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A caron (//), háček or haček (// or //; plural háčeks or háčky) also known as a hachek, wedge, check, kvačica, strešica, mäkčeň, paukščiukas, inverted circumflex, inverted hat, flying bird, is a diacritic (◌̌) commonly placed over certain letters in the orthography of some languages to indicate a change in the related letter's pronunciation.
The use of the caron differs according to the orthographic rules of a language. In most Slavic and other European languages it indicates present or historical palatalization (e → ě; [e] → [ʲe]), iotation, or postalveolar articulation (c → č; [ts] → [tʃ]). In Salishan languages, it often represents a uvular consonant (x → x̌; [x] → [χ]). When placed over vowel symbols, the caron can indicate a contour tone, for instance the falling and then rising tone in the Pinyin romanization of Mandarin Chinese. It is also used to decorate symbols in mathematics, where it is often pronounced // ("check").
The caron is shaped approximately like a small letter "v". In serif typefaces, the caron generally takes one of two forms: either symmetrical, essentially identical to a rotated circumflex; or with the left stroke thicker than the right, like the usual serif form of the letter "v" (but without serifs). The latter form is often preferred by Czech designers for use in Czech, while for other uses the symmetrical form tends to predominate, as it does also among sans-serif fonts. The caron is not to be confused with the breve (◌̆), which has a curved bottom, while the caron is pointed (see illustration below).
|Caron||Ǎ ǎ Ě ě Ǐ ǐ Ǒ ǒ Ǔ ǔ Y̌ y̌|
|Breve||Ă ă Ĕ ĕ Ĭ ĭ Ŏ ŏ Ŭ ŭ Y̆ y̆|
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"). The Unicode Consortium explicitly states that the reason for this is unknown, but 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 Oxford English Dictionary gives 1953 as the earliest citation for háček. In Czech, háček ([ˈɦaːtʃɛk]) means 'small hook', the diminutive form of hák ([ˈɦaːk], 'hook')". The name appears in most English dictionaries, but they treat the long mark (acute accent) differently. British dictionaries, such as the OED, ODE, CED, write háček (with the mark) in the headwords, while American ones, such as the Merriam-Webster, NOAD, AHD, omit the acute and write haček, however, the NOAD gives háček as an alternative spelling.
In Slovak it is called mäkčeň ([ˈmɛɐktʂeɲ], i.e., 'softener' or 'palatalization mark'), in Serbo-Croatian kvaka or kvačica ('angled hook' or 'small angled hook'), in Slovenian strešica ('little roof') or kljukica ('little hook'), in Lithuanian paukščiukas ('little bird') or varnelė ('little jackdaw'), in Estonian katus ('roof'), in Finnish hattu ('hat'), and in Lakota ičášleče ('wedge').
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. However, Hus's work was hardly known at that time, and háček became widespread only in the 16th century with the introduction of printing.
For the fricatives š [ʃ], ž [ʒ], and the affricate č [tʃ] only, the caron is used in most northwestern Uralic languages that use the Latin alphabet, such as Karelian, Veps, Northern Sami and Inari Sami (though not in Southern Sami). Estonian and Finnish use š and ž (but not č), but only for transcribing foreign names and loanwords (albeit common loanwords such as šekki or tšekk 'check'); the sounds (and letters) are native and common in Karelian, Veps and Sami.
In Italian, š, ž, and č are routinely used as in Slovenian to transcribe Slavic names in the Cyrillic script since in native Italian words, the sounds represented by these letters must be followed by a vowel, and Italian uses ch for /k/, not /tʃ/. Other Romance languages, by contrast, tend to use their own orthographies, or in a few cases such as Spanish, borrow English sh or zh.
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 sounds for which English require a digraph (sh, ch, and zh) because most Slavic languages use only one character to spell the sounds (the key exceptions are Polish sz and cz). Its use for that 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 on vowels to indicate the tone of a syllable. The main example is in Pinyin for Chinese in which it represents a falling-rising tone. It is used in transliterations of Thai to indicate a rising tone.
The caron ⟨ǎ⟩ represents a rising tone in the International Phonetic Alphabet. It is used in the Uralic Phonetic Alphabet for indicating postalveolar consonants and in Americanist phonetic notation to indicate various types of pronunciation.
The caron below ⟨p̬⟩ represents voicing.
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. That is optional in handwritten text. Latin fonts are typically set to display this way by default. Some fonts have an option to display a normal caron over these letters, but for those that don't, an option is to combing the letter and caron with the combining grapheme joiner, U+034F, resulting in t͏̌, d͏̌, l͏̌.
Although the stroke looks similar to an apostrophe, there is a significant difference in kerning. Using an apostrophe in place of a caron looks very unprofessional, but 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).
In Balto-Slavic languages
- Č/č (pronounced [t͡ʃ], similar to 'ch' in cheap: Česká republika, which means Czech Republic)
- Š/š (pronounced [ʃ], similar to 'sh' in she: in Škoda listen (help·info))
- Ž/ž (pronounced [ʒ], similar to 's' in treasure: žal 'sorrow')
- Ř/ř (only in Czech: special fricative trill [r̝], transcribed as [ɼ] in pre-1989 IPA: 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 Croatian, two letters in Czech, pronounced [d͡ʒ] džungľa "jungle" - identical to the j sound in jungle and the g in genius, found mostly in borrowings.)
- Ě/ě (only in Czech) indicates mostly palatalization of preceding consonant:
- dě, tě, ně are [ɟɛ], [cɛ], [ɲɛ];
- but mě is [mɲɛ] or [mjɛ], and bě, pě, vě, fě are [bjɛ, pjɛ, vjɛ, fjɛ].
