Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 27th Oct 2009 00:37 UTC
Features, Office In the comments on our editorial about language purism and the Psystar case, it became quite clear that language is a subject almost everyone has an opinion on - not odd if you consider that language is at the very centre of what makes us "human". Since this appears to be a popular subject, let's talk about the influence computing has had on two very minor aspects of the Dutch language.
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Question and exclamation marks
by elmimmo on Tue 27th Oct 2009 06:41 UTC
elmimmo
Member since:
2005-09-17

Not few people in Spain have cell phones that do not allow for opening question and exclamation marks. ¿What is an opening question mark, you say? ¡Well, I just wrote it for you a sentence ago!

As a result (added to other causes, such as the ridiculous character limit on SMS or because sometime people are just lazy) many people are omitting them in Spanish far too often. A pity, because they are indeed handy, specially on long or multiline sentences. In fact, how come not every other language uses them?

Reply Score: 2

TasnuArakun Member since:
2009-05-24

That depends on the language. Some could certainly use opening question marks. In Spanish, if I recall correctly, declarative and interrogative sentences can sometimes only be told apart from their intonation. Others, like my mother tongue Swedish, uses another word order for questions and thus you know pretty much from the start that it is a question even in a written text.

Reply Parent Score: 1

elmimmo Member since:
2005-09-17

I see what you mean. Japanese too, for example, uses a syllable (か ka) at the end of a question. And yet, the same as in Spanish —sometimes—, like you correctly pointed out, you can then add or not a question mark and still have it understood. In fact, I bet Japanese did not use the question mark before the Meiji Restoration (≈1860). No real idea about that, though.

In Spanish interrogative pronouns have tildes on them, so you can tell their nature also by that (while a redundant feature, not all questions start with an interrogative pronoun anyway, so the opening question mark is still useful). But yet, some of those same cell phones do not allow for some of those tildes either!

Reply Parent Score: 1

kaiwai Member since:
2005-07-06

Not few people in Spain have cell phones that do not allow for opening question and exclamation marks. ¿What is an opening question mark, you say? ¡Well, I just wrote it for you a sentence ago!


What purpose does it serve? "I AM GOING TO ASK A QUESTION AND THIS MARK IS TO INFORM YOU THAT I AM" and then closing it being little more than "I AM CLOSING THIS QUESTION MARK BECAUSE YOU MIGHT GET CONFUSED" - now imagine a slightly over weight man screaming that at the beginning and end of that sentence to give you what a visualisation of what it appears on the page to the reader. Envisage the tango man doing it - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1jywlZG74o . To me it is an attempt to label the reader an idiot who can't seem to understand when a question is asked either that or I am just mad trying to bring about a metaphysical representation of my reaction when I see such oddities on a page ;)

Maybe I just have a hatred against needless syntax that ad no literary value beyond "it looks nice" but serving no functionary purpose. Boomer addresses why it is there based on historical reasoning but fails to address why it still exists today. Why not purge it out? it doesn't serve any real purpose, its a needless complication for people to learn the language and it simply adds fluff to an otherwise simple sentence.

As a result (added to other causes, such as the ridiculous character limit on SMS or because sometime people are just lazy) many people are omitting them in Spanish far too often. A pity, because they are indeed handy, specially on long or multiline sentences. In fact, how come not every other language uses them?


Why? why not use the wonderful comma? why not a series of questions one after another? if it is necessary, then how come other language can get away not using it? I hear examples but their reason for trying to work around crappy sentence structure rather than addressing why the sentence structure is crappy. Adding to the fact that there is a growing trend of people not reading the full sentence, paragraph or set of writing on its entirety and trying to pull out pieces in isolation rather than seeing the writing that should be viewed holistically. So if anything - maybe the solution is to get people to read and write properly than dropping in symbols to make up for craptastic comprehension and grammar.

Edited 2009-10-27 12:08 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

Why? why not use the wonderful comma? why not a series of questions one after another? if it is necessary, then how come other language can get away not using it?


I have little to no knowledge about Spanish, but it could be that in Spanish, the sentence structure does not change based on whether the sentence is a question or not. If that's indeed the case (a Spanish speaker will have to confirm) then I can certainly see a use in starting a question sentence with a toppled-over question mark, because else you wouldn't know it was a question until you reached the end of the sentence - screwing up intonation, especially when reading aloud.

Reply Parent Score: 1

elmimmo Member since:
2005-09-17

Calling all Spanish speaking people subdued by the idiocy of their language was nice trolling. So, knowing that what follows is a sentence before actually starting to read it has no purpose? Then I bet, say, opening quotation marks do not have one either.

I can perfectly admit that other languages can perfectly pass without opening question or exclamation marks. It was just a rhetorical statement. There are no absolutes, man. Of course the content of the text helps you understand the nature of it. Sometimes, though, it is handy to get a hint or two. Or you'll tell me you have never ever been in that situation when you realize your intonation was wrong all along until you got to the end, right?

And we are talking languages here. If you wanted math, it is the wrong thread. Why does the English 3rd person has a frigging s at the end in present tense? I see nobody claiming for getting rid of it.

Edited 2009-10-27 22:21 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 1