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A history of punctuation in English!

Have you ever stopped and puzzled about why we mark our texts with symbols inclusive of commas, question marks, and so on? Of direction, all of us appear to recognize and recognize punctuation quite simply. Unlike a word we’ve in no way visible, your listeners might be none the wiser in case you got here throughout a brand new and unrecognizable piece of punctuation even as analyzing aloud. But, why is it that we have both a colon and a semicolon? Whether or not you understand their motive, you’re able to decide and regulate your speech and reading comprehension while you see one. You also can recognize when some punctuation simply isn’t right. Perhaps your appreciation for punctuation is all but non-existent or perhaps you secretly love the Oxford comma. Regardless, punctuation in English has a rich and sudden record from the entire stop to the semicolon and even citation marks.

General records
Keith Houston of the BBC has as an alternative problematic and distinct timeline for this records of punctuation which this newsletter will follow. As he notes, the earliest outstanding use of any punctuation was within the 3rd century BC. Aristophanes offered a solution to the completely run-on writing style of the Greeks, which featured areas among letters, phrases, clauses, or sentences. Aristophanes proposed that writers use 3 styles of dots to allocate an appropriate pause between formal components of speech. A dot placed within the bottom denoted a short pause like a comma, the middle turned into an intermediate pause like a colon, and the lowest changed into a pause just like a full stop. With this, a reader would recognize while pausing and for a way lengthy to produce cohesive and understandable speech.

Alas, the Aristophanean method changed into subsequently scrapped while the Roman empire gained priority over the Greeks from their politics to their writing. The Romans, namely Cicero, believed the speaker must exert discretion over his or her rhythm of speech and no longer be bound via dots or punctuation.

In the 7th century, Isidore of Seville resurrected the dots at first proposed by means of Aristophanes. His most well-known paintings, The Etymologies or Etymologiae in Latin, blanketed a various variety of topics inclusive of geometry, song, cities, animals, and, of direction, grammar. It became on this writing that he supplied an updated model of the Aristophanean gadget. He went past the easy method of dots denoting pauses and connected bigger means to each dot: the highest dot marked the give-up of a sentence while the lowest dot functioned just like a comma does these days. The work of Isidore of Seville was extensively respected and he was even referred to by Dante Alighieri and quoted with the aid of Geoffrey Chaucer. Etymologiae become treated as a textbook via the Middle Ages and absolute confidence had a profound impact on how writers used grammar and punctuation.

Just like beginners of recent languages, customers of punctuation have since elaborated on the dot machine Aristophanes first invented with the intention to produce even more useful and distinguishing meanings these days. According to Keith Houston, a track changed into a chief has an effect on punctuation because musical notation used symbols like the breve and caesura to indicate notes and rests—a necessary aspect of written language to decide pauses.

One instance, which comes from Gregorian chants, is the punctum elevates which serves as our present day-day colon. With every symbol providing more particular means than the final, the initially proposed via Aristophanes eventually diminished into history as their usage diminished. However, using an unmarried dot held its floor and retained a meaning of pause albeit for an unspecified amount of time. Interestingly, present-day spoken transcriptions in linguistics is regularly annotated with a period to indicate pauses shorter than a second. As Isidore of Seville released his nuances, an Italian via the call of Boncampagno da Sigla proposed a similar punctuation system however selected the scale back (/) to indicate a pause.

Evolution of symbols/punctuation?
The query mark (?) made its manner into widespread utilization within the fifteenth century and was regarded as the cuneus interrogatives factor of interrogation in Latin. There are some theories on how the form of the query mark happened; Oxford Dictionaries gives the theory that it started as a dot with a growing tilde (. ~) to indicate the upward inflection. Just like lots of our letters and words, this theory states that the symbol converted into the form it is nowadays because of the good-sized amount of users approximating its shape in writing. Another concept from Oxford Dictionaries states that the lowercase q and o from the Latin quaestio query had been combined and in the end converted into the swirl and dot that we realize of these days.

