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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RE: Question and exclamation marks
by kaiwai on Tue 27th Oct 2009 12:05 UTC in reply to "Question and exclamation marks"
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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 - . 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:

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

javivi72 Member since:

As a native Spanish speaker, I can tell that Thorn is right indeed. Even though some words can help you learn you are about to state a question or an exclamation (as elmimmo stated above), most of the time the only way to know it is through intonation. Without opening marks, when you get to the closing one it is way too late.

As a side note, I am pasting a rather amusing but totally true statement found in the "Spanish language" article in Wikipedia:
"An amusing example of the significance of intonation in Spanish is the phrase ¿Cómo, como como? ¡Como como, como! (What do you mean, how do I eat? I eat the way I eat!)." I assure you each and every one of those "como" are pronounced the same, but intonated differently.

Reply Parent Score: 1

JacobMunoz Member since:

I believe the reason is mostly caused by the word(s) "Por que":

It's a horrible little pair of syllables that take the place of "why is/are", "because", "for what/which", "that", and sometimes "for the reason". It can be one or two words, with or without accent.

English is less compact and tends to make a question's syntax more obvious towards the end. I once had a Spanish teacher point out that English is also more suspenseful than most Latin-based languages and causes the reader to reach the end of the sentence before it can be fully digested by the brain. Alternatively, in Spanish you know the subject/noun first and adjectives come later, making the beginning of the sentence more significant - perhaps worthy of an upside-down question mark. But it's still ugly if you ask me.

English: "red rubber ball"
Spanish: "pelota de goma roja"

Reply Parent Score: 2

becco Member since:

In Italian it's like in Spanish, the structure does not change. But we don't use a reverse question mark.

BTW, Thom: I moved to the Netherlands 2 months ago and I'm struggling with the Dutch language. I'm taking a course, but man it's hard to learn! ;)

Reply Parent Score: 1

elmimmo Member since:

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