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 varies from language to language, and may vary from case to case within a language.
In some cases, letters are used as "in-line diacritics", with the same function as ancillary glyphs, in that they modify the sound of the letter preceding them, as in the case of the "h" in the English pronunciation of "sh" and "th".
Also, aa, when used as an alternative spelling to å, is sorted as such.
Not all diacritics occur adjacent to the letter they modify.
In other alphabetic systems, diacritical marks may perform other functions.
Vowel pointing systems, namely the Arabic harakat ( ), which, respectively, mark abbreviations or acronyms, and Greek diacritical marks, which showed that letters of the alphabet were being used as numerals.
In the Wali language of Ghana, for example, an apostrophe indicates a change of vowel quality, but occurs at the beginning of the word, as in the dialects ’Bulengee and ’Dolimi.
Because of vowel harmony, all vowels in a word are affected, so the scope of the diacritic is the entire word.