Both the colon (:) and semicolon (;) were featured in Gregorian chants with the former because the punctus elevates multiplied factor in Latin and the latter as the cuneus versus Latin for a protracted pause. The first usage of the colon dates lower back to the 1600s to indicate a pause time greater than a comma but much less than a full forestall. The semicolon has a much earlier history with its first written use in 1494. As cited by using Lynn Truss in her 2004 ebook Eats, Shoots, and Leaves, a printer by way of the name of Aldus Manutius the Elder used the semicolon to separate phrases. Its reason become to permit the author to supply new ideas and subjects among terms without producing a new sentence. Originally, the colon become simply a wrong way up semicolon however the unmarried open inverted comma-like pinnacle eroded down to a single point.

One theory for the exclamation mark (!) posits that the image comes from the Latin word for an exclamation of joy, io. The letter i was eventually moved above the o, the dot and line of i related, and the o shrunk to the size of a duration today. It changed into first used in English in the fifteenth century but, apparently, only had its own dedicated key on a typewriter from the 1970s.

The apostrophe (’), widely used beginning inside the sixteenth century, came into use in English for purposes of elision or contractions which includes I’m for I am and to fill in where a grapheme or letter no longer meditated the actual pronunciation e.G. Cherished became lov’d. The apostrophe become first used in this manner with the aid of Geoffrey Tory in French in 1529. It became used on the junction of vowel sounds (e.G. L. A. Heure have become l’heure). Taking this option from the French language, English speakers used this option so they might contract phrases and omit unpronounced letters without dropping any of that means. It will be surmised that the printing press, an enterprise that charged consistent with letters, advocated writers to apply the apostrophe to keep the cash. A standardized way of using the apostrophe wasn’t finalized until the mid-1800s, and it is still in use nowadays.

The cut down (/) brought by way of Boncampagno di Sigla became minimized over time and sooner or later settled low on the textual content line as our present-day day comma (,). Brackets; such as parentheses, square brackets, pointy brackets, corner brackets, and attitude brackets; made their first access into English inside the 14th century in the shape of chevrons (< >).

And, sooner or later, the unmarried dot firstly proposed with the aid of Aristophanes has to turned out to be the whole prevent (.), or duration. It also holds the identification of the maximum common punctuation mark in English as it is used to indicate the cease of a sentence.

The invention of the printing press in the 1440s helped to solidify and determine the significance of punctuation via the huge-scale production of texts read by many human beings. With a handful of symbols in use, printing provided a standardized system that was all but set in stone. So a good deal in order that the common Joe from the overdue 1400s could in all likelihood apprehend the punctuation symbols on our QWERTY keyboard with relative ease (store for connecting it on your pc via Bluetooth).

Modern utilization?
It took a long term for punctuation in English to tackle any changes due to the fact new punctuation wishes had yet to be located or required and mass printing allowed us to be socialized into the written norms of English. However, with new speech styles and cultural adjustments like the computer age, the invention of recent punctuation is not completely out of the area of possibility.

Most extensively, the interrobang (‽ or ?! Or !?) has been a popular addition to English. Combining the means of each a question mark and an exclamation mark, the interrobang may be used to invite a rhetorical query or to truly ask a question with exhilaration. Interestingly, the idea was passed off in 1962 and turned into conceptualized via Martin K. Speckter, the pinnacle of an advertising and marketing business enterprise. For him, the interrobang could permit copywriters to rhetoric that means to their copy for the reader. Despite being featured on a few fashions of Remington typewriters; it exists these days in only a handful of fonts to be had in Microsoft Office.

More recently, online writers have used a spread of symbols commonly related to laptop coding to carry meaning. For example, if an author wants to add emphasis but is not able to exchange the fashion (along with formidable, underline, or italics), they’ll pick out to use tildes around a word in an effort to create emphasis. When used in a pc program, the use of symbols can change the style of text once the text is sent, for instance, surrounding a word in underscores italicizes text within the popular messaging app, WhatsApp.

The tilde is a contemporary form of emphasis (Source: Buzzfeed)

There also appears to be a fashion in the use of tildes for nuanced emphasis as this Buzzfeed article points out. Although this isn’t standardized punctuation, those symbols appear to have the identical humble beginnings as the Aristophanean dots: both were added to assist us in better understanding verbal exchange.

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