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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 has led to fears internationally that the marks and accents may be made obsolete to facilitate the worldwide exchange of data.
Efforts have been made to create internationalized domain names that further extend the English alphabet (e.g., "pokémon.com").
Languages that treat accented letters as variants of the underlying letter usually alphabetize words with such symbols immediately after similar unmarked words. in phone books or in author catalogues in libraries), umlauts are often treated as combinations of the vowel with a suffixed e; Austrian phone books now treat characters with umlauts as separate letters (immediately following the underlying vowel).
For instance, in German where two words differ only by an umlaut, the word without it is sorted first in German dictionaries (e.g. In Spanish, the grapheme ñ is considered a new letter different from n and collated between n and o, as it denotes a different sound from that of a plain n.
But the accented vowels á, é, í, ó, ú are not separated from the unaccented vowels a, e, i, o, u, as the acute accent in Spanish only modifies stress within the word or denotes a distinction between homonyms, and does not modify the sound of a letter.
For a comprehensive list of the collating orders in various languages, see Collating sequence.
In orthography and collation, a letter modified by a diacritic may be treated either as a new, distinct letter or as a letter–diacritic combination.The shape of the diacritic developed from initially resembling today's acute accent to a long flourish by the 15th century.With the advent of Roman type it was reduced to the round dot we have today.Also, aa, when used as an alternative spelling to å, is sorted as such.Other letters modified by diacritics are treated as variants of the underlying letter, with the exception that ü is frequently sorted as y.
Modern computer technology was developed mostly in English-speaking countries, so data formats, keyboard layouts, etc.