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Grave Accent (`)

A grave accent is a mark (`) placed over a vowel esp. to indicate that the vowel is open or lax, as French è, has distinct syllabic value, as in English belovèd, or that the vowel or the syllable it is in has secondary stress or is pronounced with a low or falling pitch.

Grave accent represented in several foreign languages

The grave accent (`) is a diacritic that features in various languages throughout Eurasia, from French, Norwegian, Portuguese, and Welsh to Ligurian, Macedonian, Occitan, and Vietnamese.

The grave accent first appeared in Ancient Greek orthography, where it was used to signify low pitch; thereby contrasting the high pitch signified by the acute accent. Today, the grave accent is used in lieu of an acute accent in the final syllables of words that precede other words within sentences. In today's monatomic orthography, the grave accent—as well as the circumflex—has been supplanted by the acute accent.

Various foreign language rules and examples

In Italian, the grave accent is used on all words that end with a stressed vowel sound other than e. The e vowel is marked with a grave accent if the sound is closed, or an acute accent if the sound is open. Common Italian words that use the grave accent include città ("city"), virtù ("virtue"), and Mosè ("Moses"). Something to beware of, however, is the difference that a grave accent makes on words that otherwise have the same spelling; one common example being pero ("pear tree") and però ("but").

Depending on the typeset, a grave accent might resemble an apostrophe. As such, one is sometimes used for the other, though the two marks have none of the same functions. While the grave accent appears above letters, inexperienced keyboard users sometimes place the diacritic in its own character slot, either before or after the stressed letter. 

The keypad codes for grave-accented letters are as follows:

  • à = ALT + 0224
  • è = ALT + 0232
  • ì = ALT + 0236
  • ò = ALT + 0242
  • ù = ALT + 0249

Grave Accent - More rules and examples

The grave accent features to a lesser extent in Bulgarian and Macedonian, where it's used for accents on the letters а, о, у, е, and и. The mark is most commonly used in these languages to differentiate homophones, such as па̀ра ("steam ") and пара̀ ("cent"), въ̀лна ("wool") and вълна̀ ("wave"). In Liguarian, the vowels a, e, i, and u use the mark for accented short sounds, but the grave is only used unstressed on the letter o. 

In a number of different Romance languages, the grave accent is used to signify the open pronunciation of the letters e and o. Catalan, for instance, applies the mark to the vowels a, e, and o. 

French uses the grave on a, e, and u, though it only signifies a change in pronunciation on the letter e; with the other two letters, the mark is used to differentiate homophones. The letter a, for instance, has the mark applied to distinguish a preposition from verb usages.

In Norwegian, the mark is used to distinguish words that are otherwise spelled alike, such as og (and) and òg (too). However, due to the nation's minimal use of diacritics, Norwegians sometimes mix up the grave and acute accents. 

The grave accent is used in Welsh to signify a shortened vowel as opposed to a longer one. Scottish Gaelic, by contrast, uses the mark to indicate long vowels.

In Portuguese, the mark is used to contract neighboring vowels in separate words, such as with the phrase àquela hora, which actually means a aquela hora ("at that hour").

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