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A caron ( ˇ ) or háček (//; from Czech háček [ˈɦaːtʃɛk]), also known as a wedge, inverted circumflex, inverted hat, is a diacritic placed over certain letters to indicate present or historical palatalization, iotation, or postalveolar pronunciation in the orthography of some Baltic, Slavic, Finno-Lappic, and other languages. The caron also indicates the third tone (falling and then rising) in the Pinyin romanization of Mandarin Chinese.
The left (downward) stroke is usually thicker than the right (upward) stroke in serif typefaces.
The caron is also used as a symbol or modifier in mathematics.
Different disciplines generally call this diacritic by different names. Typography tends to use the term caron. Linguistics more often uses haček (with no long mark), largely due to the influence of the Prague School (particularly on Structuralist linguists who subsequently developed alphabets for previously unwritten languages of the Americas). Pullum's and Ladusaw's Phonetic Symbol Guide (Chicago, 1996) uses the term wedge.
The term caron is used in the official names of Unicode characters (e.g., "Latin capital letter Z with caron"). Its earliest known use was in the United States Government Printing Office Style Manual of 1967, and it was later used in character sets such as DIN 31624 (1979), ISO 5426 (1980), ISO/IEC 6937 (1983) and ISO/IEC 8859-2 (1985). Its actual origin remains obscure, but some have suggested that it may derive from a fusion of caret and macron. Though this may be folk etymology, it is plausible, particularly in the absence of other suggestions.
The name haček (with no long mark) appears in most English dictionaries; the Oxford English Dictionary gives its earliest citation as 1953. In Czech, háček means "small hook", the diminutive form of hák. The Czech plural form is háčky.
In Slovak it is called mäkčeň (i.e., "softener" or "palatalization mark"), in Slovenian strešica ("little roof") or kljukica ("little hook"), in Croatian and Serbian kvaka or kvačica ("angled hook" or "small angled hook"), in Lithuanian paukščiukas ("little bird"); however more commonly referred to as "varnelė" ("little jackdaw"), katus ("roof") in Estonian, hattu ("hat") in Finnish, and ičášleče ("wedge") in Lakota (a Native American language).
The caron evolved from the dot above diacritic, which Jan Hus introduced into Czech orthography (along with the acute accent) in his De Orthographia Bohemica (1412). The original form still exists in Polish ż.
For the fricatives š [ʃ], ž [ʒ], and the affricate č [tʃ] only, the caron is used in Finno-Lappic languages that use the Latin alphabet—such as Estonian, Finnish, Karelian, and some Sami languages. In Finnish and Estonian, it is limited to transcribing foreign names and loanwords (albeit common loanwords such as šekki 'cheque'); the sounds (and letters) are native and common in Karelian and Sami. In Italian, š, ž, and č are routinely used much as in Slovenian, Finnish, and Estonian to transcribe Cyrillic and other Slavic (except Polish) names, since in native Italian words, the sounds represented by these letters must be followed by a vowel. Other Romance languages, by contrast, tend to use their own orthographies.
The caron is also often used as a diacritical mark on consonants for romanization of text from non-Latin writing systems, particularly in the scientific transliteration of Slavic languages. Philologists—and the standard Finnish orthography—often prefer using it to express the sounds that in English require a digraph (sh, ch, and zh) because most Slavic languages use only one character to spell these sounds (the key exceptions are Polish sz and cz). Its use for this purpose can even be found in the United States, because certain atlases use it in romanization of foreign place names. On the typographical side, Š/š and Ž/ž are likely the easiest among non-Western European diacritic characters to adopt for Westerners because the two are part of the Windows-1252 character encoding.
It is also used as an accent mark, that is, to indicate a change in the pronunciation of a vowel. The main example is in Pinyin for Chinese, where it represents a falling-rising tone. It is used in transliterations of Thai to indicate a rising tone.
Writing and printing carons
In printed Czech and Slovak text, the caron combined with certain letters (lower-case ť, ď, ľ, and upper-case Ľ) is reduced to a small stroke. This is optional in handwritten text.
Although the stroke looks similar to an apostrophe, there is a significant difference in kerning. Using apostrophe in place of a caron looks very unprofessional though it can be found on goods produced in foreign countries and imported to Slovakia or the Czech Republic (compare t’ to ť, L’ahko to Ľahko). (Apostrophes appearing as palatalization marks in some Finnic languages, such as Võro and Karelian, are not forms of caron either.) Foreigners also sometimes mistake the caron for the acute accent (compare Ĺ to Ľ, ĺ to ľ).
List of letters
- Č/č (pronounced [t͡ʃ]—similar to 'ch' in cheap, e.g., Československo, which means Czechoslovakia)
- Š/š (pronounced [ʃ]—similar to 'sh' in she, e.g., in Škoda listen (help·info))
- Ž/ž (pronounced [ʒ] — similar to 's' in treasure, e.g., žal "sorrow")
- Ř/ř (only in Czech: special fricative trill [r̝], transcribed as [ɼ] in pre-1989 IPA, e.g., Antonín Dvořák listen (help·info))
- Ď/ď, Ť/ť, Ň/ň (palatals, pronounced [ɟ], [c], [ɲ], slightly different from palatalized consonants as found in Russian): Ďábel a sťatý kůň "The Devil and a beheaded horse")
- Ľ/ľ (only in Slovak: pronounced as palatal [ʎ]: podnikateľ "businessman")
- Ǆ/ǅ/ǆ (considered a single letter in Slovak, Macedonian, and Serbo-Croatian, pronounced [dʒ] džungľa "jungle" - identical to the "j" sound in jungle and the "g" in genius. Mostly found in borrowings.)