- Furthermore, until the 19th century, Ǧ/ǧ was used to represent [g] while G/g was used to represent [j].
- Č/č (pronounced [t͡ʃ] like 'ch' in cheap)
- Š/š (pronounced [ʃ] like 'sh' in she)
- Ž/ž (pronounced [ʒ] like 's' in treasure)
- Ř/ř (only in Upper Sorbian: pronounced [ʃ] like 'sh' in she)
- Tř/tř (digraph, only in Upper Sorbian, soft (palatalized) [t͡s] sound)
- Ě/ě (pronounced [e] like 'e' in bed)
Balto-Slavic Serbo-Croatian, Slovenian, Latvian and Lithuanian use č, š and ž. The digraph dž is also used in these languages but is considered a separate letter only in Serbo-Croatian. The Belarusian Lacinka alphabets also contain the digraph (as a separate letter), and Latin transcriptions of Bulgarian and Macedonian may use them at times, for transcription of the letter-combination ДЖ (Bulgarian) and the letter Џ (Macedonian).
In Uralic languages
In the Finnic languages, Estonian (and transcriptions to Finnish) use Š/š and Ž/ž, and Karelian use Č/č, Š/š and Ž/ž. Dž is not a separate letter. 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, for which only one length is recognized for 'tš'. (Incidentally, in transcriptions, 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 those letters by typing s or z while holding right Alt key or AltGr key.
In Estonian, Finnish and Karelian 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, they can be substituted with 'h': 'sh' for 'š', in print.
In the orthographies of the Sami languages, the letters Č/č, Š/š and Ž/ž appear in Northern Sami, Inari Sami and Skolt Sami. Skolt Sami also uses three other consonants with the caron: Ǯ/ǯ (ezh-caron)) to mark the voiced postalveolar affricate [dʒ] (plain Ʒ/ʒ marks the alveolar affricate [dz]), Ǧ/ǧ to mark the voiced palatal affricate [ɟʝ] and Ǩ/ǩ the corresponding voiceless palatal affricate [cç]. More often than not, they are geminated: vuäǯǯad "to get". The orthographies of the more southern Sami languages of Sweden and Norway such as Lule Sami do not use caron, and prefer instead the digraphs tj and sj.
Most other Uralic languages (including Kildin Sami) are normally written with Cyrillic instead of the Latin script. In their scientific transcription, the Finno-Ugric Transcription / Uralic Phonetic Alphabet however employs the letters š, ž and occasionally č, ǯ (alternately tš, dž) for the postalveolar consonants. These serve as basic letters, and with further diacritics are used to transcribe also other fricative and affricate sounds. Retroflex consonants are marked by a caron and an underdot (ṣ̌, ẓ̌ = IPA [ʂ], [ʐ]), alveolo-palatal (palatalized postalveolar) consonants by a caron and an acute (š́, ž́ = IPA [ɕ], [ʑ]). Thus, for example, the postalveolar consonants of the Udmurt language, normally written as Ж/ж, Ӝ/ӝ, Ӵ/ӵ, Ш/ш are in Uralic studies normally transcribed as ž, ǯ, č, š respectively, and the alveolo-palatal consonants normally written as Зь/зь, Ӟ/ӟ, Сь/сь, Ч/ч are normally transcribed as ž́, ǯ́, š́, č́ respectively.
In other languages
- Č/č (Tifinagh equivalent: ⵞ) (pronounced [t͡ʃ] like the English "ch" in China)
- Ǧ/ǧ (Tifinagh equivalent: ⴵ) (pronounced [d͡ʒ] like the English "j" like in the words joke and James)
- Ř/ř (Tifinagh equivalent: ⵔ / ⵍ) (only in Northern Berber languages: pronounced [r̝] like in Czech (no English equivalent) )
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).
Many alphabets of African languages use the caron to mark the rising tone, as in the African reference alphabet.
Other transcription and transliteration systems
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 its system.
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 (similar to the pitch made when asking "Huh?"). The caron can be placed over the vowels: ǎ, ě, ǐ, ǒ, ǔ, ǚ. The alternative to a caron is a number 3 after the syllable: hǎo = hao3, as the "falling-rising" tone is the third tone in Mandarin.
For legacy reasons, most letters that 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.
The characters Č, č, Ě, ě, Š, š, Ž, ž are a part of the Unicode Latin Extended-A set because they occur in Czech and other official languages in Europe, while the rest are in Latin Extended-B, which often causes an inconsistent appearance.
Unicode also encodes U+032C ◌̬ COMBINING CARON BELOW (HTML
̬), for example: p̬.
- Wells, John C. (1990). "caron". Longman pronunciation dictionary. Harlow, England: Longman. p. 121. ISBN 0582053838.
- Gaultney, Victor. "Problems of diacritic design for Latin text faces." Dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Master of Arts in Typeface Design, University of Reading, 2002, pp. 16–18.
- Andrew West, Antedating the Caron
- Baddeley, Susan; Voeste, Anja (2012). Orthographies in Early Modern Europe. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. pp. 258–261. ISBN 9783110288179.
- "Norme ortografiche della Grafia Faggin-Nazzi" (in Italian). Friul.net. Retrieved 2013-10-06.
- Lazuri Font / Lazca Font, Lazca yazı karakterleri, Lazuri.com
- Rédei, Karoly (1973). "A votják nyelvjárások fonematikus átírása". In Posti, Lauri (ed.). FU-transcription yksinkertaistaminen. Helsinki. pp. 88–91.