A caron ,há?ek or ha?ek ( or ; plural há?eks or há?ky) also known as a hachek, wedge, check, inverted circumflex, inverted hat, is a diacritic (?) commonly placed over certain letters in the orthography of some Baltic, Slavic, Finnic, Samic, Berber, and other languages to indicate a change in the related letter's pronunciation (c > ?; [ts] > [t?]).
The use of the caron differs according to the orthographic rules of a language. In most Slavic and European languages it indicates present or historical palatalization, iotation, or postalveolar articulation. In Salishan languages, it often represents a uvular consonant (x vs. x? ; [x] vs. [?])
It is also used to decorate symbols in mathematics, where it is often pronounced ("check").
|Caron||? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?|
|Breve||? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?|
The left (downward) stroke is usually thicker than the right (upward) stroke in serif typefaces.
Different disciplines generally call this diacritic by different names. Typography tends to use the term caron. Linguistics more often uses ha?ek (with no long mark), largely due to the influence of the Prague School (particularly on Structuralist linguists who subsequently developed alphabets for previously unwritten languages of the Americas). Pullum's and Ladusaw's Phonetic Symbol Guide (Chicago, 1996) uses the term wedge.
The term caron is used in the official names of Unicode characters (e.g., "Latin capital letter Z with caron"). Its earliest known use was in the United States Government Printing Office Style Manual of 1967, and it was later used in character sets such as DIN 31624 (1979), ISO 5426 (1980), ISO/IEC 6937 (1983) and ISO/IEC 8859-2 (1985). Its actual origin remains obscure, but some have suggested that it may derive from a fusion of caret and macron. Though this may be folk etymology, it is plausible, particularly in the absence of other suggestions.
The Oxford English Dictionary gives 1953 as the earliest citation for há?ek. In Czech, há?ek (['?a:tk]) means "small hook", the diminutive form of hák (['?a:k]), "hook". The name appears in most English dictionaries, but they treat the long mark (acute accent) differently. British dictionaries, such as the OED, ODE, CED, write há?ek (with the mark) in the headwords, while American ones, such as the Merriam-Webster, NOAD, AHD, omit the acute and write ha?ek, however, the NOAD gives há?ek as an alternative spelling.
In Slovak it is called mäk?e? (['m?kt], i.e., "softener" or "palatalization mark"), in Slovenian stre?ica ("little roof") or kljukica ("little hook"), in Serbo-Croatian kvaka or kva?ica ("angled hook" or "small angled hook"), in Lithuanian paukiukas ("little bird") or varnel? ("little jackdaw"), in Estonian katus ("roof"), in Finnish hattu ("hat"), and in Lakota i?á?le?e ("wedge").
The caron evolved from the dot above diacritic, which Jan Hus introduced into Czech orthography (along with the acute accent) in his De Orthographia Bohemica (1412). The original form still exists in Polish ?. However, Hus's work was hardly known at that time, and há?ek became widespread only in the 16th century with the introduction of printing.
For the fricatives ? [?], ? [?], and the affricate ? [t?] only, the caron is used in most northwestern Uralic languages that use the Latin alphabet, such as Karelian, Veps, Northern Sami and Inari Sami (though not in Southern Sami). Estonian and Finnish use ? and ? (but not ?), but only for transcribing foreign names and loanwords (albeit common loanwords such as ?ekki or t?ekk 'check'); the sounds (and letters) are native and common in Karelian, Veps and Sami.
In Italian, ?, ?, and ? are routinely used as in Slovenian to transcribe Slavic names in the Cyrillic script since in native Italian words, the sounds represented by these letters must be followed by a vowel, and Italian uses ch for /k/, not /t?/. Other Romance languages, by contrast, tend to use their own orthographies, or in a few cases such as Spanish, borrow English sh or zh.
The caron is also often used as a diacritical mark on consonants for romanization of text from non-Latin writing systems, particularly in the scientific transliteration of Slavic languages. Philologists and the standard Finnish orthography often prefer using it to express sounds for which English require a digraph (sh, ch, and zh) because most Slavic languages use only one character to spell the sounds (the key exceptions are Polish sz and cz). Its use for that purpose can even be found in the United States because certain atlases use it in romanization of foreign place names. On the typographical side, ?/? and ?/? are likely the easiest among non-Western European diacritic characters to adopt for Westerners because the two are part of the Windows-1252 character encoding.
It is also used as an accent mark on vowels to indicate the tone of a syllable. The main example is in Pinyin for Chinese in which it represents a falling-rising tone. It is used in transliterations of Thai to indicate a rising tone.
