you think a "diacritic" is. In any event, it's not correct to ask about "languages with no diacritics", but rather "writing systems with no diacritics".
    – jlawler
    Dec 17 '13 at 20:05
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    There's a positively vast number of languages in the Australian, Papuan, Austronesian, etc families from all around the world that have orthographies that employ the Roman alphabet, but do not use diacritics. One reasonable answer to your question would be: 'No.'. Dec 18 '13 at 4:38
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    @hippietrail is right: it's not that simple to decide what's a diacritic. Spanish "ñ" is considered a first class letter on par with "n", "l" and all of them. It has its own place in alphabet and alters sorting when used in a word. None of "áéíóú" or "ü", though, are considered distinct letters: acute accent doesn't alter the vowel's pronunciation, just indicates the stressed syllable. And "ü" simply indicates the "u" in "que/qui/gue/gui" is due to be pronounced (normally, it's not, as in French).
    – Joe Pineda
    Dec 19 '13 at 14:00
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First, diacritics are used in English, in borrowed words, sometimes optionally (like in the words café ~ cafe, façade ~ facade), but sometimes there is no alternative spelling without diacritics (like Übermensch). Diacritics and ligatures can be used in foreign names, like Æneas Mackay. Here is a Wikipedia article about English words with diacritics.

In Asia and especially in Africa where most of the languages use Latin alphabet, there are several languages that do not use any diacritics or special letters. Here is a list of some of them:

Asia

Africa

  • Swahili. Alphabet | Sample (letter ng' is very rare and can be used optionally)
  • Xhosa. Alphabet | Sample (letter ng' as in Swahili)
  • Zulu. Alphabet | Sample
  • Somali. Alphabet | Sample (English sources name an apostrophe as a Somali letter, but Somali sources don't, see the sample page)
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    They all are faking diacritics a little with the clusters of letters ;), but you are right, they are not using diacritics except the rare cases you mentioned in the 3 cases, but they can be omitted or it's only an apostrophe like in English. So no "real"diacritics like "à, ç, é, è, í, ï, ó, ò, ú, ü". So, thanks again for the list.
    – Derfder
    Dec 17 '13 at 19:10
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    English also "fakes diacritics" and much worse. Think of "ch" , "sh", and "th" for starters. Then there's all the combinations that have varying sounds or no sound like "gh", "xc", "ti", "ph" - just picking ones from your last comment. Oct 26 '14 at 6:47
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    I think digraphs and diacritics are two very different things.
    – Zgialor
    Mar 3 '15 at 20:06
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    Many diacritics originated as digraphs; e.g., the Spanish ñ was derived from nn; and German ä, ö, and ü were derived from ae, oe, and ue, respectively.
    – ctype.h
    Dec 12 '15 at 6:11
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    They're also used in native words to separate vowels in a word that would otherwise form a diphthong or a digraph, in the form of a diaeresis, better (though less correctly) known as an "Umlaut". e.g. in Coöperate, Naïve, Chloë, etc. Jun 19 '17 at 1:39
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English does use diacritics in some loanwords. In American English they are often optional, but in British English they are more common and in formal writing would be considered obligatory.

The most noteworthy Indo-European language aside from English that seldom uses diacritics is Dutch.

On Japanese: The dakuten and handakuten are diacritics. In fact, many European diacritics are also based on letters, with the diaresis/umlaut being based on a Fraktur 'e'. The origin of the symbol isn't really relevant in deciding on whether or not it's a diacritic, the role it has in the language now is the main factor. The Japanese diacritics also aren't directly descended from anything in Chinese, they emerged separately.

Basque uses the letter Ñ.

Welsh uses a lot of diacritics (diaresis/umlaut, acute, circumflex and grave), and given that they can appear on all vowels including y and w, they have a greater subset of characters than French or German.

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    Dutch can use an acute accent to distinguish pairs of words like the two meanings of "een" / "één". This is from memory though so needs checking. Oct 26 '14 at 6:49
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    @Rob, really? I've only ever seen circumflexes in Welsh. Jun 4 '15 at 7:44
  • @DavidGarner Others exist but are optional. Only the circumflex is more or less mandatory and that's because of the phonemic vowel length distinction
    – OmarL
    Feb 25 '19 at 9:51
  • Thank-you @Wilson. Since you replied, I remembered driving past a dry-skip slope in Wales. Skiing is called sgïo! Feb 28 '19 at 13:22
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TL;DR: Many Slavic languages don't use diacritic marks. For example, modern Russian and Ukrainian.


I admit I'm expanding your question a bit, but I hope I have good reasons to do so.

First of all, although the marks look suspiciously similar, we should not mix them because they differ by their function:

  • Apostrophe in English possessive is a punctuation mark. It is not a diacritic mark since it does not affect pronunciation. Instead, it lets the reader not to confuse plural over the possessive;
  • Diaeresis (Hiatus), often used in Romance languages of Europe, is used to force reading two symbols separately, not as a diphthong. One of the most common examples where it could be suitable for English is the word cooperation, where oo can be misread as [u].
  • Umlauts are yet another class of diacritic marks. Their goal is to modify pronunciation of the vowel or a consonant. These are very language-specific. For instance, in German the umlaut over a vowel would make it centralized and/or lowered;
  • English i has a dot over it for purely scripting purpose: it was hard to read it from the Gothic script of 14th century;
  • Stress mark looks like an apostrophe, but used to resolve ambiguity of the stressed syllable in a word;

In this context, Russian ё and й do not belong to any of the groups above. They represent independent phonemes, a palatalized [o] (as in English word York) and a palatal consonant [j] (as in English may), correspondingly. Considering above, they can't be considered diacritic marks.

