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Ŭ or ŭ is a letter in the Esperanto alphabet, based on u. It is also used in the Belarusian language, when written in the 20th-century form of the Belarusian Latin alphabet. The accent mark (diacritic) is known as a breve.
|Unicode name||LATIN CAPITAL LETTER U WITH BREVE||LATIN SMALL LETTER U WITH BREVE|
|UTF-8||197 172||C5 AC||197 173||C5 AD|
|Numeric character reference||Ŭ||Ŭ||ŭ||ŭ|
The letter ŭ is called non-syllabic u (romanised: u nieskładovaje) in Belarusian because it resembles the vowel u but forms no syllables. It is an allophone of /v/ that forms the diphthongs aŭ, eŭ, oŭ and is equivalent to [u̯]. Its Cyrillic counterpart is ў. Sometimes (as in National Geographic atlases), the Cyrillic letter ў is Romanized as w.
Ŭ represents a semivowel in the orthography of Esperanto, which is an international auxiliary language publicly presented in 1887. As in Belarusian, Esperanto Ŭ is pronounced as a non-syllabic [u̯], primarily in the diphthongs aŭ, eŭ and rarely oŭ.
Ŭ may also be used for [w] in foreign names, such as Ŭaŝingtono for "Washington", although it usually is written with v (Vaŝingtono). It is also used for [w] in onomatopoeias, as in ŭa! "waa!", and uniquely in one native lexical word, ŭo, which is the Esperanto name of the letter ŭ itself.
Ŭ was previously part of the Romanian alphabet. U with breve was used only in the ending of a word. It was essentially a Latin equivalent of the Slavonic back yer found in languages like Russian. Unpronounced in most cases, it served to indicate that the previous consonant was not palatalized, or that the preceding i was the vowel [i] and not a mere marker of palatalization. When ŭ was pronounced, it would follow a stressed vowel and stand in for semivowel u, as in words eŭ, aŭ, and meŭ, all spelled today without the breve. Once frequent, it survives today in author Mateiu Caragiale's name – originally spelled Mateiŭ (it is not specified whether the pronunciation should adopt a version that he himself probably never used, while in many editions he is still credited as Matei). In other names, only the breve was dropped, while preserving the pronunciation of a semivowel u, as is the case of B.P. Hasdeŭ.
The letter is also commonly used among Slavists to denote the short back closed vowel of Proto-Slavic.
Several schemes for pronunciation of English words have used "ŭ". For example, The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language has used "ŭ" for //, the vowel in the English word "cut".
In Kurrentschrift, an outdated script used in German handwriting, the lower-case letter "u" is adorned with a breve to distinguish it from the otherwise identical letter "n". The script was used for teaching writing in schools; the last variant, known as Sütterlinschrift, as late as 1941. The ingrained habit of writing "ŭ" for "u" persisted for a long time even as people switched to cursive scripts with easily distinguishable shapes for "u" and "n", occasionally leading to confusion between "ŭ" (meaning "u") and "ü" among later generations not brought up with this tick.
- S. Young (2006) "Belorussian". In the Encyclopedia of language and linguistics, 2nd ed.
- Булыка (Bulyka). У нескладовае // Энцыклапедыя літаратуры і мастацтва Беларусі. Т.4. p.377.