- Ě/ě (only in Czech) indicates mostly palatalization of preceding consonant: "dě", "tě", "ně" are [ɟɛ], [cɛ], [ɲɛ]; but mě is [mɲɛ], and "bě", "pě", "vě", "fě" are [bjɛ, pjɛ, vjɛ, fjɛ].
- Č/č (pronounced [tʃ], similar to 'ch' in cheap
- Š/š (pronounced [ʃ], similar to 'sh' in she
- Ž/ž (pronounced [ʒ], similar to 's' in treasure
- Ř/ř (only in Upper Sorbian: pronounced IPA: [ʃ], similar to 'sh' in she
- Tř/tř (digraph, only in Upper Sorbian, soft (i. e., palatalized) [t͡s] sound
- Ě/ě (pronounced IPA: [e], similar to 'e' in bed
Of the Balto-Slavic languages, Serbo-Croatian, Slovenian, Latvian and Lithuanian use č, š and ž. The digraph dž is also used in these languages, but only considered a separate letter in Serbo-Croatian. The Belarusian Lacinka alphabet also contains the digraph (as a separate letter), and Latin transctiptions of Bulgarian and Macedonian may also use them at times for transcription of the letter-combination ДЖ (Bulgarian) and the letter Џ (Macedonian).
Of the Uralic languages, Estonian (and transcriptions to Finnish) use Š/š and Ž/ž, and Karelian and some Sami languages use Č/č, Š/š and Ž/ž — Dž is not a separate letter. (Skolt Sami has more, see below.) Č is present because it may be phonemically geminate: in Karelian, the phoneme 'čč' is found, and is distinct from 'č', which is not the case in Finnish or Estonian, where only one length is recognized for 'tš'. (Incidentally, in transcriptions, the Finnish orthography has to employ complicated notations like mettšä or even the mettshä to express Karelian meččä.) On some Finnish keyboards, it is possible to write these letters by typing s or z while holding right Alt key or AltGr key.
Notice that these are not palatalized, but postalveolar consonants. For example, Estonian Nissi (palatalized) is distinct from nišši (postalveolar). Palatalization is typically ignored in spelling, but some Karelian and Võro orthographies use an apostrophe (') or an acute accent (´). In Finnish and Estonian, š and ž (and in Estonian, very rarely č) appear in loanwords and foreign proper names only and, when not available, can be substituted with 'h', e.g., 'sh' for 'š', in print.
Skolt Sami uses Ʒ/ʒ (ezh) to mark the alveolar affricate [dz], thus Ǯ/ǯ (ezh-caron or edzh (edge)) marks the postalveolar affricate [dʒ]. In addition to Č, Š, Ž and Ǯ, Skolt Sami also uses the caron – inconsistently – to mark the palatal stops Ǧ [ɟ] and Ǩ [c]. More often than not, these are geminated, e.g., vuäǯǯad "to get".
Finnish Romani uses Ȟ/ȟ.
Lakota uses Č/č, Š/š, Ž/ž, Ǧ/ǧ (voiced post-velar fricative) and Ȟ/ȟ (plain post-velar fricative).
The DIN 31635 standard for transliteration of Arabic uses Ǧ/ǧ to represent the letter ج ǧīm on account of the inconsistent pronunciation of J in European languages, the variable pronunciation of the letter in educated Arabic [d͡ʒ~ʒ~ɟ~ɡ], and the desire of the DIN committee to have a one-to-one correspondence of Arabic to Latin letters in their system.
The romanization of Pashto uses Č/č, Š/š, Ž/ž, X̌/x̌, to represent the letters چ, ش, ژ, ښ, respectively. Additionally, Ṣ̌/ṣ̌ and Ẓ̌/ẓ̌ are used by the southern Pashto dialect only (replaced by X̌/x̌ and Ǵ/ǵ in the north).
The caron is also used in Mandarin Chinese pinyin romanization and orthographies of several other tonal languages to indicate the "falling-rising" tone (third tone in Mandarin). The caron can be placed over the vowels ǎ, ě, ǐ, ǒ, ǔ, ǚ. The alternatives to caron are breve or number 3 after the syllable, e.g.: hǎo = hao3.
Many alphabets of African languages use the caron for marking rising tone as in the African reference alphabet.
The characters Ě/ě are a part of the Unicode Latin Extended-A set because they occur in Czech, while the rest are in Latin Extended-B, which often causes an inconsistent appearance.
For legacy reasons, most letters that can carry carons are precomposed characters in Unicode, but a caron can also be added to any letter by using the combining character U+030C ◌̌ combining caron (HTML
̌), for example: b̌ q̌ J̌.
In TeX, a caron can be inserted using the control sequence
\v in text, or
\check in mathematics. For example:
Special arrangement is necessary to get the alternate versions of the háček above l, d and t, such as (in LaTeX)
In Microsoft Word, you can usually find letters with carons by clicking Insert → Symbol → Symbols. Select "(normal text)".
To insert special characters in OpenOffice Writer, click Insert → Special Character.
XFree86 and X.Org
|Look up háček in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|