May 26

My friend John Cowan just asked me “Do you know the history of Gaelic grave vs. Irish acute?”

Of course Irish uses áéíóú. And Scottish Gaelic uses àèìòù. I’ve never thought about this. I’ll have to look into it.

The earliest printed book in Irish uses the acute. To me that seems a natural choice. I don’t know why people setting Scottish Gaelic chose the grave though. I’ll look into it.

3 Responses to “Grave and acute”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I thought S. Gaelic used acutes (as well as graves) on e and o until the reform of the 1980s.

  2. Michael Everson says:

    It did. That’s not a reason for it choosing grave though.

  3. John Cowan says:

    The original pan-Romance use of grave and acute is that they both mark stressed syllables, but grave is used over open vowels and acute over closed ones, thus: à è é í ò ó ú (because a is always open, i u are always closed, and e o can be either).

    This rule is still applied fully in Catalan, and theoretically in Italian, though in practice Italian uses only the grave. In Spanish, é ó became ie ue, leaving only five vowels and the acute in sole possession. French still discriminates between é and è, but otherwise has only remnants of the system.

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