There is some historical usage of diacritics in English, like naïve, résumé or even façade. I've been once told that these are used to mark a different spelling, and it may be used like in coöperative instead of co-operative to split the 'oo'.

I've checked with Wikipedia:

The main use of diacritical marks in the Latin script is to change the sound-value of the letter to which they are added. Examples from English are the diaereses in naïve and Noël, which show that the vowel with the diaeresis mark is pronounced separately from the preceding vowel;

Such a situation frequently happens in word formation, where joining a prefix that ends with a vowel and a word that starts with one. For example: coinduction, preimage, prainvention, etc. Normally one could use a hyphen, but that might be undesirable, and without anything words like bioracle (joining bi- and -oracle, whatever that would mean) could be understood as bio-rackle (I'm sure there are better examples). For example, co-op is sometimes written coöp, stretching it, bioracle could be written biöracle (I admit, it does not look good).

I know this is not a real issue, as most prefixes are known and it is possible to recover the source given context. However, technically, is this correct? To give a more concrete motivation, would it be plausible that in some future version of English (e.g. in a novel) such use of diacritics would be more frequent?


2 Answers 2


Just an opinion (can't make comments yet) but I doubt that diaeresis will become more common in future versions of English because there is no easy means to type them on a standard keyboard. By 'easy' I mean a single key or a Shift+key, Ctrl+key or Alt+key combination.

It is easier for people to learn that 'bioracle' is pronounced 'bi-oracle' than it is to get people to use Alt 0246 to type 'biöracle'.

Your example of 'bioracle' sounds similar to a recent (circa 2000), new word; the children's toys franchise 'Bionicle'. Everyone seems to cope with the pronunciation without the need for an umlaut.

Likewise, on a computer, 'Noel' and 'naive' are often typed just like that, with no diaeresis and I think everyone understands what they mean.

  • 2
    That’s the price you pay for putting up with Microsoft. On a Mac, it is trivial to use Alt-u for the diaereses in Noël and naïveté.
    – tchrist
    Apr 12, 2014 at 14:16
  • @tchrist Off-Topic - Does it allow for an umlaut on any letter? I'm thinking of Spinal Tap (where the I is undotted and the N has the umlaut).
    – Frank
    Apr 12, 2014 at 14:31
  • I think that should a need arise, it won't be much of a problem to use Alt+o or o+: or yet some other combination. Many European languages contain special characters and people manage already :-)
    – dtldarek
    Apr 12, 2014 at 14:45
  • I've just created my own keyboard layout that lets my type ßäöü easily on a UK keyboard. Search for 'Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator'. It's a hassle to set it up, but it works like a charm ever since and I can't live without it.
    – mafu
    Jan 12, 2022 at 11:19

If you've ever read The New Yorker you'll find that they are big on this sort of thing, especially with things like:


I think most people find this sort of pretentious though

  • That's the effect I would like to achieve, that is, a certain group of people using a variation of English to show they are different. There are other methods, but language is probably the best (note the use of slang in various subcultures). The problem is for it to be plausible and yet clearly understandable :-)
    – dtldarek
    Apr 12, 2014 at 14:42

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