There are also examples in other languages: Spanish ñ is often treated as an individual consonant, not a modified n, and the same applies to Swedish/Norwegian å.


We also can find that almost no language is 100% phonemic. In other words, there's no one-to-one correspondence between the phonemes and graphemes.

However, due to historic reasons, this gap was treated in different manners for different languages. In English, it lead to huge differences of how the words are written and read.

Consider tear [tɪə] (noun as in teardrop) and tear [tɛə] (verb as in to tear off).
If it happened in another language like French or German, one of these words would most certainly obtain a diacritic mark.


Summarizing:

  • English "suffers" of the same inconsistency between phonemes and graphemes as other languages do. However, historically, this inconsistency has been rather ignored than resolved grammatically;
  • There are languages like Russian that also ignore this inconsistency and hence are not using diacritic marks;
  • Again, absence of diacritic marks doesn't magically resolve the ambiguities above.
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    Thanks for a long answer, I appreciate it very much. But I consider Russian alphabet as a sign/symbol language. Even though I really like how Russian sounds. You can find my admiration of Russian in my previous posts. The Cyrillic is based more on the Greek alphabet and ё certainly is a diacritic symbol above e. In fact they certainly sounds different e = je and ё = jo at least for a Czech guy ;D
    – Derfder
    Dec 17 '13 at 11:40
  • @Derfder Yes, it has been derived from Greek in circa 9th century AD. ё has been suggested almost a thousand years later, in 1783. Also, I can't imagine a straightforward phonetic transition of е [je] into ё [jo]. If I was there, I would rather suggest ö, then it would be certainly a diacritic mark.
    – bytebuster
    Dec 17 '13 at 11:53
  • @bytebuster go ahead and delete my account. If you think that 's right, do it. Thank you in advance.
    – Derfder
    Dec 17 '13 at 20:11
  • As multiple people have pointed out that Russian language has diacritic I have to consider your answer as wrong. Anyway thanks you for your interest.
    – Derfder
    Dec 17 '13 at 20:21
  • @Derfder Your recent edit to the question invalidated all answers that mention languages with Cyrillic script. So Russian is certainly not the case.
    – bytebuster
    Dec 17 '13 at 22:00
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The languages without diacritics:

in Europe:

Basque

Cornish

Greenlandic

Welsh (apostrophes only)

Russian is not exactly a diacritic-free language because of its letter Ёё.

On the other hand, many Germanic languages render their umlauts with Latin alphavet only: ü = ue, ä = ae, ö = oe, å = aa (the latter three letters were used in one of the Danish orthography systems changed thru times).

And, of course, such languages as Japanese or Chinese are absolutely diacritics-free :-))

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    The link you gave says that Welsh uses circumflexes to mark vowel length, like â in mân "fine", "small" vs. man "place". And, naturally, Japanese uses diacritic marks in kana - dakuten for voicing and handakuten for half-voicing.
    – Yellow Sky
    Dec 17 '13 at 13:19
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    Japanese has diacritics for voicing and devoicing consonants in both katakana and hiragana. Dec 17 '13 at 13:22
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    French and German letters with diacritics and their ligatures are also not a part of the French and German alphabets, still those are diacritics and ligatures.
    – Yellow Sky
    Dec 17 '13 at 14:26
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    They may descend from Chinese glyphs, but kana's ten-ten and maru also lack a meaning by themselves in modern Japanese - they just change sound of "ka" into "ga", or sound of "ha" into "ba" and "pa". So I'd say they fill the Wikipedia's diacritics' definition :)
    – Joe Pineda
    Dec 19 '13 at 14:50
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    @Manjusri, in what way are Welsh circumflexes different from (say) the acute accent as used in French. Of course they're part of the alphabet. Jul 8 '15 at 10:35
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Interlingua.

With very few exceptions: https://rudhar.com/lingtics/intrlnga/cgi-grep/modempia.htm#SoloASCII

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  • This is a constructed language and not spoken natively anywhere in Europe. When conlangs qualify, there are more candidates, the most obvious being Ido. Feb 25 '19 at 11:03
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Latin, Indonesian .... I am sure there are many more.

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    Thanks, for the Indonesian. Could you please add link to the comlpete alphabet? I have added Latin to the exclude list in my original question, because, it's a dead language outside of Vatican and some academia and science areas.
    – Derfder
    Dec 17 '13 at 11:31
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English in fact, uses diacritic.

  • English i is ı plus a diacritic.

In this respect it does not differ from German ä, ö, ü.

You should also consider some other letters:

  • English G is C plus diacritic (Classical Latin has no "G" letter)

  • English Y is V plus diacritic.

  • English W is a ligature of two V's, Classical Latin had no such letter.

and so on...

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    I'd say Y and V are 2 different shapes of the same Greek letter, ypsilon, V is the older form, Y was borrowed from Greek later to render Greek borrowings more precisely.
    – Yellow Sky
    Dec 17 '13 at 13:46
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    "Diacritic" has more than one meaning. The dot on the "i" was added because other letters in connected script such as m, n, u, w when used multiply or in combination can look alike so the dot was added to "distinguish" an "i" from the stems of other letters. Dec 17 '13 at 14:54
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    I think we can turn down the heat a bit, but Derfder's point about I and J is valid. In Turkish the dot on i and İ is a diacritic, because it distinguishes them from ı and I. In English we write upper-case I but lower-case i, so the dot is not a diacritic but an integral part of the lower-case letter.
    – fdb
    Dec 17 '13 at 20:21
  • In Turkish the dotted and undotted "i" are both full letters of the alphabet and thus only use diacritics in the same sense that English "G" uses a diacritic on "C". This can be contrasted with the optional use the circumflex accent over vowels to indicate either long vowels or palatalization. This is the other sense of "diacritic". Dec 18 '13 at 2:05

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