Re: accents - and "breathing" marks

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Mon Feb 10 1997 - 11:58:02 EST

Isidoros <> wrote:

>>The tricky thing about accents is that you can usually ignore them
>>safely, but there are a few places where they can be significant.

>I'd like to point out, if I may, that it is the _accent_ (singular)
>that may be important in accessing a _text_ in terms of meaning,
>not "the" accentS.

I think you might be missing a fine point of English, which may not be your
native language. "Accents", a plural without any article, is used to denote
a category, and does not indicate how many accents are involved in a
particular word. Some writers use "the accent" to mean the same thing.

I'm guessing that this is the basis for the confusion. Otherwise, I don't
really know what you are trying to say.

I agree that trying too hard with accents is self-defeating. The first
chapter of Machen's grammar just about killed me. I spent several hours
diagramming flow graphs to show where accents could be used in different
cases, only to give up in despair when the end of the chapter informed me
that these were only guidelines, and there would be exceptions.

That's why I was happy to see Mark O'Brien's message about lists in some
books that show when an accent makes a difference. I *do* think it is worth
learning the few instances in which accents really do make a difference.
Learning to distinguish TIS from TI/S is worthwhile.


Jonathan Robie
POET Software, 3207 Gibson Road, Durham, N.C., 27703
Ph: 919.598.5728 Fax: 919.598.6728
email:, <--- shockwave enabled!

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