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The circumflex is a diacritic (accent) used in French and a few other languages. It is like a little hat on top of a vowel. Originally, it was an acute accent and a grave accent put together.

In French, the circumflex usually shows the loss of letter, usually the loss of the letter s. Example: maistre (Middle French) > maître (modern French). Here its function is historical.

Also, less often, the circumflex is used to distinguish between homophones. These are words spelt the same, but with different meanings. Example: sur = on, but sûr = safe or certain. In those cases the pronunciation of the two words may be different.

Sources[change | change source]

  • Catach, Nina (ed) 1995. Dictionnaire historique de l'orthographe française. Paris: Larousse.
  • Casagrande, Jean 1984. The sound system of French. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press. ISBN 0-87840-085-0