Re: Punctuation character (inverted interrobang) proposed

From: Gregg Reynolds (
Date: Wed Sep 07 2005 - 09:59:04 CDT

  • Next message: Gregg Reynolds: "Re: Punctuation character (inverted interrobang) proposed"

    John Hudson wrote:
    > Gregg Reynolds wrote:
    >> Punctuation marks have never been "grammatical". I don't even know
    >> what "relates directly to the nuts and bolts of a basic linguistic
    >> activity" means.
    > I paused several times when writing that particular sentence, worrying
    > about the use of the word linguistic, and unsure of the best terminology
    > to express my sense of the relationship between punctuation as a
    > subclass of typographical marks and how I compose ordered thoughts in
    > language. Now, Gregg, you have provided me with a better term, and I can
    > rephrase my view of punctuation as relating directly to the nuts and
    > bolts of a basic *rhetorical* activity that has to do with the
    > structuring of ideas in language. My objection to the interrobang
    > remains that it ambiguates that which the independent question mark and
    > exclamation marks expressly disambiguate. But perhaps this amounts to my
    > saying that not making clear whether an utterance is a question or an
    > exclamation is poor rhetoric.

    I'm pretty much with you on the interrobang - show me somebody who uses
    it in English prose and I'll show you somebody who is either being
    ironic or hasn't mastered English writing. But I'm all for encoding it,
    with inversions, rotations, etc. The more the merrier?!

    But actually I think there's even a better concept than "rhetorical" for
    your point: "illocutionary force", roughly "how what is said is to be
    taken". I came across this term in "The World on Paper: The Conceptual
    and Cognitive Implications of Reading and Writing", by David R. Olson,
    Cambridge 1994. It's on my "must read" list for Unicode geeks. Very
    interesting discussion of the various "meta" devices using in writing to
    convey illocutionary force.

    There's also "Pause and Effect: Punctuation in the West" by M. B.
    Parkes, U. of California Press, 1993. Detailed scholarly history of the
    forms and uses, with lots of plates showing manuscript pages.

    Another must read you might find useful on this topic is "Space Between
    Words: The Origins of Silent Reading", by Paul Saenger, Stanford 1997.
    The early chapters have very useful summaries of the physiology or
    reading, nomenclature, etc.


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