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I'm wondering what are the basic ways that accent marks should be used when coming up with fantasy names of people, places, etc. Sorry if this might be a little vague of a question.

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    Do be aware that some people do not like seeing accent marks in Fantasy novels. They see it as unnecessary embellishment to make your names seem 'cool' or foreign. Use them wisely, and only if you have to. I'm sure Lauren Ipsum can give you further details.... :) – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron Apr 27 '17 at 18:13
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    @ThomasMyron you rang? ;) – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Apr 27 '17 at 18:35
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Accents are not decorations. Have a reason for using them beyond "I'm writing fantasy and they look cool." (The same goes for apostrophes.)

In addition to Daniel's very good answer:

  • An accent may indicate not just spoken vs. silent but a completely different word. See the differences between des, dés, and dès here (of, dice, and since respectively) and côté, côte, and cote here (side, coast, and stock).
  • An accent can change the pronunciation of a vowel. The umlaut (not a native English diacritical mark) over a vowel in English generally means that the vowel is written once but said twice: naïve is said nye-eve, not nave. This is why you might occasionally see cöoperation, to make sure you don't think it should be coop eration.
  • Accents may be required by pronunciation, or change it. The cedilla makes a C soft (François is Fran-swah, not Fran-kwah). The tilde adds a vowel to an N (jalapeño is hala-pee-nyo, not hala-pee-no).
  • Sometimes accents are used to indicate historical orthography. The circumflex over a vowel in French means that at some time in the past, the word had an S in it. Hôtel used to be hostel, maître was maistre, and so on.
  • I don't speak or read Hebrew, but I know that it's written without vowels, and the accent marks (dots) indicate what the vowels are. More discussion here.

This question might also be useful: How can I effectively invent a language?

If you want a more thorough discussion of creating a language, known as a conlang or constructed language, I highly recommend David Peterson's The Art of Language Invention. Peterson created languages for Game of Thrones and Defiance, among other properties.

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  • Thank you! And sorry that it took me sooo long to read this... I haven't used Stack Exchange much recently, but this answer is very helpful and informative, so again, thank you! After some thought, I think that the main reason I would use accent marks in my fantasy would be to simulate the different sounds that my fantasy language might have. Also, what is your personal opinion on the way that Tolkien uses accent marks in his books? Do you think that his usage represents an effective and necessary use of accent marks, or would you say that he uses them primarily as literary fluff? – SpiralStudios Oct 12 '17 at 20:28
  • By the way, you mentioned apostrophes; am I correct in thinking that a glottal stop is a correct place to use one? – SpiralStudios Oct 12 '17 at 20:33
  • @SpiralStudios You could use an apostrophe for a glottal stop, or a dash, a !, a pipe, or the actual glottal stop character in the phonetic alphabet (although nobody will know what it is en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glottal_stop). Tolkien probably went a little overboard with his accents, but the man was a professor of linguistics, so I'm not going to second-guess him. :) – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Oct 12 '17 at 21:51
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    @SpiralStudios Tolkien used many european languages to influence his languages that use the accents in their daily language to begin with. Over time, the various versions of his language was more refined to what we know as today so his accents are not just for show. I also thought about adding in accents to be able to guide readers in how I want words pronounced, the feedback I got was basically, "English does not have these forms of markings and most readers would not know what to do with them just that it is supposed to sound different. Unless it's absolutely necessary, don't use them." – ggiaquin16 Oct 12 '17 at 22:49
  • The umlaut may not be a native English diacritical mark, but 'naïve' uses a diaeresis, which is, instead. (The other native English diacritic - if you exclude the tittle - is a grave accent) – Chronocidal Jun 23 at 12:24
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Understand what an accent mark is

There are many kinds of accent marks. For example, the acute accent in French signifies that the 'e' is to be pronounced at the end of a word. This is the most common use of the acute accent.

You want to use accents to clarify your meaning or pronunciation. They should be used to make difficult pronunciations clearer. If you know what the accent will be interpreted as and it is necessary, then feel free to use it!

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