The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Grave accent

The grave accent ( ` ) is a diacritic mark used in written Greek until 1982 (polytonic orthography), French, Catalan, Welsh, Italian, Vietnamese, Scottish Gaelic, Norwegian, Portuguese, and other languages.

In Greek the grave accent occurs only on the last syllable of a word, in cases where the normal high tone (indicated by an acute accent) was lowered in Ancient Greek because of a following word in the same sentence. It is used in the traditional polytonic orthography, but the monotonic orthography used for Modern Greek has replaced it with an acute accent.

In French, the grave accent has two uses. On the letter e it marks the distinct quality of the vowel: è , and e [ə]. On the letters a and u it is used only as a grammatical mark that has no effect on pronunciation. On a it distinguishes the preposition à ("to") and the verb a (present tense of avoir), as well as distinguishing ("there") and the feminine definite article la; it is also used in the word dj and the phrase et l. On u it is used only to distinguish ("where") and ou ("or").

In Catalan, the grave accent is used to mark both the stress and the distinct quality of certain stressed vowels, such as è [ɛ] versus é [e], or such as ò [ɔ] versus ó [o]. The letter a is the only one that takes the grave accent but not the acute.

In Welsh, the accent is used to denote a short vowel sound in a word which would otherwise be pronounced with a long vowel sound, for example mẁg ("a mug") versus mwg ("smoke").

In Italian, it marks final stress, as in virtù ("virtue") or città ("city") or as in &egrave ("it is").

In some tonal languages such as Vietnamese and Mandarin Chinese, the grave accent is used to indicate a falling tone.

In Scottish Gaelic, it denotes a long vowel.

In Portuguese, the grave accent indicates the fusion of the feminine definite article "a" with the preposition "a" (required by several verbs; can be equivalent, for instance, of "to"). The fusion is called crase: "" or "s". The grave accent does not change the pronunciation of "a". The grave accent can be used also in the fusion of the preposition "a" and demonstrative pronouns: "aquele" and "aquela" (that one), "aqueles" and "aquelas" (those) and "aquilo" (that), composing "quele", "quela", "queles", "quelas" and "quilo".

In transliterating texts written in Cuneiform, a grave accent over the vowel indicates that the original sign is the third representing that value in the canonical lists. Thus u is used to transliterate the first sign with the phonetic value [u], while ù transliterates the third sign with the value [u] (usually used for "and").

The grave accent is used in English only in poetry and song lyrics. It indicates that a vowel usually silent is to be pronounced, in order to fit the rhythm or meter. Most often, it is applied to a word ending with -ed. For instance, the word looked is usually pronounced as a single syllable, with the e silent; when written as lookd, the e is pronouncedlook-ed. It can also be used in this capacity to distinguish certain pairs of identically spelled words like the noun learned from the adjective learnd.

The word grave is derived from the Latin gravis (heavy), itself a translation of the Greek barys (βαρύς). In English the word is normally pronounced "grahv" (IPA /gɹɑːv/), in other words not like grave meaning serious or a tomb.

Computer related

The ISO-8859-1 character encoding includes the letters à, è, ì, ò, ù, and their respective capital forms. Dozens more letters with the grave accent are available in Unicode. Unicode also provides the grave accent as a combining character.

In the ASCII character set the grave accent is encoded as character 96, hex 60. Outside the US character 96 is often replaced by the local currency symbol. Many UK computers have the UK pound symbol as character 96.

On many computer keyboards, the grave accent occupies a key by itself, and is meant to be combined with vowels as a multi-key combination. However, programmers have used the key by itself for a number of tasks.

Many of the UNIX shells and the programming language Perl use pairs of this character—known as backquote or backtick—to indicate substitution of the standard output from one command into a line of text defining another command. A safer and often easier way to accomplish such a task is using the command xargs instead of backquotes.

In Lisp macro systems, the backquote character (called quasiquote in Scheme) introduces a quoted expression in which comma-substitution may occur. It is identical to the plain quote, except that symbols prefixed wğith a comma will be replaced with those symbols' values as variables. This is roughly analogous to the Unix shell's variable interpolation with $ inside double quotes.

In Pico the backquote is used to indicate comments in the programming language.

In Verilog the grave accent is used to help define a size constant (for example, 2`b01). Accidental use of an apostrophe instead of a grave accent is one of the top five beginner mistakes in the language.

See also

Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04