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Acute accent
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Acute accent

The acute accent (´) is a diacritic mark used in written French, Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, Greek, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Swedish, Polish, Czech, Slovak, Vietnamese, Dutch, and other languages.

In French and Italian, the acute accent is used only on the letter e, where it changes the vowel sound. In French, it changes é [e], and e [@]. In Italian, it makes an é be pronounced as [e], in a position it would normally be pronounced as [E]; it also marks the stressed vowel (mostly the last one), where the stress would normally be on another syllable (just as in Spanish).

In Swedish, the acute accent is also used only on the letter e, mostly in words of French origin and in some names, and mostly on the last syllable of a word. It is used both to indicate a change in vowel sound, same as in French (and Hungarian and Icelandic), and that the stress should be on this, normally unstressed, syllable. Examples include resumé (accent on the last e only!) and Linné (the title taken by Carolus Linnaeus when he was knighted). It is otherwise used in rare cases to show the accent of foreign and transcribed words (such as advéniat, svobóda).

In Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, and Greek, the acute accent is used to mark the stressed vowel of a written word that would normally be stressed on another syllable. Stress is contrastive in those languages. E.g., in Spanish ánimo ["a-ni-mo] ("mood, spirit"), animo [a-"ni-mo] ("I cheer"), and animó [a-ni-"mo] ("he cheered") are three different words.

In Spanish and Dutch, the acute accent is used to disambiguate certain words which would otherwise be homographs. In Spanish, various question word / relative pronoun pairs, such as cómo & como (how), dónde & donde (where), and some other words such as tú (you) & tu (your), él (he/him) & el (the); in Dutch, mainly één (one) & een (a/an), and vóór (before) & voor (for).

In Dutch, the acute accent can also be used to emphasize an individual word within a sentence.

In Hungarian or Icelandic, the acute accent is used to mark the quantity or length of the base vowel. This is the same contrast that differentiated long and short vowels in classical Latin, or that nowadays diferentiate simple and double vowels in written Finnish.

In Polish, the acute accent is used over several letters, both vowels and consonants. Over consonants, it is used to indicate palatization much as the háček; is used in Czech and other Slavic languages; eg. sześć [sheshch] (six).

In Czech and Slovak, the acute accent is used to indicate a long vowel. A "long vowel" in Czech or Slovak means a vowel that is sustained for a greater length of time; it does not have the same meaning as a "long vowel" in English. The letter u can have an acute accent only at the beginning of a word in Czech. To indicate a long u in the middle or at the end of a word, a kroužek (ring) is used instead, to form ů. In Slovak, there are two more "long semi-vowels": ŕ and ĺ, which are pronounced just like ordinary r and l, only longer.

In Vietnamese and some other tonal languages, the acute accent is used to indicate a rising tone.

A number of English words are written with the accute accent, mainly those borrowed from French. Such words include resumé, fiancé and fiancée, sauté, roué "café", and touché. The accent is commonly only retained where the word as spelled would tend to be pronounced differently if the accent were not there.

Using the ISO-8859-1 character encoding, one can type the letters á, é, í, ó, ú, and ý. Dozens more letters with the acute accent are available in Unicode. Unicode also provides the acute accent as a combining character.

See also