The caron ⟨?⟩ represents a rising tone in the International Phonetic Alphabet. It is used in the Uralic Phonetic Alphabet for indicating postalveolar consonants and in Americanist phonetic notation to indicate various types of pronunciation.
The caron below ⟨p?⟩ represents voicing.
In printed Czech and Slovak text, the caron combined with certain letters (lower-case ?, ?, ?, and upper-case ?) is reduced to a small stroke. That is optional in handwritten text.
Although the stroke looks similar to an apostrophe, there is a significant difference in kerning. Using an apostrophe in place of a caron looks very unprofessional, but it can be found on goods produced in foreign countries and imported to Slovakia or the Czech Republic (compare t' to ?, L'ahko to ?ahko). (Apostrophes appearing as palatalization marks in some Finnic languages, such as Võro and Karelian, are not forms of caron either.) Foreigners also sometimes mistake the caron for the acute accent (compare ? to ?, ? to ?).
Balto-Slavic Serbo-Croatian, Slovenian, Latvian and Lithuanian use ?, ? and ?. The digraph d? is also used in these languages but is considered a separate letter only in Serbo-Croatian. The Belarusian Lacinka alphabets also contain the digraph (as a separate letter), and Latin transcriptions of Bulgarian and Macedonian may use them at times, for transcription of the letter-combination (Bulgarian) and the letter ? (Macedonian).
Of Uralic languages, Estonian (and transcriptions to Finnish) use ?/? and ?/?, and Karelian and some Sami languages use ?/?, ?/? and ?/?. D? is not a separate letter. (Skolt Sami has more: see below.) ? is present because it may be phonemically geminate: in Karelian, the phoneme '' is found, and is distinct from '?', which is not the case in Finnish or Estonian, for which only one length is recognized for 't?'. (Incidentally, in transcriptions, Finnish orthography has to employ complicated notations like mett?ä or even the mettshä to express Karelian meä.) On some Finnish keyboards, it is possible to write those letters by typing s or z while holding right Alt key or AltGr key.
Notice that they are not palatalized but postalveolar consonants. For example, Estonian Nissi (palatalized) is distinct from nii (postalveolar). Palatalization is typically ignored in spelling, but some Karelian and Võro orthographies use an apostrophe (') or an acute accent (´). In Finnish and Estonian, ? and ? (and in Estonian, very rarely ?) appear in loanwords and foreign proper names only and when not available, they can be substituted with 'h': 'sh' for '?', in print.
Skolt Sami uses ?/? (ezh) to mark the alveolar affricate [dz], thus ?/? (ezh-caron or edzh (edge)) marks the postalveolar affricate [d?]. In addition to ?, ?, ? and ?, Skolt Sami also uses the caron to mark palatal stops ? [?] and ? [c]. More often than not, they are geminated: vuäad "to get".
Finnish Romani uses ?/?.
Lakota uses ?/?, ?/?, ?/?, ?/? (voiced post-velar fricative) and ?/? (plain post-velar fricative).
The DIN 31635 standard for transliteration of Arabic uses ?/? to represent the letter ?. m, on account of the inconsistent pronunciation of J in European languages, the variable pronunciation of the letter in educated Arabic [d~?~?~?], and the desire of the DIN committee to have a one-to-one correspondence of Arabic to Latin letters in its system.
Romanization of Pashto uses ?/?, ?/?, ?/?, X?/x?, to represent the letters ?, ?, ?, ?, respectively. Additionally, / and / are used by the southern Pashto dialect only (replaced by X?/x? and ?/? in the north).
The caron is also used in Mandarin Chinese pinyin romanization and orthographies of several other tonal languages to indicate the "falling-rising" tone (similar to the pitch made when asking "Huh?"). The caron can be placed over the vowels, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?. The alternative to a caron is a number 3 after the syllable: h?o = hao3 , as the "falling-rising" tone is the third tone in Mandarin.
Many alphabets of African languages use the caron to mark the rising tone, as in the African reference alphabet.
For legacy reasons, most letters that carry carons are precomposed characters in Unicode, but a caron can also be added to any letter by using the combining character ?̌ COMBINING CARON (HTML
̌), for example: b? q? J?.
The characters ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ? are a part of the Unicode Latin Extended-A set because they occur in Czech and other official languages in Europe, while the rest are in Latin Extended-B, which often causes an inconsistent appearance.
Unicode also encodes ?̬ COMBINING CARON BELOW (HTML
̬), for example: p?.