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The shape of the diacritic developed from initially resembling today's acute accent to a long flourish by the 15th century.
The j, originally a variant of i, inherited the tittle.Diacritical marks may appear above or below a letter, or in some other position such as within the letter or between two letters.The main use of diacritical marks in the Latin script is to change the sound-values of the letters to which they are added.This varies from language to language, and may vary from case to case within a language.In some cases, letters are used as "in-line diacritics", with the same function as ancillary glyphs, in that they modify the sound of the letter preceding them, as in the case of the "h" in the English pronunciation of "sh" and "th".Such a key is sometimes referred to as a dead key, as it produces no output of its own but modifies the output of the key pressed after it.
In modern Microsoft Windows and Linux operating systems, the keyboard layouts US International and UK International feature dead keys that allow one to type Latin letters with the acute, grave, circumflex, diæresis, tilde, and cedilla found in Western European languages (specifically, those combinations found in the ISO Latin-1 character set) directly: ¨ e gives ë, ~ o gives õ, etc.
The tilde, dot, comma, titlo, apostrophe, bar, and colon are sometimes diacritical marks, but also have other uses.
Not all diacritics occur adjacent to the letter they modify.
In the Wali language of Ghana, for example, an apostrophe indicates a change of vowel quality, but occurs at the beginning of the word, as in the dialects ’Bulengee and ’Dolimi.
Because of vowel harmony, all vowels in a word are affected, so the scope of the diacritic is the entire word.
In the Hanyu Pinyin official romanization system for Chinese, diacritics are used to mark the tones of the syllables in which the marked vowels occur.