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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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

javivi72 Member since:
2009-10-27

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

siride Member since:
2006-01-02

English frequently uses intonation alone to mark questions. Yet we get by without an opening question mark. You certainly don't need an opening exclamation point because neither language has special syntax for that (it is, in fact, entirely based on intonation and doesn't change the meaning of the sentence).

Reply Parent Score: 2

JacobMunoz Member since:
2006-03-17

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

http://spanish.about.com/od/writtenspanish/a/porque.htm

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

elmimmo Member since:
2005-09-17

Funny, for me as Spaniard it was the closing question mark always that looked upside down (I do know the opening one is called "inverted", it just does not match my impression of it).

Reply Parent Score: 1

becco Member since:
2006-08-02

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